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Special report: Iraq and the media  |  Television

Sky claims it was first to break news of Baghdad bombing

Jason Deans
Thursday March 20, 2003

BBC News 24 Iraq
How BBC News 24 covered this morning's bombing of Baghdad

Sky News is claiming to have been the first UK broadcaster to break the news of American air attacks on Baghdad last night, which heralded the start of the second Gulf war - beating ITV by a wafer-thin 30 seconds.

The cable and satellite channel carried a news flash at 2.32am reporting that air raid sirens were being sounded in the Iraqi capital, according to a Sky News spokeswoman.

She claimed Sky News beat ITV News Channel - which was simulcast on ITV1 throughout the night - to get the first report of the Baghdad attacks by 30 seconds, and also scooped the BBC by 10 minutes.

But an ITN spokeswoman countered Sky's claim, saying ITV News Channel reported the breaking news of the start of the war "alongside" Sky News, just after 2.30am.

"Neil Connery, one of our reporters in Baghdad, was on the phone to London studio presenter Helen McCarthy when the attacks started. He heard explosions in the background from cruise missile attacks," she said.

Sky News had correspondent David Chater on the phone live from Baghdad at 2.34am, with live in-vision reports following later.

In the US, NBC claimed to be the first broadcaster with news of the attacks.

The network's veteran news anchor, Tom Brokaw, broke into scheduled prime time programming on NBC at 9.32pm on the east coast of America (2.32am GMT), with reports of the first explosions.

News channel CNN, the only US broadcaster that still has reporters in Baghdad, carried a first report at 9.36pm (2.36am GMT), with arch-rival Fox News following three minutes later.

Shortly afterwards CNN's Nic Robertson reported live from Baghdad that anti-aircraft fire could be seen in the sky above the city, though he said he had not heard any explosions.

The American networks also carried President George Bush's four-minute speech to the nation declaring the country was at war, which began at 10.15pm, eastern standard time.

As it became clear that the first air raids were not a full-scale attack, CBS, ABC and Fox stations on the west coast of America - three hours behind the eastern seaboard - went back to regular scheduled programming for the start of prime time at 8pm.

But NBC's war coverage, anchored by Brokaw, continued until just before 1am eastern standard time.

On the first day of the war, China allowed what appeared to be balanced reporting by its state controlled media.

In a rare move, state television broadcast live, with simultaneous translation, the address by U.S. President George W. Bush on the start of the war.

Other official news outlets ran the text of Bush's brief speech on their Web sites in both Chinese and English.

State television also carried a later live broadcast from Baghdad by Saddam, also with simultaneous translation.

 Special reports
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Iraq and the media

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19.03.2003: ITV condemns BBC over news schedules
18.03.2003: BBC and ITV clash over war bulletins
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17.03.2003: News teams prepare for war coverage
11.02.2003: BBC bans news stars from anti-war march
04.03.2003: Dimbleby heads ITV's war line-up
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06.03.2003: War threat hits ad confidence
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20.03.2003: Press works overtime as war breaks out
18.03.2003: World press round-up: 'The die is cast, diplomacy ended'
17.03.2003: They've lost the battle, will they support the war?
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 Military spin
18.03.2003: Military's spin corps promises honesty over civilian deaths

 US news media
28.02.2003: Rather's Hussein scoop draws 17m
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27.02.2003: White House clashes with TV chiefs
19.02.2003: News media harden anti-US stance
27.02.2003: US reporters condemn Pentagon press controls

 Media reaction to French stance
21.02.2003: Sun sparks cross-Channel war of words
21.02.2003: Sun's French stunt branded 'disgusting'

 Online coverage
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14.02.2003: Radio 3 bans anti-war band from music awards
13.02.2003: War climate helps Asian radio station

 Comment and analysis
12.03.2003: Stefano Hatfield: Sheen puts polish on anti-war campaign
14.02.2003: Peter Arnett: 'You are the Goebbels of Saddam's regime'
27.01.2003: Maggie Brown: Battle stations
27.01.2003: Richard Dowden: Suddenly I had taken four Iraqi soldiers prisoner
26.01.2003: David Beresford: The writes and wrongs of war

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