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Blair tells Murdoch: "BBC full of hate of America"

Blair calls BBC coverage 'full of hate of America': Murdoch

Link to Yahoo story

Sat Sep 17, 6:35 PM ET
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.

Blair's remarks, as reported by Murdoch, are sure to aggravate the already difficult relations between the prime minister's government and the BBC.

A government weapons expert, David Kelly, killed himself in 2003 after he was revealed as the source for BBC allegations that intelligence on the Iraqi threat was exaggerated to secure public support for the US-led war.

The BBC's director-general, Greg Dyke, and chairman, Gavyn Davies, were forced to resign following an official inquiry that found the BBC at fault.

A former BBC foreign correspondent and MP, Martin Bell, defended the BBC's coverage of the hurricane and alleged that Blair was trying to curry favor with a powerful media owner who controls important British newspapers.

"Tony Blair was telling Murdoch what he wanted to hear because he needs Murdoch's support," Bell was quoted as saying by British media.

The BBC said it had received no complaint from Downing Street about its coverage.

Blair's office declined to comment.
Saturday, September 17, 2005 :: ::
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