HonestReporting Responds to Channel 4


Channel 4 posted on YouTube last night's broadcast of Dispatches: Inside Britain's Israel Lobby.

Most of the video deals with domestic UK political angles which other UK organizations and bloggers are already addressing.

It's at 35:00 in the video when presenter Peter Oborne finally turns his attention to media issues related to the so-called Israel lobby. I'm only responding to the video from that point.

• If news staffers are looking over their shoulder as Charlie Beckett told Peter Oborne, then media watchdogs like HonestReporting are succeeding. We're not trying to create a chilling effect on the UK media, we just want news services to be responsible in the way they cover Israel and the Mideast.

As a publicly funded news service, BBC especially should be held accountable for its coverage. Beckett's comments indicate a BBC newsroom with an entrenched world view that's out of touch with a large segment of the public.

• Perhaps trying to illustrate our work, Oborne focuses on criticism of the BBC's April, 2003 documentary, Israel's Secret Weapon, which looked at Israel's nuclear program and Mordechai Vanunu (the video's here). With a voice of disdain, Oborne quotes from HonestReporting's website:

"The inference behind the film is that Israel would have been a more appropriate target than Iraq for coalition forces to attack."

On this point, Oborne's sloppy: HonestReporting never critiqued "Israel's Secret Weapon." The page Oborne read from was written in July, 2004, more than a year afterwards. That communique, Documenting BBC Documentaries, was based on an exhaustive report by Trevor Asserson: The BBC and the Middle East: The Documentary Campaign 2000-2004

We stand by Asserson's assertion about the film's inferences. But if Oborne wants to villify someone for criticizing what we maintain was a lousy documentary, Oborne targeted the wrong Zionist conspirator.

If this how Oborne "investigated" HonestReporting, what does this say about the veracity of the rest of his investigation?


• Our criticism of Orla Guerin's coverage of the Lebanon war (BBC's Orla Exposed) was based on bloggers and media watchdogs comparing Guerin's August 14, 2006 report with — of all news services — Channel 4.

Guerin and C4's Alex Thomson were both in Bint Jbeil on the same day, yet had diametrically opposed descriptions of the scope of the town's damage. 'Nuff said.

• Viewers love the drama of an investigative reporter showing up at someone's door with cameras rolling, ready to confront some nasty person and somehow bring a little justice into the world. That was the confrontation Oborne had in mind when he and a film crew showed up at Media Central looking for HR managing editor Simon Plosker.

(MediaCentral is a Jerusalem-based HonestReporting initiative, providing support services for foreign journalists. The association with HonestReporting is openly stated on MediaCentral's web site.)

Oborne apparently wanted to confront Plosker and portray him as shadowy figure connected to various organizations who make up the monolithic "Israel lobby." The stunt wasn't necessary though: Plosker's extensive background in Israel advocacy is described on HonestReporting UK's Meet the Team page.

In any event, Plosker's isn't obligated to be interviewed. He did supply C4's vaguely worded email requests with background info about himself and HonestReporting — emails they chose to ignore.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth response to Channel 4 from HonestReporting tomorrow.