During this project, I hope to test out my hypothesis that the BBC War reporting undermined the security of the British troops during the Falklands of 1982, potentially breaking the Treason Act, 1940. The debate for and against censorship of information in media coverage is a controversial issue, especially in relation to war reporting as it can be understood that the primary purpose of the media is to provide information to the public and is therefore a public service to provide news on the country's affairs.
Free Press enables the audience to be equipped with knowledge to form opinions of their own, independent of the agenda of those in political power. However, it must be highlighted that regulations of media censorship are necessary, purely in the interests of security for those in threatening situations. It can be argued that broadcasting information that defy military censorship, endangering the life of the majesty's forces, is officially breaking the Treachery Act 1940.
My objective throughout this project is to convey the BBC as potentially having a detrimental effect to particular individuals they report and therefore must be regulated within strict guidelines in particular circumstances. I will structure this argument through firstly, analyzing the BBC's role in the coverage of war and how this undermines security of the lives of British Forces. Secondly, I aim to study the increase of war broadcasting in the UK with an apparent correlation to the development of technology.
Thirdly, I will assess the argument that this rise in technology has diminished security of British troops, breaking the Treason Act 1940 and lastly, I will present and assess empirical evidence for this argument in relation to the Battle of Goose Green of the Falklands War, 1982 using this case study as an example to relate to and avoid, in present day conflicts. The Battle of Goose Green captures the undermining of security of the British Troops and proves such tactless war reporting as most insensibly, the BBC World Service announced the military operation of taking Goose Green before it was even launched.
This acted as forewarning for the Argentines of the surprise attack and as a result allowing them to prepare for the assault, tarnishing the allies' successes as British casualties escalated. For the purpose of this argument, I will use this battle as a case study throughout to demonstrate the media as a predominantly negative force in wartime. "The two themes of censorship and information policy attracted more debate and more complaint than any other aspect of the coverage of the Falklands campaign. " (Morrison & Tumber, 1988, p. 189).
This demonstrates the common concern between the public's democratic right to be informed and the Government's responsibility to protect the lives of the people. The Freedom of Information Act states that "Without this freedom, democratic life as it is known in Britain would be impossible" (Welsh, Greenwood & Banks, 2000, p. 370), supporting the necessity for people to be equipped to make educated choices. However, the reason that this is so controversial in warfare of late is because since World War Two, there's been no threat to the security of the nation itself.
Currently our country is deployed in other countries (Iraq, Afghanistan etc) and therefore, the lives and the privacy of the servicemen and women should still be considered, Due to modern warfare, coverage of the war is easily transmitted across the globe and media, therefore may act as an aid to the enemy and their allies, out of the MoD's control. This point demonstrates that in particular situations, considering other law developments (anti terrorism legislations, Official Secrets Act (Welsh, Greenwood & Banks, p.
370)); some form of censorship should be enforced to avoid undermining security of those most vulnerable. In the past, any censorship attempts have created speculation amongst the media towards the government in power and the Ministry of Defense. During the Falklands war when Conservatives governed, this seemed to create the greatest controversy as the latter was accused of using 'operational security' as an excuse for delaying and censoring information, supposedly allowing the Government to hide their poor organization and the absence of any agreed procedure among the services (Morrison & Tumber, 1988, p.
189). It seems these accusations were the media's insensitive response to a forty eight hour blackout on the news from the Falkland Islands (Harris, 1983, p. 117). As a result of a lack of immediate information, this speculation escalated to hasty assumptions across news sources, which in turn produced widely inaccurate headlines that soon spread to the masses. Though some predictions proved correct, they proved detrimental to military operations supporting the need for temporary censorship in the first place.
Headlines such as the Daily Express' "Goose Green is Taken" on 27 May before the attack took place caused a need for a sudden change in military tactics and therefore, affecting the necessary planning for success, allowing Argentines to reinforce the area with men from nearby, undermining the lives of the 2 Para awaiting H Hour. Though significant, there were other ways in which the media caused problems for the MoD. Admiral Woodward blamed the BBC World Service for reporting the lack of detonations after receiving a briefing from a MoD official.
He describes the BBC as being more concerned with being 'fearless seekers after truth' than the lives of the British Servicemen. (www. operationcorporate. com), proving that media officials were informed of military intelligence and yet still chose to ignore advice. Also, Ted Roulands, a former Junior Foreign Minister, argued that intelligence leaks of the British breaking Argentine military codes served to deny British access to valuable intelligence (www. operationcorporate. com) as due to new technology.
As Argentine forces were able to gather their own intelligence on Britain's successes via the media output, leading on to the development of technology as a cause for the media's failings. It can be argued that the reason for the increase in war coverage is a result of the development of technology and concurrently, the undermining of the security of the British forces. In television, the Falklands war differed from the Second World War not only with the development of military technology but with media technology too. In television, the development from terrestrial to satellite saw a shift in government management of news coverage.
The latter enabled journalist content to be easily broadcast from other jurisdictions beyond the control of individual governments and therefore changed both politically and socially too – media was not just a tool for those in power anymore. Also, due to the speed of satellite and the distance with which it could cover, war coverage was a lot more efficient which though allowed the audience to keep up to date with their countries current affairs, could prove detrimental to the people on the front line, as mentioned before with 2 Para in the battle for Goose Green.
Following concerns that the security of British Forces is undermined as a result of media coverage, it can be argued that the Treachery Act of 1940, though since abolished, has constantly been broken by media conglomerates. It states in the first statute; If with any intent to help the enemy, any person dies, or attempts or conspires with any other person to do any act which is designed or likely to give assistance to the naval, military or air operations of the enemy, to impede such operations of His Majesty's forces, or to endanger his life, he shall be guilty of felony and shall on conviction suffer death.
(Seaborne Davis, D, 1941) Reaching the conclusion that the media impede such operations of His Majesty's forces every time they issue information to the public (such as military tactics, intelligence and future operations) that is likely to give assistance to the enemy and concurrently have a detrimental effect on our own troops, this Act could be used to convict guilty journalists, editors and owners of news groups. These people sensationalize headlines in order to get a response from their readers and make money.
In this way, they prove that their loyalties are not with their fellow British nation and the forces which secure us, but with whichever side sells to their audiences. During the 1980's when Britain was at war in the Falkland Islands, there was much concern within the British Army and the Government in power that the coverage of the conflict affected the lives of the British soldiers at war. Justified accusations were made to suggest that the BBC were disloyal to the British Army and the countries role in the Falklands. Margaret Thatcher accused the BBC of being "Insufficiently unpatriotic" (Goodwin, 1998, p.
36) and another conservative MP claimed they were "almost treasonable" (O'Malley, 1994, p. 55). For this reason, Norman Tebbit (1989) described the relationship between the BBC and the Government as a casualty of the war and according to Milne, acted as a catalyst for hatred (O'Malley, 1994, p. 55). However, not all news groups were guilty of such felony; the Sun newspaper headlines demonstrated this: 'Dare call it treason: there are traitors in our midst' (7 May, 1982) as a response to the BBC 2's programme of news and comment, Newsnight, and an early news bulletin reporting the funeral of Argentine seamen killed in British attacks.
More headlines from supporting papers soon followed including "Has TV strayed too far into the enemy camp? " (The Daily Express, 10 May 1982). Both the Government and the MoD detested the lack of sensitivity the BBC had towards media coverage and its influence on the public. Max Hastings reported: "the colonel commanding the positions attacked by sky hawks… told me furiously that if a BBC correspondent arrived in his area, he would be sent immediately to the Prisoner of War cage" (Harris, 1983, p. 117) and Lt Col Jones even threatened to lead the persecution of senior BBC officials for treason (www.
operationcorporate. com). However, as one of the eighteen fatalities of war (Harris, 1983, p117), he was unable to carry out his threats. Instead the World Service held their own inquest and came to the conclusion that "no information which had not been readily available to other broadcasters… from official sources including the MoD" (Harris, 1983), suggesting a diversion between no10 and the ministry and supportive of the idea that the Government hadn't outlined firm procedures and restrictions of press coverage between themselves and the military, suggesting a need for regulations to be made in current conflicts.
Throughout this essay, arguments have been made to suggest that there is a need for regulations within the media output now that technology is so developed. The Falklands war was one of the first mediated conflicts and though proved successful in terms of support for the cause of the war itself, which in turn provided a boost to popularity of Thatcher ensuring her reelection in 1983, information was leaked which affected the lives of the servicemen and women on the front line.
The Battle of Goose Green is a key example to prove this is the case as the security of British troops were undermined as a result of war coverage, fault of the BBC or not. In America between 1960-90, there was a censorship secret facility called the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP) which was to follow the censorship code in the event of a war, firstly censoring American news media and secondly 'censorship of all communications entering and leaving the United States' (Wise, 1973, http://coldwar-c4i. net/WISP).
Though now nonexistent, this program would maintain control over what is revealed; especially now technology is so developed. There is quite obviously a need for delayed censorship where by information is vetted to reveal only what is safe to do so, perhaps with the promise that once secure, the media can report all the facts, though still without military tactics. Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and may involve a restriction on media coverage (www. wikipedia.
org) in order to prevent espionage. Most recently, it has been announced that Prince Harry was deployed to Iraq but "had been kept secret because of a ministry defense agreement with news officials" (29 Feb, 2008 www. timesonline. co. uk). The agreement was for Prince Harry to detail in his experiences once he was back, something he wouldn't have shared if otherwise. Though this story eventually leaked before his tour was completed, the ability to be able to hide a royalty's departure for so long shows the power censorship can have.
However, it does reveal that the media economic benefits outweigh those of patriotism to the extreme; news organizations would only secure the life of a member of the royal family in exchange for a better deal once the situation was clear. In conclusion, it is evident that the media can prove a negative force in their coverage. Though the BBC claimed that they were a news source independent of politics, they still seek to reap economic rewards. Unfortunately with the changes to modernity in society, this has been made easier with the development of technology, of satellite and cyberspace.
During the Falklands war, satellite played a role in a lack of government control, which suggests that regulations should be enforced. However, with the modernity there has been a change in the belief system too. The people have richer opportunities to speak out and be heard, demonstrated through internet blogs and forums, and censorship would therefore prove difficult to accept. In a viscous circle, the government is torn between the need to protect its nation, inclusive of their servicemen and women, and maintaining the support of the people in order to remain in power.
Though once people are outlined the reasons, this should be understood and more cases of censorship like Prince Harry's recent deployment, should be carried out. In questions, Thatcher summed up this debate perfectly; "We enjoy freedom of speech in a democracy… (however) … members are very much aware that too much discussion about the timing and details of operations can only help the enemy, and hinder and make things more difficult for our forces. In wartime there used to be a phrase 'careless talk costs lives'. It still holds. " (The lessons: Report 28, 27 May 1982, p. 326).