NEW YORK (AFP) – British Prime Minister Tony Blair has complained privately to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch that the BBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina carried an anti-American bias, Murdoch said at a conference here.
Murdoch, chairman of the media conglomerate News Corporation, recounted a conversation with the British leader at a panel discussion late Friday hosted by former president Bill Clinton.
“Tony Blair — perhaps I shouldn’t repeat this conversation — told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week. And he turned on the BBC world service to see what was happening in New Orleans,” Murdoch was quoted as saying in a transcript posted on the Clinton Global Initiative website.
“And he said it was just full of hate of America and gloating about our troubles. And that was his government. Well, his government-owned thing,” he said of the publicly owned broadcaster.
Murdoch went on to say that anti-American bias was prevalent throughout Europe.
“I think we’ve got to do a better job at answering it. And there’s a big job to do. But you’re not going to ever turn it around totally,” said Murdoch, one of three media magnates who spoke at Clinton’s “Global Initiative” forum on peace and development.
The former US president, who held his conference to coincide with the United Nations summit in New York, agreed that the BBC’s coverage was lacking.
While the BBC’s reports on the hurricane were factually accurate, its presentation was “stacked up” to criticize President George W Bush’s handling of the disaster, Clinton said.
“There is nothing factually inaccurate. But … it was designed to be almost exclusively a hit on the federal response, without showing what anybody at any level was doing that was also miraculous, going on simultaneously in a positive way,” Clinton said.
The article went on to say that Blair’s office declined to comment on what Murdoch quoted Blair as saying. My thought is that if Murdoch’s recollection of his conversation with Blair was off the mark, Downing Street would have said so.
That said, it’s interesting how even Clinton noted how stacked the coverage there was of only the federal gov’t’s response – or lack thereof, as some believe – without focusing on what went wrong at the local and state levels. Bottom line is that there, just like here in the US, coverage throughout this tragedy was singularly focused on one thing: trashing the President and ignoring (until way after the fact) the story of the local and state incompetency on the pre- and post-response to Hurricane Katrina.