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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 19:08 GMT
BBC crisis considered overseas
BBC correspondents in bureaux around the world look at what impact the highly critical Hutton report and subsequent resignation of the corporation's two senior officials has had on the reputation of the BBC.

Matt Wells :: New York

It is personal and anecdotal.

"Tony Blair, vindicated" ran the headline on the New York Times editorial page.

Sitting on the press bench at a federal court trial yesterday, I began to feel like I was the one who should have been in the dock.

"Good luck," said a colleague from a friendly US network, squeezing my arm with a look of pity and concern in her eyes.

BBC news has never been as well regarded in New York as it is now.

Public radio and television carry hours of output, and I have lost count of how many people tell me that BBC News Online is their home page.

Ironically, it is mistrust of their own commercial media, and the sense that it fails to question government policy enough, that has driven so many New Yorkers to overseas outlets.

Several friends rang for an explanation of why BBC managers had resigned.

Arch sceptics here, see it as just another victory for the ideology that drives the war on terror.

Kevin Anderson :: Washington

The possibility of heads rolling at the highest levels of the CIA has quickly bumped the heads rolling at the BBC from the running orders of US cable news networks.

Reaction to the story has been muted in Washington. It is an election year.

The press is busy charting the implosion of Howard Dean and the rise of John Kerry and wondering whether the buck will stop with intelligence director George Tenet or closer to the White House inner circle.

But it was never a story that made a splash on US television.

On the day the Hutton inquiry made headlines in Britain, a rodeo riding monkey got more airtime on CNN than the resignation of Gavyn Davies.

And with allegations that Michael Jackson often gave children wine under the guise of "Jesus juice", the fall of the King of Pop has more power to captivate the public than the fall of the heads of the BBC.

Susannah Price :: UN Headquarters in New York

The BBC World television channel is piped into the United Nations headquarters in New York 24 hours a day and blares from the offices of UN officials and diplomats.

BBC staff protest outside Television Centre in London
Staff in the BBC have been rocked by the crisis
The Hutton report was widely reported although overshadowed by other issues concerning the war in Iraq.

One UN official said it was not seen as a big deal and had just reinforced earlier opinions about the BBC: "Those who love it continue to do so, and the same with those who dislike it."

A US reporter said there was increasing pressure for journalists to come up with sexy stories and the BBC was not the only one to suffer problems because of this.

One ambassador said the BBC was a very respected network and he did not believe the Hutton report had damaged it in any way.

A UN humanitarian worker agreed: "It will not stop me watching the BBC, not one bit, not one bit."

Caroline Wyatt :: Paris

The French press has followed the Hutton verdict and the subsequent resignations with huge interest, as have French TV and radio.

The left-wing newspaper Liberation notes that the Hutton report may have struck a knock-out blow for Tony Blair against the BBC, but that this should not distract from President Bush and Prime Minister Blair's failure - so far - to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

In an editorial, it also says "hats off to the English", commenting that the inquiry itself and the reporting on it by the BBC showed a lively democracy in action, and one which should inspire the French and France's own political classes.

But most newspapers in France are also asking whether the fault found with the BBC's journalism will make it a better organisation, or whether recent events will lead to a less investigative, less pugnacious BBC, less able to put difficult questions to Number 10 and other politicians.

According to the French press there is still - despite Hutton's conclusions - respect for the BBC and its journalism, allied to the feeling that the Hutton report allowed the British Government to escape the difficult yet crucial question over the apparent lack of any WMD in Iraq.

Andrew Roy :: Brussels

The way the BBC is viewed in Europe hasn't changed noticeably. It was on the front pages of a lot of papers across the region immediately after the Hutton report.

Mainly they were discussing how the government had escaped serious criticism and, secondarily, that the BBC had been heavily criticised.

All of them are saying that the BBC is now struggling to maintain its independence and is going through a crisis. Hutton won't affect the way we work in Europe, we are still regarded extraordinarily highly.

Francis Markus :: Shanghai

"Blair beams, BBC steams" was the headline over the China Daily newspaper's coverage of the BBC crisis.

Like many of the papers in China, it culled its material on the story from news agency despatches.

Under another heading, "News outlet faces worst credibility predicament", it reported on the resignations of chairman Gavyn Davies and director general Greg Dyke and the reactions from various political quarters in Britain.

"Cabinet ministers delighted by their political Houdini act, wanted further heads to roll," it said.

It added: "The BBC, often described as the world's most respected news organisation, was in turmoil, forced into the humiliating position of having to report on the disaster engulfing it."

On the internet bulletin boards which have become a popular forum for Chinese to voice their views within strict limits, there were dozens of comments about the crisis enveloping the BBC and the resignations.

They included these submissions:

"That's the advantage of a democratic country. Who dares to speak the truth in some other countries? I am afraid the chairman would be put into the prison if what they broadcast is wrong."

"There's no such thing as absolute democracy, because there you have the media giving in to the prime minister."

"They [Dyke and Davies] are two decent and respectable gentlemen. Look at China National Petroleum Corp. More than 200 people died [in a December gas blow-out at a natural gas field owned by the company in western China] but what have they done?"

"The BBC doesn't have the right to criticise other countries for not having freedom of speech. You yourself have given in to the prime minister."

Chris Hogg :: Bangkok

The story that is dominating Thailand at the moment is the bird flu crisis, so there has been little locally generated reaction per se to what's been happening at the BBC.

However, there has been coverage of it. The copy that I've seen in local newspapers has been rewritten from wires services or from the British press.

One point I would make is that the BBC, in general, is viewed differently abroad than it is at home. In many countries in this region they believe we are simply a mouthpiece for the British Government.

What the Hutton affair has underlined is that we are not.

Phil Mercer :: Sydney

Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC, said: "The administration of the BBC is in a shambles, in the wake of [Hutton's] scathing criticisms." The story resonates deeply here and has received wide coverage.

Australia is waiting to hear the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry into the accuracy and interpretation of intelligence used to justify the country's involvement in the Iraq war.

Brisbane's Courier Mail said: "The British Broadcasting Corporation was in crisis, as executives and reporters grappled with the broadcaster's blackest day."

A majority of respondents to an online poll for the Sydney Morning Herald declared the Hutton report a "whitewash".

Some 17% thought the retired judge had delivered "excellent findings".

Adam Mynott :: Delhi

The crisis set off at the BBC following the publication of the Hutton report is not headline news in India, but it has been widely reported.

India faces a general election in a few weeks and talks are beginning with Pakistan to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis. These are the issues that are of interest.

However the BBC has an unrivalled reputation for accuracy and impartiality in India and the subcontinent.

A leading journalist in India, Vinod Mehta, said that damage to the BBC brand is inevitable.

"For the BBC to admit that in one specific, narrow case they broadcast wrong news, admitted it was wrong and apologised for getting it wrong, that will have a lot of resonance here.

"If the BBC did not have such a strong reputation the damage would not be so bad, but that strong reputation will help it to withstand the damage."


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