It’s safe to say that one of the major questions to arise from the Osama bin Laden death is: just what did the Pakistani military know or not know?
The terrorist’s compound was within spitting distance of the national military academic, a place akin to Sandhurst.
It was a compound with 15 foot high walls, topped with barbed wire and guarded by a wealth of security. Granted, if you go to many towns and villages in Pakistan- and I have been there 3 times either travelling or working- there are an alarming number of guarded villas like this.
But it would seem obvious that the army or its cousins the intelligence sector would know exactly what was inside each and every large house within a kilometre from their training centre.
So to two alternatives:
One is that the Pakistani armed services knew that Osama bin Laden lived nearby. And this means it was complicit in terrorism by harbouring a mass killer.
Two, it did not know that he and his team were there. And it is dismally inept.
I am sure the debate will blister on, the conspiracy theorists will have a field day and that Donald Trump (to steal a tweet from a comedian) will demand to see Osama’s death certificate.
With such a momentous day and such a huge story, it certainly is a relevant time to switch on the tv this Tuesday morning. Yesterday (Monday) the paper plunked through my door 45 minutes after I was hearing about the killing. Its lead was something forgettable about Cameron and Clegg not seeing eye to eye and that Henry Cooper had died. That about shows where the print media is these days.
So to this morning’s tv. Let me say that in television news, it is sometimes (more often than not) easy to do the breaking story than the second day’s follow up. When a whopper lands, you charge into the story with everything you have: reporters, newsdesk, camera crews, sat trucks, studio guests, down the line guests, graphics, helicopter shots. The whole gamut..and you usually get away with it.
I still remember Princess Diana’s death and how the newsroom woke me on a Sunday morning. I filled a whole programme. But as for the next day…arrgh
So, to the Next Day on the Osama story. Let’s do a whip-around: Sky, the Beeb and ITV.
To the BBC first:
Discounting Radio Four’s per usual superb news coverage, it’s time for Breakfast TV.
Its editors have the Beeb’s very own Pakistan correspondent Aleem Maqbool in Abbottabad taking us through the very latest conspiracies: Osama was killed somewhere else and his body taken to the villa; Osama is not dead but a prisoner; Osama is not even captured. Show us the body seems to be the cry within Pakistan, he says.
By having its own dedicated reporter on the scene, it gives strength to coverage.
Over on Sky, its positioning of live reporters and anchors in both Abbottabad and Islamabad as well as London and Washington gave it breadth. You felt you were sweeping around the globe on this worldwide story. Producers also used best the gripping still photographs of Barack Obama watching the live feed to good use. Nothing like a photograph to get across drama when, at the end, there is little moving picture coverage in this story with 10 years worth of archive
Finally over to Daybreak on ITV, or Career-break as it is known in the trade.
I expected worse, I have to say. The couch team seems to be the unprepared younger siblings of the BBC or Sky with its multi coloured sets and design, its crummy back refs to last night’s ITV shows and its twee reportage.
Saying that, coverage was adequate. But, boy, this really is the world of Clunky Throws. The show goes from Osama bin Laden’s death to Delia Smith and Norwich City back to Osama’s death and then awkwardly to the inevitable £50,000 competition (which by the way you can win if you figure out that the word ‘canine’ refers to a dog and not a mouse.)
To me, Sky wins by a nose. It always has classy production values and by having live cover in both Islamabad and Abbottabad, it shows it can handle the big story.
And this is a big story.