[Media-watch] Greg Dyke on conflict between the media and politics
- Korea Herald - 14/10/2004
jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Oct 13 15:40:16 BST 2004
Ex-BBC head sheds light on conflict between media, politics
Former BBC Director General Greg Dyke yesterday stressed the role of independent journalism in the face of mounting pressure from the government and other political organizations, something that is supposedly lacking in Korea's media circles.
Dyke gave a speech titled "Broadcasting and Politics: An Inevitable Conflict?" at a forum set up by the Korean Broadcasters Association in Seoul, sharing his insights into the touchy relations between the media and politicians.
Korean media are now extensively reporting Dyke's visit to Seoul since his background as a former BBC director general and the reason for leaving the much-admired public broadcasting company could offer a hint as to what direction Korea should go on that matter.
President Roh Moo-hyun and his administration have been at loggerheads with local newspapers amid persistent mutual hostility. Yet Roh is said to have maintained unusually "amicable" relations with major broadcasting stations.
In an editorial, conservative daily Chosun Ilbo criticized KBS, Korea's state-run broadcasting station, as trying overly to satisfy the whim of Roh, citing the comments by Dyke over the importance of fairness in journalism.
In the speech yesterday, Dyke noted that broadcast journalism must never go back to the period when it was controlled by politicians. "It must always be bold; it must be challenging. Remember where I started this part of the lecture: politicians and serious journalists play different roles in a democracy," he said.
In discussing the relationship between broadcasting and politics, he offered his own experience in Britain as an example, which showcased a bitter battle between BBC and the British government.
Back in January, Dyke quit after parts of Andrew Gilligan's BBC reports of claims Downing Street "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's illegal weapons were branded "unfounded" by Lord Hutton.
At the time, he said his sole aim had been to defend the BBC's independence and "act in the public interest," though he faced damning criticism of the corporation's management in the Hutton Report.
"History shows very clearly that it is at times of war that the relationship between the BBC and the government of the day is at its most tense," he said. But Dyke argued that what governments and political parties want from broadcasters is not the same as what society needs from an independent broadcaster so conflict between the two is inevitable. "It's just a question of how much and how often it happens," he stressed.
Dyke said technological change is also affecting the inevitable conflict. "At a time of great technological change when broadcasters would inevitably need a range of policy decision from government to sustain their businesses or organizations in the digital world it was inevitable that governments would want to try to get something in return."
Dyke noted that broadcasting organizations would be wary of alienating the government of the day in case that government took their revenge by not agreeing the policy changes the broadcaster believed was necessary. "I think I see real signs of this happening around the world today," he added.
Dyke cited as an example that during the Iraq war the U.S. broadcasters abandoned their role as impartial observers to become cheerleaders for American involvement in the war.
He claimed that the fear of the religious right in the United States, the after-effects of Sept. 11 and the fear of being accused as being anti-patriotic led to such distortion, but there was a business agenda as well.
"The big American media companies wanted a change in the ownership rules on U.S. television to allow them to own more stations. If they had upset the Bush administration during the war they were less likely to achieve this," he said.
Dyke also defended his position regarding the Andrew Gilligan's BBC reports on the Iraq war. "We now know that the reasons the Prime Minister gave us for going to war were wrong on virtually every count," he said.
Stressing the role of journalism, Dyke said, "We only know today that we were misled about Iraq because of stories like Andrew Gilligan's; because he reported a whistle blower called Dr. Kelly."
"There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no uranium being imported from Niger. Iraq played no part in the Sept. 11 attacks. There were no international terrorists then operating out of Iraq, although there are today. In particular, Iraq was not supporting al-Qaeda. We now know that George W. Bush was obsessed with attacking Iraq before Sept. 11," he said.
"Broadcasting journalism needs to be polite, fair, properly researched and accurate. Today not all of it is and we must all strive to do better. And politicians do have a point when they say that too often we automatically assume the worst of them. Again we should do better," Dyke said.
Born in west London in 1947, Dyke started as a program maker in the television industry 25 years ago. He worked in current affairs and rapidly climbed the ladder to become a producer and then a program editor before taking high-ranking posts including director general at BBC in 2000.
(insight at heraldm.com)
By Yang Sung-jin
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