In-Depth Study Of BBCJune 10, 2002 12:00 by ManagingTeam
HonestReporting was formed to promote consumer action. News is an information commodity bought and sold. If the product is faulty or defective, consumers have a right — even a duty — to complain and take action against the supplier.
As a governmental-funded institution, BBC is subject to particular public accountability.
HonestReporting commends London-based attorney, Trevor Asserson, and his research assistant, Elisheva Mironi for their exhaustive, groundbreaking analysis of seven weeks of BBC News. Every day, they monitored BBC TV and radio, and the BBC website, as well as several “control” websites.
Asserson took it upon himself to “assess BBC’s adherence to its own guidelines, in particular with respect to its obligations of impartiality and accuracy.” He found that BBC fell consistently short, and showed a marked and consistent pro-Palestinian bias. The persistent failure to treat the Middle East in an impartial way constitutes a breach of the trust which license payers have placed in BBC.
BBC, as you’ll recall, was the ignoble winner of the Dishonest Reporting “Award” 2001, for consistently fierce anti-Israel bias.
“Some of the breaches are in our view quite glaring,” Asserson wrote. “At times, by a mere selection or omission of facts, BBC provides a report which portrays the very opposite of the truth. Frequently BBC reporting is misleading. At times it appears to invent material to suit its own bias.”
Asserson’s report lists specific examples of BBC violations of objectivity, and we include some of these in the section below.
What can you to do make a change in BBC policy?
The BBC complaints page states: “The BBC Programme Complaints Unit (PCU) investigates serious complaints about programmes after transmission. They must be in writing and relate to UK licence-funded public services suggest a specific and serious breach in programme standards as set out in the BBC’s Producers’ Guidelines. If your complaint fulfils both conditions, the PCU investigates it impartially and recommends appropriate redress. If you are unhappy with its decision you may ask the Governors to review it at the Programme Complaints Committee….”
Many HonestReporting members have reported that they have had various complaints “upheld” by the BBC Complaints Unit. But the HonestReporting members don’t know what happens as a result of complaints being upheld. Is anyone reprimanded? Are the reporters subsequently asked to be more balanced in their reporting? Are editors brought to task? Why is the BBC allowed to be so secretive and unaccountable when it is a public body using UK taxpayers’ money?
You can also visit the website of the Broadcasting Standards Commission (http://www.bsc.org.uk), the statutory body for both standards and fairness in UK broadcasting. Established under the 1996 Broadcasting Act, the Commission conducts research, issues guidance and considers audience complaints.
The author of the BBC analysis can be reached at:
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
====== BBC VIOLATIONS ======
VIOLATION 1 – WHITEWASHING ARAB TERROR
BBC refuses to label Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups as “terrorists,” even though the British government classifies both these as terrorist organizations.
(http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/Newsroom_and_Speeches/Press/2001/press_121_01.cfm) Instead, BBC uses the terms “militants,” “hard liners” or “radical.” The word “terrorist” is never applied to acts of Arab violence, including the blowing up of pizza shops and discotheques.
When suicide bombers killed 26 Israeli civilians in attacks on Jerusalem and Haifa (December 1-2, 2001), the word “terror” was — incredibly — used by BBC only in describing Israel’s retaliatory attacks: “Terror overhead in Gaza today and panic below… Israel is pounding Gaza for a second day…” (BBC1 News, 4 December 22:00)
BBC regularly tries to deflect responsibility for terrorism away from Palestinian groups. BBC reported: “Over the years, Hamas has been blamed for scores of suicide attacks on Israel.” (BBC1 news, 4 December 18:00) This language suggests that Hamas is perhaps wrongly accused of attacks. In fact, Hamas proudly claims responsibility for them.
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VIOLATION 2 – OMISSION OF ARAB VIOLENCE
In December 2001, Palestinians attacked a bus near Emanuel killing 10 and wounding dozens of Israeli civilians. BBC reported that Arafat condemned the attacks and ordered the immediate closure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad institutions. Yet BBC failed to mention that the closure was never implemented, although this was reported by most other sources. For example:
“…Palestinians backed away from their pledge to shut the Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices — and, crucially, Arafat’s long-standing promise to crack down on militants.” (The New York Times, December 13, 2001)
By omitting crucial facts, BBC creates a misleading impression of a Palestinian Authority cracking down on terror groups.
Further, on December 16, Arafat made a speech calling for a cease-fire and a return to peace negotiations. Islamic Jihad and Hamas issued public statements defying the cease-fire, and immediately carried out a number of attacks. Within hours, a mortar was fired at a settlement in Gush Katif and an IDF outpost came under rocket grenade attack. Four Israelis were wounded in three shooting attacks in the West Bank and a roadside bomb went off near Nablus.
When Israel responded to those attacks, BBC omitted any reference to Palestinian rejection of the ceasefire, and — incredibly — suggests that Israel is to blame for the resumption of violence. Two examples:
“Israeli soldiers have shot dead three Palestinians, including a child, just one day after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for an end to violence and a return to peace negotiations.” (BBC Website – 17 December)
“Israel and the United States have called on Yasser Arafat to follow up his words with actions, after the Palestinian leader gave a speech pledging to rein in militants and calling for a return to peace negotiations. But a few hours later, Israeli troops shot dead a member of the militant group Hamas…” (BBC Website – 17 December)
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VIOLATION 3 – UNBALANCED TREATMENT OF LEADERS
On the BBC website’s profile section, there is a marked disparity between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Ariel Sharon is treated with undisguised hostility, while Yasir Arafat is treated as a noble, dignified and courageous statesman.
For Sharon, vitriolic c
omment is passed off as fact or as unattributed quotation. For example: “Ariel Sharon has a thick skin and is proud of it… He does not care who loves or hates him… “Mr. Sharon is not interested in what cynics or anyone might say.”
This is an implausible statement about a democratically elected politician, who includes political opponents in his cabinet, operates under the glare of international scrutiny, is answerable to an electorate, and is subject to a rule of law which has in the past stripped him of office.
By contrast, here’s how BBC describes Yasser Arafat: “Arafat never lacked for personal courage… a brilliant leader… Arafat is, without question, the Palestinian’s greatest asset… a natural publicist and a workaholic… an obsessive desire to be leader of the pack and to get his way.”
Further, BBC frequently applies the title “President” to Arafat. For example: “The president’s house itself is intact and the area where he receives guests is still standing…” (The World Tonight, Radio 4, 13 December 2001) Also: “We have had 5 bombs dropped from F16s into the presidential compound of Yasser Arafat.” (Newshour, World Service, 12 December 2001)
Arafat’s correct title is “Chairman.” In the text of the Oslo Accords, the title of Chairman was carefully chosen to avoid language implying statehood (The Oslo Accords Article I-7). Yet BBC deliberately adopts a term which is contrary to the actual status, and contravenes a central principle behind the Oslo Accords. This language creates a misleading impression, in breach of BBC’s own Guidelines.
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VIOLATION 4 – OMISSION OF KEY DETAILS
On 17 December 2001, Israeli troops shot a child in Gaza who was holding a toy firearm, which the Israeli army claimed it mistook it for a real firearm. Most news agencies reported the facts as follows:
“…Palestinian doctors said soldiers shot dead a 12-year-old boy identified as Muhammad Haneideq. But the IDF said troops near Khan Younis spotted a young man approaching their position who drew a pistol and cocked it. The soldiers shot him before he could fire at them, the army said.” (Jerusalem Post website, December 18, 2001)
BBC omits the important fact of the toy gun, creating the misleading impression that the IDF killed an innocent child without cause.
On another occasion, the Israeli army shot dead a Palestinian who was found in possession of arms and ammunition and with explosives strapped to his body. BBC merely reports that the Israeli army shot dead a “suspected suicide bomber.” (BBC website 28 December, 2001)