You could call this a "fair and balanced" moment. Having taken no end of pot-shots at the BBC's American coverage, I can now point you in the direction of sterling comments from the Corporation's man in Washington DC, Justin Webb.
Over Christmas, during a round-table discussion that I missed, he accused some pundits of being too hard on America. (You can read a transcript on this left-wing site.) Outraged Radio Four listeners responded with gallons of green - or maybe that should be red - ink. One angry letter-writer even accused Webb of sounding like someone on Fox News. (We should be so lucky...)
A few days ago the reporter was duly hauled up in front of the Feedback programme in order to explain himself. Yet even after apologising for expressing himself "a little too warmly", Webb stood firm:
...What I was trying to do - and I would say this in mitigation - was puncture an atmosphere which developed, I thought, during this broadcast, and which I think occasionally does develop on the BBC and on other broadcasting outlets, where there is a kind of cosy feeling that somehow if only America would behave differently, then everything in the world would be fine. I think that is a view which does annoy and upset Americans, as I said it did. And it's not just the White House - it is a broader thing than that - and also a view which is, to put it mildly, open to challenge, and that's what I hoped to do....
Later, he went out of his way to reject the notion that he had, in that quaint British phrase, "gone native". Quite the opposite, he said. "In fact, most of the work that I do, frankly, is sceptical, certainly about the Bush administration and, to a wider extent, about American policies and motives."
But is there, presenter Roger Bolton asked, a double-standard when it comes to reporting on the US?
JW. I don't think there's a double-standard at a conscious level. I don't think the BBC has a double standard. I've never been told what to say one way or the other
RB. But you're saying there's a greater readiness to criticize America than there is to criticize China, or perhaps Saudi Arabia or other countries in the Middle East?
JW. And the reason is, I think, that it's easier, that we have a problem reporting open societies, particularly in a time of great international turmoil and war. It's just easier to criticize, it's easier to get information, it's easier to find people within the society who are immensely critical of it. Yet when you think of China, when you think of the Taliban...when you think of the situation in Iran it's just more difficult to get a handle on what's going on in those places. And I think there is a tendency, which we always have to guard against, of being tougher on democratic societies simply because it's easier.
Fascinating. And encouraging too. You can hear the whole interview here. It starts about four minutes into the tape.