BBC News: telling the end of a story first

The morning of Monday, October 22nd saw a mortar attack on a routine Israeli army patrol near the border fence close to Nir Am, to which the IDF responded.  In addition, rocket attacks were launched from the Gaza Strip on civilian communities in southern Israel and the IDF later responded again.  

However, one would have to read down to the fifth out of eight paragraphs in the BBC report on the subject to find out anything about the rocket attacks aimed at civilians, because both the headline and the strap line deal exclusively with the IDF response. 

Despite having already identified one of the members of the targeted rocket-launching cell as a member of Hamas and another as a member of the PRC, the report then goes on to state that:

“Militant factions other than Hamas have carried out a lot of the recent rocket attacks against Israel, although Hamas’ armed wing was involved in firing a barrage of mortars and rockets earlier this month.”

According to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, one of the deceased is Abed Arahman Abu Jalala (26) – a battalion commander with Izz-a-Din-al-Qassam. Another is Yasser Tarabin of the PRC and a third man has been named as Eahad Abu Shkafa who was with Abu Jalala at the time and may also be a member of Hamas. 

The BBC did not report on the subsequent statement put out by Hamas’ Izz-a-Din-al-Qassam brigades which declared that “The Zionist enemy continues in its crimes and its aggression against our land and our nation and does not cease to spill blood. The crime of the enemy will not pass without reaction; the Zionists will pay a high price.”

There is significance in the order of reporting a sequence of events. Beginning with the end of a story (for example, Israeli air strikes on terror cells) is not conducive to the public’s clear understanding of cause and effect, especially in such a complex area as the Middle East. In a world in which news is distributed via the internet to audiences around the world – not necessarily with English as a first language – and in which time-poor readers often skim headlines and strap lines rather than reading entire articles in full, the choice of headline and the sequence in which the report is written is of importance to the reader’s understanding of the story. 

For some reason, the ‘last – first’ method of reporting appears to be very popular with Middle East journalists in general, especially when dealing with Israeli responses to rocket fire or terror attacks. Though this style of reporting is by no means exclusive to BBC employees, it is they who are charged with ensuring that the BBC “gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news”. That obligation to accuracy and increased understanding is not aided by the recounting of an event in reverse order. 

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16 comments on “BBC News: telling the end of a story first

  1. All the talk about the BBC covering up of Jimmy Savile’s child abuse. Fair enough. But the BBC itself has been molesting a young country for the last 30 years …

      • If the Beeb officialdom is grovelling, why not make a case, Hadar, in the interests of calling into question the Beeb’s “honesty”, for the full disclosure of the Balen Report. It’s high time, and given that all these people are almost as culpable for bystanding while child abuse was happening as they are for malicious and misguided reportage, it is also high time for a thoroughgoing shake up at Al Beeb

  2. At least in this report it is clear, as you read further, that Israel was responding. In some BBC reports they made it appear that Israel fired first and nowhere in the report was the truth clarified, that Israel was responding to fire that came first from terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

    When I complained they “justified” it by saying that in blogs the first action is shown after the subsequent action, even though I was complaining about a report, not a blog.

  3. This, more than anything else is how al Beeb does the most damage – by telling the story backwards. Virtually every headline emanating from the BBC begins with Israel as the aggressor.

    It is rare indeed to read a headline that begins with, ‘Palestinian militants (Arabs don’t do terror) struck, or killed or attacked or shot or bombed….’ or took violent action of any kind, so the average viewer or listener will have amassed decades of headlines about how Israel initiated violence – except they didn’t in many, many cases.

    The BBC is an opinion former. Millions of people form their opinions of the world, as a result of being a BBC listener or viewer, but what have those millions been shown all this time? That Israel starts every time. This is not just misleading, it is an outright lie and I do not for one second believe that this is anything other than a deliberate attempt to put Israel in the role of the aggressor and to paint a picture which is unfair, slanted and intentionally misleading.

    This is what makes me want to help BBC Watch, show up the BBC for what it is – a propaganda vehicle for those anxious to denigrate, demonise and even destroy Israel.

  4. The BBC has been using this technique for years – ignore initial Palestinian attacks, then only start reporting when the Israelis respond – and ALWAYS start with and headline the Israeli (re)action. It gives the distinct impression that the Israelis always start it. The BBC defends this by saying that the news works on a timeline, so they always start with the latest information first. The problem with this is
    a) they don’t always start with the latest information first
    b) they don’t report the Palestinian attacks at all, unless Israel responds.

    The BBC is a disgusting manipulator of news.

  5. That’s before we get into the whole inconsistent and selective employment of the terms “militant” and “terrorist”.

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