BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Winning Emmys

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 15:00 UK time, Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Last week, the papers were full of the Queen clutching her Emmy - well Helen Mirren anyway. Today we've got one of our own.

Last night in New York, the BBC took first prize in the Oscars of the TV industry, winning the International Emmy in the news category for our coverage of last summer's war in Lebanon.

Smoke billowing from the rubble of a building in BeirutMore than a year after the end of the war, the ramifications of the events last summer rumble on - today, the Lebanese Parliament held its first round of voting to elect a new president (they failed to do so). At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, last night's award makes it a double - earlier in the summer, our coverage of last summer's war won the other prestigious international news award, the Prix Monte Carlo.

In fact it's a double 'double' - "Baghdad, A Doctor's Story" a Guardian Films programme commissioned for BBC Two also won the other International Emmy in the current affairs category.

I confess I'm biased - the prize for Lebanon is a richly deserved tribute to the bravery of the reporters, producers, crews and engineers who spent six weeks on both sides of the Israel/Lebanon border.

Last summer's conflict was challenging and complicated for the BBC. It was vital for our teams to get to the heart of the story, report events as they witnessed them and remain measured and impartial. Their courage allowed us to report all sides of the story. A specially-commissioned audience survey for BBC News reported that a majority believed the BBC had provided the best coverage of the conflict, with 64% trusting it and 11% distrustful.

Why do awards like this matter? In a sense, of course, they don't. The fact that audiences in the UK and around the world continue to turn to the BBC is the bigger prize - every week, 230 million people around the world get their news from the BBC.

What is significant is that last night's award was presented in New York, alongside the awards for the US domestic television market.

On Monday, the BBC is launching a new, nightly TV programme aimed at the US market - World News America will be seen across the United States on BBC America and around the globe on BBC World. Its mission is to report the world to America and America to the world. I believe having people in places like Beirut (and 41 other places), before, during and after conflicts like that of last summer allow us to do just that.


  • 1.
  • At 04:30 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • David M wrote:


I have been critical - and still am - of some BBC reportage, but I do think it was important to highlight this incident and give it the prominence it deserved.

Having said that, I think the BBC needs to be clear about its values and methods when it reports on ME issues. I think there is a perception amongst many that the BBC sides with the 'Palestinian cause' to the extent that Israel is a fe facto aggressor - and this is obviously not always true.

  • 2.
  • At 05:37 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • ale bro wrote:

I hope that the US programme that the BBC is starting is a commercial success and pays its own way. Why should UK taxpayers fund a propaganda exercise for the US? To quote Jon Williams, the show will "report America to the world".

  • 3.
  • At 07:52 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • chui wrote:

One wonders about the BBC World News and subsidies from US Foundations. There are already three net works plus CNN and FOX that has the same repeat of the biased UK/US broadcast. There is no need for the same repeat in English accent. If you really are a world news program, then broadcast world new and not the same garbage that is available ten times over in the same hour.

  • 4.
  • At 11:18 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • tom wrote:

well done, it is briliantly deserved. good luck

I am delighted with the hourly newscast on BBC America. It has been very frustrating to have the world news condensed to half an hour on the American broadcast channels, and have the BBC use the same format. There is vastly more news in the world than can be reported in half an hour, and it is uncomfortable to watch the clearly pressurized delivery of the news, trying to cram as much as possible in those 30 minutes, without appearing to be hurried. Living in Britain has made me an addict to the BBC delivery of the news, and BBC America has never provided what I was used to. I would very like to see some more "informative" programming on BBC America, BBC World is not carried by most American cable and satellite providers. It is not that I don't enjoy the odd shot of "How clean is your house?", but the repeat factor is a killer, especially since you have such vast amounts of excellent programming on the shelf. We do all have DVRs at home, today, after all. The repeats are the staple by which the American cable channels have to live, and there is no reason I can see that the BBC has to live by the American formula, which is largely governed by Nielsen ratings that I suspect work just the same as the prohibition on racial profiling - don't let's do what's obvious.

  • 6.
  • At 03:29 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Can I start by saying congratulations on the Emmy. International news, and Middle East coverage in particular, is what the BBC continues to excel at, even as standards on domestic social and political topics are arguably slipping somewhat. The coverage of the war in the Lebanon was excellent - informative, well-researched and above all balanced, with Israeli and Lebanese concerns given broadly similar prominence and analysis - and reminded me (as if I needed it) why the license fee remains essential to the BBC's ability to educate and inform.

The same could be said about the launch of a BBC news channel targetted at the US market, which is literally crying out for responsible and impartial analysis of international topics, something the domestic networks seem stubbornly determined to ignore in favour of drum banging about the latest 'achievements' in Iraq or (more to the point) Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and local 'cat-stuck-up-tree' human interest pap. I don't think for a second you'll be able to lure away the die-hard Fox News viewer but maybe by complementing the better-quality networks such as CBS and CNN the BBC has the opportunity to promote a more internationalist perspective amongst a deeply parochial domestic audience.

Now how about a complete rethink of the rest of BBC America's output? For a start, what are ITV shows doing on there, especially those of the calibre of Footballers' Wives? At a time when quality American productions are taking over british schedules this channel should be a showcase of all that is best in British TV, and I'm not talking about the same few episodes of 'Keeping Up Appearances' repeated as nauseum either. Anything else merely degrades the BBC brand overseas - even the excreable BBC Prime is better in this regard.

  • 7.
  • At 04:45 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Bonnie Shulman wrote:

Congratulations on a richly deserved Emmy. I subscribe to both BBC World and BBC Canada. I have no complaints about BBC World, however:

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the dearth of excellent British programming BBC Canada. What we get are many Canadian shows from Canadian networks, instead of the fine British dramas and comedies that I read so much about. If there's any way to make BBC Canada more British and less Canadian (as I have plenty of Canadian channels to chose from), that would be a wonderful addition to the TV landscape over here. Thanks.

  • 8.
  • At 02:48 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

What a surprise. neither my original post showing how the BBC deliberatly lied to the British public with its Lebanon coverage, or my second post has been published.

Long live freedom of speech at the BBC.

You guys should rename yourselves the Burmese Broadcasting Corporation.

  • 9.
  • At 12:15 PM on 01 Oct 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

I'm surprised that the BBC has the nerve to trumpet this 'award', considering the lies told during the war in Lebanon.

Orla Guerin, informed viewers that:

"I haven’t seen a single building that isn't damaged in some way. Many have been flattened, many have been singed. This town has really been wiped out."

However, that lie was exposed by Alex Thomson on the Channel 4 news.

"As you can see, the centre of the town destroyed on a really wholesale scale, more so than since the last civilians left here, though it has to be said that on the outskirts, the suburbs - pretty much untouched by the Israeli attack and invasion."

There is photographic and video evidence to back this up.

Of course, the BBC failed to answer viewer complaints and found nothing wrong with Orla's anti-Israel propaganda.

Yet again the BBC is caught lying and pushing its own agenda and prejudices. Any chance of an apology or disciplinary action for those involved? No? What a surprise.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.