BBC bread and circuses on Question Time

As readers are perhaps already aware, the February 5th edition of the BBC One weekly debate show ‘Question Time‘ (made for the BBC by the independent production company Mentorn) was the subject of controversy even before it was recorded and broadcast. 

The decision to invite MP George Galloway – who is considerably more renowned for his anti-Israel agitprop, his support for terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizballah and his parallel career at media outlets financed by assorted repressive regimes than for his record of representing the people of Bradford West in Parliament – to join the panel at a location in a constituency with a particularly high proportion of Jewish residents was criticised, among others, by MP Mike Freer who described it as “deliberately provocative“.

Galloway’s presence on the panel and his entirely predictable derailing of the conversation to make it all about him detracted from any significant debate on the subject of the worrying report on antisemitic incidents in the UK published by the CST on the same day.

As ever, Galloway subsequently tried to frame himself as the victim of that debate and predictably, sections of the media collaborated with his antics.

The producers Question Time of course knew exactly what they were doing when they invited Galloway to appear in Finchley. Unfortunately, the mission to attract rating by means of the tawdry ‘shock factor’ provided by fringe figures such as Galloway was obviously deemed more important than the quality – or the subject – of the debate itself. And that (rather than Galloway’s inevitable self-indulgent showmanship) is the issue which should be the real cause of concern for the members of the public who funded this programme.  

BBC revision of editorial guidance should not stop at cartoons

On January 8th we published a post which included a screenshot of a section from the BBC’s Guidance on Stills, Photographs and Images. The screenshot was taken on the morning of that day from the BBC website.

Ed guidelines photos Mohammed

On the evening of January 8th in the programme ‘Question Time’, presenter David Dimbleby read out that same passage – at 11:25 in the video below – saying “I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t read this out from BBC Editorial Guidelines…”.

The next day, the BBC Press Office put out a statement on the topic.

BBC press office QT statement

Obviously, that “old, out of date” guideline had still been available to both members of the general public and BBC employees on the corporation’s website just 24 hours previously. It has however since been removed and the link appearing in our article now produces this result:

Guidance removed

Concurrently, the Huffington Post and the Spectator reported that:

“A BBC spokesman added that the guidance “has not been the policy of the BBC for many years and our policy has not changed as a result of the discussion on Question Time”.”

One might of course ask why a guidance which “has not been the policy of the BBC for many years” remained on a BBC website. And one might equally wonder what the current BBC policy actually is, with the BBC’s press office claiming that “programme makers have freedom to exercise their editorial judgement” whilst at the same time the corporation’s Editorial Guidelines on Religion state in a section titled ‘Mandatory Referrals’ that:

“Any content dealing with matters of religion and likely to cause offence to those with religious views and beliefs must be editorially justified as judged against generally accepted standards and must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independents, to the commissioning editor.”

Ed guidelines religion

If BBC guidance on this issue really is “being revised” as the press office claims, then hopefully that revision will produce a clear, coherent, organizational stance rather than placing the burden of the decision to self-censor or not on the shoulders of individual programme makers.

Ideally too, that revision of editorial policies should cover more than just the issue of cartoons. Writing in The Observer, Nick Cohen notes that:

“Admittedly, an honest admission that terror works would shred the pretence that journalists are fearless speakers of truth to power. But it would be a small gesture of solidarity. It would say to everyone, from Pakistani secularists murdered for opposing theocratic savagery, to British parents worried sick that their boys will join Islamic State, that radical Islam is a real fascistic force.

Instead, most journalists have lived a lie for years, as have many in the arts, academia and comedy. We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – if, and only if, the powerful are not a paramilitary force that may kill us.”

In recent months members of the public have been told that the BBC’s journalists reporting from the Gaza Strip last summer found it “very hard…to get to see rockets being fired out” and that the corporation “strives to describe the nuanced nature” of an Islamist terrorist organization which has committed thousands of attacks on civilians.

It is time for the BBC’s self-censorship on that issue to be openly and honestly revised too – or at least publicly acknowledged so that audiences can reach their own conclusions regarding the value of BBC reporting which complies with Hamas dictates. 



BBC’s ‘Question Time’ features uninterrupted anti-Israel misinformation

The November 22nd 2012 edition of the BBC’s ‘Question Time’, which raised much controversy, is available here for UK viewers only. 

The part of the programme which – judging from our inbox – many found offensive and objectionable was the two minute and eighteen second uninterrupted diatribe of lies, misrepresentation and distortions by ‘The Independent’ columnist Owen Jones

It is one thing to promote ‘robust debate’ between differing viewpoints – an essential part of any democratic society.

It is quite another for an institution charged with making sure it “gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas” to allow a torrent of misinformation to pass without correction by the BBC presenter managing the debate.

In order to understand the significance of the BBC’s inaction in this and many other cases of anti-Israel propaganda being passed off as ‘opinion’, it is sufficient to see who is now promoting the BBC-sanitized clip above – some examples here, here and here.