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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February 2005, 14:44 GMT
Full reply to Ellen complaints
By Kevin Bakhurst
Editor, Ten O'Clock News

This is the full text of the BBC's response to complaints over the Ellen MacArthur story.

We don't want to underplay the return of the bodies of British soldiers in any way which is why the hour-long ceremony was covered in full on BBC News 24. None of our competitors did this.

It is also why we asked one of our most senior correspondents, Nicholas Witchell, to cover the story for the BBC One bulletins.

The piece was given unusually long duration to allow us to name and give details of every one of the soldiers.

It ran prominently on the Six and Ten O'Clock News on a busy news day. BBC News led the bulletins on the day the full details of the Hercules crash came out.

Our decision yesterday to give prominence both to the Middle East talks which many regard as crucial to peace hopes in the Middle East (including Iraq) and the wider world and the historic feats of Ellen MacArthur in no way diminish our respect and editorial commitment to those servicemen who died.

As Nicholas Witchell's words reflect: "They died on the very day that democracy came to Iraq - ten men whose names join those of the others whose lives have been given for that country."

Finally, as for the point that the return of bodies wouldn't be covered this way in the USA: the authorities there don't allow any pictures of returning bodies and the TV networks haven't really demanded it, so the return of bodies there gets no coverage.

[Regarding Mrs Miller's point] I have great sympathy for the tensions caused by your husband's tour of duty in Iraq at the moment.

As you will no doubt have seen, the BBC is the only British broadcaster with a permanent presence in Iraq to cover the story as a whole.

Also, we have had a series of correspondents travel out to spend time embedded with the British troops in and around Basra.

Ben Brown alone has been out three times in the last year.

The British army have been very helpful and we are grateful to them for giving us the security sometimes to cover Iraq generally.

And whilst our coverage remains independent and questioning, there is a mutual trust and sense of respect for the professionalism on both sides.


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