BBC Responds to Flotilla Inquiry Complaints

Thanks to Pesach Benson for giving me the odd “guest posting” on Backspin where I’ll be able to take an more personal spin on some of the topics that I cover in our communiques in my role as Managing Editor.

I also have to say thanks to the BBC for digging an even bigger hole for itself following HR’s critique of its biased reporting of Israel’s Turkel Commission. One of our subscribers kindly sent us the BBC’s reply to his complaint, which I include here in full:

Thank you for your e-mail. We initially reported on the findings of the Turkel inquiry here:

This story was first published at about 0630 on 23 January, and remained on our site until it was replaced by the Turkish reaction at about 1600. So we feel that the original findings were given plenty of prominence before a new angle was used. It is natural for 24-hour websites to wish to move stories on and update them, but we do appreciate the need to tell readers what the story actually is before reporting the reactions to it.

We do not agree that the identity of the observers is essential information – the fact that they were involved at all makes the point. As for the piece of analysis you mention, Jon Donnison did not author this report and his analysis was clearly marked as such. While our primary role is to report events impartially, we also draw on the experience of our correspondents and experts to interpret those events.

So let’s take a look at the original report that the BBC reply alluded to and compare it to the one we took apart.

While the headline indeed changes to focus on the negative Turkish reaction to the Israeli inquiry, Turkish PM Erdogan was already in the original report along with negative comments from the UN. Indeed, there is actually very little change in the text of the report other than the addition of more negativity from Erdogan.

But check out the change of image and caption. While the original article showed a photo of the Mavi Marmara along with a neutral caption, the updated story went with the video still of Israeli commandos accompanied by a the caption referring to an activist “shot four times in the head”. Evidently, the original photo of the ship was just not enough to portray Israel in a poor light.

The BBC fails to address the concerns of our subscriber who rightly also pointed out that the BBC could not even bring itself to mention the background of the international observers, particularly surprising considering that one of them, Lord David Trimble, is a prominent British political figure.

The BBC’s reponse to the complaint pretty much confirms and even strengthens our opinion that the article is a biased and shoddy piece of journalism. As for the explanation of Jon Donnison’s contribution to the article, I draw your attention to the remarks in his autobiography of former BBC newsreader Peter Sissons commenting on the BBC’s deep-rooted left-wing bias on all topic:

The increasing ­tendency for the BBC to interview its own reporters on air exacerbates this mindset. Instead of ­concentrating on interviewing the leading players in a story or spreading the net wide for a range of views, these days the BBC frequently chooses to use the time getting the thoughts of its own correspondents. It is a format intended to help clarify the facts, but which often invites the expression of opinion. When that happens, instead of hearing both sides of a story, the audience at home gets what is, in effect, the BBC’s view presented as fact.

Sorry BBC but your excuses just don’t cut it.

Keep those complaints coming to the BBC and don’t let it fob you off with lame responses such as the one above.