Relations between the British government and the BBC are often fraught at times of armed conflict, particularly in the absence of national consensus. A pattern of pressure on, and intimidation of, the BBC underlies efforts by successive governments to set the agenda for reporting 'in the national interest'. The effects of such pressure is considerable and, some claim, has led to over-dependence on official and 'establishment' sources in the BBC's coverage of conflicts. Such over-dependence, it could be argued, is typified by the 'flagship' current affairs series Panorama which has been accused by current affairs practitioners and media analysts of generally reflecting a 'Westminster consensus'.
This paper examines Panorama's coverage of the invasion of Iraq to explore claims that Britain's longest-running current affairs series largely reflects 'elite opinion'. Textual and content analysis of an archive of Panorama programmes related to the war is used to examine the charge that Panorama draws on a limited range of 'establishment' views and perspectives in its war coverage, whilst marginalising more critical opinions and explanations.