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Monitoring Saddam
These images of Saddam Hussein were broadcast by media outlets worldwide
BBC Monitoring supplies news, information and comment gathered from the mass media around the world. Read about the key role it can play in helping BBC television, radio and online outlets break major news stories.

"Every week we listen to hundreds of thousands of words, and a lot of it is dross", says BBC monitoring managing editor Grahame Perrie bluntly. "But every now and then something happens and suddenly the focus is on us."

On Sunday 14 December something did happen: Saddam Hussein was discovered in his hidey-hole in northern Iraq and monitoring broke the story.

For the monitor behind the scoop it was a momentous occasion - and not just from a professional point of view.

"I've waited 24 years to file this story", said the man who does not wish to be identified but has worked for the BBC since 1992.

Having personally suffered as a result of events in this troubled region, he says that breaking the news of Saddam's capture prompted "many painful memories and emotions".

High alert

The monitor was one of three Persian Service people on duty on Sunday, tracking material from various sources, when he picked up a report from Iranian news agency IRNA in Tehran at 0956 GMT.

The hole where Saddam Hussein was found

The report said simply: "The former Iraqi President Saddam Husayn, was arrested in his hometown of Tikrit, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, claimed on Sunday 14 December."

Although unconfirmed, the bulletin was immediately deemed 'high alert' and released onto ENPS (the BBC's electronic news production system).

Duty editor Kathy Szent-Gyorgyi and Mike Rose of monitoring's multi-media unit liaised with World Service colleagues at Bush House, while the Arabic team in Caversham began to monitor reports and reactions from Arab sources.

Confirmation came from US chief administrator Paul Bremer: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him."

Special programmes

The day's events took everyone by surprise and were comprehensively covered across radio, television and online.

Schedules were changed and special programmes prepared. A total of 24.5 million people - 44% of the British population - saw BBC television news on Sunday.

The number of visitors to BBC News Online was almost double the number who use the site on an average Sunday.

For monitoring, the story continues with a mountain of requests for reaction to Saddam's arrest.

"If people want to know what the rest of the world is thinking, they come to us," says Grahame Perrie.

A version of this article first appeared in the BBC internal newspaper Ariel.


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