Michael Cole, a former BBC TV news reporter, criticises the BBC for its use of Frank Gardner as a frontline war correspondent in this piece, questioning the characteristics of war correspondents and the duty of care of employers. Gardner was left with injuries to his spinal cord after being shot by al-Qaeda gunmen in Saudi Arabia in 2004.
The BBC has always been very leery about taking responsibility for people who are killed or injured on duty. There is a closing of ranks on the management floors whenever such things happen. After the expressions of official grief and a good turn-out of the top brass at the funeral, or a succession of hospital visits to the injured employee, it all comes down to pounds and pence: liability and how to avoid it. Sympathy and human regard for victims and their families is not followed by munificent generosity. In terms of large sums of financial compensation, the BBC is deficient. The initial concern is swiftly stifled by the obligation to safeguard the licence-payers’ cash.
Related reading on Journalism.co.uk: read exclusive extracts from the forthcoming book ‘Afghanistan, War and the Media: Deadlines and Frontlines’.