Rebels take Tripoli; Dale apologises…

I keep an eye on Twitter rather than live ‘there’. It can be a pretty febrile place, even when discussing less important matters than a bona fide Arab revolution.

At one stage last night, one Syrian broadcast journalist had Gadaffi dead; shot near Rixos Hotel where many of the world’s journalists reporting from the government side of the Libyan conflict were stationed. It turned out to be mistaken identity.

There was much discussion of how the Beeb had been caught out, and lost the UK coverage game to SkyNews. Although the BBC News Channel had some good interviews at the start of the night, the fact their main man Matthew Price (@matthewwprice) was on the government side, holed up with the CNN and other correspondents inside the Rixos, meant they simply had no feed from the rebel side that was less than four or five hours old.

By contrast, Sky News’ Alex Crawford (@AlexCrawfordSky), with the critical advantage of being on the right side when the story broke, took the brave – and, it turns, out intelligent – decision to move into Tripoli with the rebels, and accordingly beat even Al Jazeera (whose coverage was otherwise excellent) into Green (now renamed Martyrs) Square.

I’d be reluctant to extrapolate too much from last night’s events without some decent inside information, but it’s another victory for the private sector over the licence holder.

I’m not a huge fan of the Sky product overall. It has a virtual monopoly over televised sport (handed it on a plate by the Thatcher government at the beginning), and has few, if any, of the production obligations that its UK commercial terrestrial rivals have, which is rarely referenced by residual critics of the BBC.

That said, after years of fishing in the same homogenised Westminster village gossip pool as the BBC, the News product has lately seemed to have sprung into life (ironically, around the time the Hackgate strong began to re-emerge by my reckoning; although it may have its actual genesis earlier than that).

Two possible contributory factors:

  • No one anticipated the fall of Tripoli* to take place in such a short, dramatic and apparently viably broadcast-able timespan. Like so many other aspects of the ‘Arab Spring’, each ‘stage’ has been hard to predict. In this case, fortune has favoured the brave, and the fleet-of-foot.
  • In that regard, SkyNews is small and light and has a thin line of command. Compare it’s News Centre at Osterley in West Londonn- few desks, often skeletal back office crew – with the sprawling mega office that surrounds the BBC’s news operations at Wood Lane. Smart decisions quickly, are not the state broadcaster’s forte.

It’s possible that in making voluntary cuts under the last government, and further cuts under this one, the bureaucracy of the BBC has not yet made the necessary reforms to keep it’s news product fresh and relevant. But it is also possible that with so many masters to obey (not simply the licence payer), the BBC will always take hits like this, over the short run of a fast breaking story at least.

In other news, Iain Dale found out that Twitter can be dangerous for your reputation. He has apologised for calling the BBC’s man on the spot a wimp for not coming out of the aforementioned Rixos Hotel. After some intelligent peer pressure from SkyNews’s Neal Mann (@fieldproducer) he agreed to make a donation to the Rory Peck Trust

So who said journalism was dead? Yet for all that last night was great television, as Gil Scott Heron so memorably noted, the revolution [itself] will not be televised, brother

Question is, will we still be listening, or watching when the real work of remaking Libya begins?

*Adds: See Oracle’s corrective notes below

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  • oracle

    Tripoli has fallen???

    When did that happen?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m sure there’s a semantic defence of my choice of words Oracle.

    But the one thing missing from last night’s coverage was any independent reporting of NATO’s role in such a sudden collapse.

    Perhaps, because everyone was either embedded, or sequestered in hotel rooms?


  • Neil

    A new format for regime change has been created here. I can picture Cameron in his office, sleeves rolled up, map of the Middle East on his desk, considering which unacceptable bunch of savages to put civilisation on next.

    Over a thousand dead in a day yesterday and that’s nothing to celebrate, and what comes next? Civil war? A couple of centuries of sectarian strife? One thing’s for sure though, it ain’t over yet.

  • PaulT

    Oracle, don’t worry if you missed it, if Tripoli is similar to other towns in Libya it shall fall into ‘rebel’ hands another several times at least.

  • oracle

    Just for information purposes to assist many of you who are too lazy to check for proof, or too stupid to care Tripoli has not fallen yet.

    Tripoli has a population of some 2 million quite a large sprawling city, to jump to conclusions from dubious pro-western anti-Gaddafi media organizations based in countries that are members of NATO and thus therefore technically at war with Libya is at best foolhardy at worst pure unadulterated recklessness.

    NATO has bombed the Libyan army to bits day and night for the last 6 months on top of that NATO claimed to be protecting civilians yet sent engineers to eastern Libya to perform maintenance on broken abandoned tanks of the Libyan army, these tanks were then used by the Benghazi based militants (they cannot be termed rebels whilst they have concerns for one tribe only) to indiscriminately shell civilian areas not because they resisted them but because they did not rise up against Gaddafi.

    The vast majority of Libyans have played no part in this oil-grab they have been apathetic to the entire event trying their best just to get on with life.
    2 million people in Tripoli and yet Sky, BBC, ITN, CNN, and FOX have all had major problems finding more that 8-10 people on a roof top waving, no flags they could be waving at anything or for anything, but then they cut to scenes of thousands of anti-Gaddafi supporters celebrating in the streets….. What they don’t tell you is the celebrations are taking place in Benghazi! Not Tripoli!

    To say the rebels control Tripoli on the evidence that was offered to us last night and this morning would be the equivalent of saying that if Lisburn invaded Poleglass and Twinbrook that they controlled Belfast, it’s just plain stupid.

    As for Green Square (which Mick wants to rename already when only the elected council of Tripoli or the elected government of Tripoli can do so) well only a military fool would try and defend it… NATO aircraft would annihilate anything near it because it’s wide open, so thus it remains as a focal point only not a strategic position.

    The Western governments of NATO are desperate for the military supporting Gaddafi to concede quickly because they know the poor discipline and lack of training that the Benghazi militants have will mean Tripoli never falling without constant and accurate bombing by NATO to eliminate Gaddafi troops because each and every time they have went toe to toe evenly with small arms only Gaddafi’s men have won every single encounter hands down.

    Tripoli won’t fall in any decisive battle it will be Gaddafi’s military people going home to the wives and kids that will see NATO control Libya not a rag-tag convoy of pick-up trucks and looters

  • andnowwhat

    Like yourself Mick, I was following this on Twitter (plus what was going on in Gaza. Not a mention of it on any British network) and there was clear disappointment in the BBC’s coverage with all kudos going to Sky.

    A similar thing happened with the riots in England a couple of weeks ago. Again, Sky were a step or 2 ahead of the BBC.

    (BTW, is anyone going to do a blog about the RUC reserve/envelope fiasco? There seems to be some genuinely concerned ex reservists out there)

  • oracle

    Oh and one other thing whenever election are held… if ever election are held more like it…
    The Gaddafi supporters will win 65% of the vote so I think the Yanks have probably already decided to Federalize Libya or split it in half locating the main oil reserves with the Benghazi based tribes

  • oracle

    The convoy that the BBC went with into Tripoli with made up of 20-30 vehicles averaging 5 a vehicle was ambushed, the BBC guys were lucky they were at the back only 8 vehicles made it back the BBC has learned…

    Good job Tripoli had fallen otherwise they really would have been in trouble eh?

  • Mick Fealty


    Amended accordingly…

  • michael-mcivor

    was up all night on twitter and sky- thought the new york times was brilliant on twitter last night- i know its war and people were being hurt and killed- but i am a news junkie- the wars will go on if i watch the news or not-

  • DC

    Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar!

  • lamhdearg

    i wonder where all the battle hardened foreign fighters, the ones on the ground not in the planes, will go after the islamic republic of libya is set up (all the parts off former libya without the oil). al-quds by 2012. bbc sky all talking crap is my two cents.

  • Mike the First

    I was tuned into BBC News last night from around 10pm and saw some interesting enough coverage from the studio, footage from earlier in the day, and broadcasts from Matthew Price sealed up in the hotel giving (rather cautious, probably sensibly) commentary.

    I switched over to Sky News after 11pm and…wow! There was Alex Crawford with live footage from the rebel convoy. They were just backing off from Green Square, then they brought us live and on-the-scene commentary, accompanied by footage, of the taking of Green Square. Amazing.

    Sky beat BBC hollow with regards to this coverage. As Mick says, the decision by Alex Crawford et al to go with the convoy was both brave and intelligent.

  • Anyone spot the post @ 1538 on the BBC website’s rolling updates? —

    Aram Shegunts, director general of the Russia-Libya Business Council, tells Reuters he believes Libya has been “completely” lost to Russian energy firms. “Our companies won’t be given the green light to work there. If anyone thinks otherwise they are wrong. Our companies will lose everything there because Nato will prevent them from doing their business in Libya.”

    So that’s what it’s all been about! Now if Libya had been wall-to-wall carrots …

  • oracle


    was just about to post that Malcolm

  • oracle

    ****** Do You Have a Scanner *******

    ******* Did You Buy the Daily Mail Today ****

    The Mail clearly photographed NATO troops involved in the fight in Tripoli yesterday, on page six of todays paper they published a photo of a pick-up full of armed Benghazi militants with a NATO tactician/special forces on board trying to hide behind an AK trying very badly to look Arab.

  • oracle


    No its the double page spread centre main photo titled armed to teeth and baying for blood

  • oracle

    Al-Jazeera reports that Mohammed Gaddafi, who was said to have been captured by rebels overnight, has fled house arrest with the help of loyalist, pro-Gaddafi fighters.

    So more bollocks they obviously never had him did they!!!!

  • oracle

    Malcolm yes thats it further down titled armed to teeth

    **** well done ****

  • Mick Fealty

    Can’t see them Oracle!

  • lamhdearg

    nor i,

  • oracle

    Mick, Lamh

    Pick up truck guy right hand side at back closest to window..

    this is the 4th one ive seen this week first one one line thanks to Malcolm big heavy set blonde yank type

  • oracle

    *********the photo has been removed********

    they must have realised the blunder.. conspiracy time guys

    i still have the news paper photo in original paper

  • oracle

    Malcolm did you see it before it was removed

  • Mick Fealty

    Always best to take a copy when you see that happen Oracle. If only for the sake of your own sanity!

  • lamhdearg

    95% in rebel hands has become 20% still in the hands of the regiem. oracle, i still can not see it it must have been removed.

  • Mike the First

    You think the Gadaffi regime has 65% among Libya’s (would be) electorate?

    To be honest I just think you’re doing a sub-George-Galloway “got to take the opposite side from ‘the West’ ” shtick with a lot of those comments above.

  • Mike the First

    Above comment addressed to orcale.

  • Mike the First

    Actually I see you’ve slightly downgraded your estimate of Gadaffi’s support in Libya from 70%:

    The mind boggles at your rather bizarre definition of “free Arabs”. As for “Tripoli…is rock solid Gadaffi”…

    These comments kind of make you sound like Slugger’s own Comical Ali…

  • oracle

    mike it is refererence to the tribes… they vote on tribes in libya always have

  • Mike the First

    They haven’t had a free and fair vote under Gadaffi’s dictatorship – hopefully its fall will bring this about and then we’ll be able to see how Libyans vote.

  • lamhdearg

    cnn, “one of Gaddifi sons has escaped”, or was he rescued, or was he never captured in the first place.

  • oracle

    Yeah Mike it’s like this the total number of armed militants against the Libyan Government totalled less than 7,000 men out of a population of 6.5 Million

  • oracle

    20 photos and only the interesting one removed, and it was a sexy shot without the NATO guy in it so why remove it at all… unless because the NATO guy was in it

  • lamhdearg

    test of little-us syndrome.

  • oracle

    Second Gaddafi son walks into hotel in Tripoli proving that the spin on CNN BBC and Sky was just bullshit
    Neither were captured.

    Also BBC reporting Tripoli residents “rebel fighters were “breaking into people’s houses, stealing everything”, adding that the rebel assault would be “a disaster for Libya and Nato”.

  • Harry Flashman

    I can’t abide Gaddaffi and would be very happy to see the back of him but this whole Libya story has been stinking for months.

    Five months ago in March Gaddaffi’s regime was supposedly on the brink of collapse and yet remarkably even with NATO hammering him (what must the Russian veterans of the Cold War be thinking these days? They could have walked into Germany and rolled up western Europe in a fortnight if this performance is anything to go on) he’s still there.

    Yesterday morning Gaddaffi’s demise was being discussed as if it were all over bar the shouting (and shouting appears to be the main activity of the rebels) with his two sons in rebel hands. As oracle points out this morning the fighting (if you can call blokes in t-shirts firing AK 47’s into the blue sky for the cameras “fighting”) continues and lo and behold his two sons are wandering around at liberty.

    NATO was supposed to be protecting civilians only but have in fact been actively involved fighting on the rebels’ behalf. Given the full beards of quite a few of the rebels and their battle cry of “Allahu Akbar!” I’m not sure NATO has chosen the right side in this fight.

    I notice that the US is actually maintaining quite a perceptible distance in this campaign with the lead being taken by France (skulduggery writ large), Italy and a hapless Britain. I don’t think this is an “oil grab” by the Yanks, if it is it will be as successful as the so-called “oil grab” in Iraq which saw the biggest oil contracts being handed to the Chinese.

    As regards reporting you need to remember that the BBC is an overmanned government bureaucracy staffed by civil servants with all the dynamism that entails. Think of Aer Lingus versus Ryanair to get a comparison between SKY and the Beeb. Clubbable statists prefer government run agencies, they stay within the comfort zone, but don’t expect great service for the guy who pays the bills.

  • lamhdearg

    Mostly agree with what you type on tripoli flashman, two little points if i may, it is not the oil the u.s. is after it is the oil profits, Iraq has and still spends a vast % of these with u.s. companys, on the bbc being a little slow on the tripoli take over storys, as time go’s by and the storys are seen to be bullshit, maybe the bbc was right not to spout them.

  • oracle

    Lamhdearg is 100% correct it is the oil profits and oil revenue spend (contracts paid for from oil revenues before any monies are passed to any ruling government treasurary) a veto over oil exports and oil production targets that is meant by an oil-grab not the actual oil itself.

  • Neil

    “Iraq’s oil auctions were portrayed as a model of transparency and a negotiating victory for the Iraqi government,” said Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq. “Now we see the reality was the opposite: a backroom deal that gave BP a stranglehold on the Iraqi economy, and even influence over the decisions of Opec.”

    Interesting reading on here folks, certainly beats the shit out of the lies we’re being spoon fed by our media. Another conflict the Middle East will subjected to for generations. And worse, the fact that the western powers might make this look succesful and open up the idea of ‘humanitarian’ wars around the globe without risking boots on the ground, and the inevitable coffins on planes coming back. The potential for all the political capital with none of the political loss.

  • Reader

    Neil: Interesting reading on here folks, certainly beats the shit out of the lies we’re being spoon fed by our media.
    From the article: ‘Section 12.5 of this revised technical service contract shows that BP and its Chinese partner CNPC can obtain payments for “government imposed curtailment” – which could cover quota demands made on Iraq by Opec.’
    Quite right too. BP shouldn’t be subsidising Iraq’s sacrifices to OPEC. Suggesting that the deal gives ‘a stranglehold on the Iraqi economy’, as the article suggested, is nonsense; the sums at stake are tiny in relation to the oil revenues involved – and tiny in comparison to the revenues Iraq would already be forgoing by cutting production for the sake of OPEC.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Latest; Left Wing Luvvies Livid,as Gadiffi flees for life !! 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    You spoiled a nice piece of alliteration there Heinz with the superflous ‘W’.

    But here’s a polite warning, drop the wind up strategies, or you’ll find yourself dropped from Slugger!