Rageh Omaar: How Iraq changed TV news

From the Huw Wheldon Lecture given by the BBC war reporter at the Royal Television Society in Cambridge
Click to follow
The Independent Online

We existed in a tight bubble in Baghdad and I didn't have a clue about all the attention that had built up around me during the war. What I wanted to talk about was what was happening in Baghdad, a city I'd know for six years. But instead, much of the media wanted to know about my grotty red fleece.

This war was different from any other from the point of view of television. This war was live from several battlefields simultaneously. Technology has moved at such speed that a reporter and cameraman travelling with a military unit can go live as fighting is taking place.

It led one of my BBC News bosses to say he was worried that in this war there would be a death of a coalition soldier live on air. Images were streamed into people's homes live - from Baghdad, Basra, Nassariyah. So the picture we're giving to viewers is of a series of powerful snapshots from the battlefield - what one of my colleagues called "keyhole journalism".

But there's a danger that there is no thread, there's no narrative and therefore no analysis. It's just a thought - but we could be losing something here. These lessons matter. They're relevant for us now in reporting the enormous story of Iraq's ongoing crisis. It's not less dangerous there, as I found out when I returned a few weeks ago. The story if anything is becoming more complex.

Iraqis have freedoms they never had under Saddam but at the same time many people are frightened to go out on to the streets because of lawlessness. Reporting the conflict was difficult and frightening. Reporting the peace is, if anything, even more so. It's not just the Iraq war that is changing the nature of TV news - the whole experience of Iraq may transform TV news - and that experience isn't over yet.

Comments