BBC chief claims rivals turned tsunami reporters into 'heroes'

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The Independent Online

The BBC's new director of news has rejected attacks on the corporation's coverage of the tsunami and accused rival broadcasters of trying to make "heroes" out of their reporters.

Helen Boaden told The Independent's MediaWeekly that she had "no regrets" over the BBC's approach to covering the disaster. Critics had claimed that the BBC failed to fully appreciate the significance of the story by not sending its best-known reporters, including its world affairs editor, John Simpson, to affected Indian Ocean countries.

The BBC's coverage was contrasted with that of other rolling news channels, particularly Sky News.

But Ms Boaden said: "There is always going to be criticism of the BBC, particularly in big stories and particularly from our commercial competitors. We were the first there and the coverage was excellent." The BBC was not as reliant as its rivals on big-name journalists and valued the reporters in its 40 overseas bureaux, she said. "We invest in that because we want that kind of expertise. Equally we use the big names and deploy them as we think fit."

Ms Boaden said some of the BBC's rivals had allowed their reporters to become the story as they spoke of their travails in getting to the spot. "The reporter as hero is not what people want for this story," she said.