Blair blasts BBC over US 'hatred'
TONY Blair has sparked another furious row with the BBC after claiming the corporation's coverage of the hurricane Katrina disaster was anti-American.
According to remarkable claims by Rupert Murdoch, the world's most powerful media baron, the Prime Minister was so shocked by the BBC's reporting of hurricane Katrina that he described it as "full of hatred of America".
The Prime Minister told Murdoch he had been appalled by what he saw as the BBC's "gloating" at America's misfortune as it attempted to recover from the catastrophe.
Murdoch revealed that he met Blair on Thursday last week while the Prime Minister was in New York for the United Nations Summit.
Murdoch made his explosive revelation at a seminar in the city on Friday evening, held by former President Bill Clinton, who also attacked the BBC's coverage.
The News International chairman told the audience: "Tony Blair - perhaps I shouldn't repeat this conversation - told me yesterday [Thursday] that he was in Delhi last week, and he turned on the BBC World service to see what was happening in New Orleans; and he said it was just full of hate of America and gloating about our troubles."
Murdoch's revelation was backed up by Clinton, who said there was nothing factually inaccurate but reports were "stacked up" against the government.
He said: "It was designed to be almost exclusively a hit on the federal response without showing what anybody at any level was doing."
The criticisms made by Murdoch and Clinton were also supported at the seminar by Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive of the Sony Corporation, and a former head of CBS news.
He said he had been "slightly nervous about the slight level of gloating" in the BBC's coverage. "They nailed the [US] government for three days," he added.
But it will be Murdoch's revelations about Blair's views which are the most damaging. Last night, they had already re-opened the simmering feud between the BBC and the government, dating back to claims that the BBC was biased over the war in Iraq.
That affair culminated in the findings of the Hutton Inquiry, which severely criticised the corporation over its reporting of the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly, who killed himself after being outed as the source of a BBC report alleging that the case for war had been 'sexed-up'.
Furthermore, a separate independent report in January accused the BBC of ignorance, stereotyping and unintentional bias in its coverage of European politics.
Leading critics of the corporation joined Blair in the attack. Former chairman of the Conservative party, Lord Tebbit, who has accused the BBC of being a "Labour institution" said: "You could see from the way they covered the hurricane that they set out to depict the worst possible aspects of everything.
"They certainly seemed in their coverage to blame President Bush for just about everything short of the hurricane itself," he added.
However, others rushed to the BBC's defence, claiming that Blair had been exposed in what amounted to a cheap attempt to curry favour with Murdoch, who is a long-standing critic of the BBC.
His company, News International, also controls the BBC's rival Sky News.
Former BBC correspondent and MP Martin Bell said: "Tony Blair was telling Murdoch what he wanted to hear because he needs Murdoch's support. If Tony Blair wants to take issue with the BBC's reporting then he has a forum in which to do it.
"I thought the BBC's reporting was exemplary especially the coverage from Matt Frei. If Tony Blair wants to pick a fight with the BBC he will get no support except from the usual henchmen in the Murdoch press. Last time he picked a fight with the BBC it did him more damage than it did the corporation."
As with other media outlets, much of the BBC's coverage focused on the delays in rescuing the thousands of mainly poor black people who were trapped in New Orleans after the flood for up to five days.
The BBC focused much attention on how the hurricane appeared to expose American's racial divide, as well as posing questions about the impact that global warming had had on the tragedy.
A spokesman for the BBC said: "We have received no complaints from Downing Street, so it would be remiss of us to comment on what was reported to be a private conversation. However it would appear opportune to underline the fact the BBC's coverage of the Katrina devastation was committed to relaying the events fully, accurately and impartially. An approach we will continue to take with this and other stories."
A spokesman for Blair refused to say whether or not the Prime Minister had met Murdoch in New York last week. He said: "There isn't much I can say. The Prime Minister has not expressed these views personally to me."
Murdoch's views were made known during a discussion on the role of private philanthropy in the USA in which he claimed Europe was "jealous" of America.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west