You Can’t Expect Children to Fact Check News

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is to be commended for making current affairs accessible to children, with its “Behind the News” (BTN) series of videos. However, given the relative lack of sophistication and maturity of the intended audience, the journalists at BTN have an extra responsibility to ensure that their presentations are accurate and balanced.

But with the recent video “Israel and Palestine History,” attempting to give the background to PM Netanyahu’s visit to Australia,” they have failed.



The “hook” for the story was that “the visit came with a lot of controversy,” referring to the protests staged by small groups of anti-Zionists. But the visit was not controversial anywhere except the far fringes of politics; Netanyahu was effusively welcomed by the leaders of both Australia’s government and opposition. ABC’s desire for “controversy” will have misled children into thinking that the protests were significant. They were not.

More concerning was the presentation of what was described as “fighting between Palestinian and Israeli people for many, many years over land.” As we sadly expect from the ABC, history began in 1948. In 1948 the young viewers are told, “there was no Israel. All this area was known as Palestine and it was under the control of Britain.”

No mention of the Jewish communities that have lived continuously in the land for more than 3,000 years; no explanation that mandatory “Palestine” was the name for an administrative area and has no relation to the recently confected concept of a “Palestinian state”; no mention of the anti-Jewish riots in the 20’s and 30’s and the Arabs’ longstanding and bloody opposition to the re-birth of Israel.

If the description of the past is deficient, the presentation of the present is simply wrong. “The UN says Israel should stop (allowing its people to settle in the West Bank) and the land should be instead divided into two separate states, but Israel’s government has said it won’t do that.” In fact, Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to declare his support for a Palestinian state, albeit one that will not be a threat to Israel. Conversely, it is the Palestinian leadership that has refused to recognize a Jewish state and has rejected at least three substantive offers of sovereignty in the last twenty years.

These inaccuracies and omissions are not “simplification” for children; this is distortion and falsification. The ABC cannot expect children to check facts in other news sources in order to acquire a correct knowledge of background and context. Indeed, when serving as the font of knowledge for impressionable youngsters who do not know how to question sources, it must strive for accuracy, in nuance as well as facts, even harder than in its reporting for adults. But it does not. We see the same bias and sloppy reporting that we are used to from the ABC in its regular news replicated here in its children’s section, with even more serious consequences.


Rabbi James Kennard is the Principal of a K-12 school in Melbourne, Australia.


Featured image: CC0 mojzagrebinfo


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