Open thread on BBC coverage of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’

With Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ having come to an end, it is time to begin taking a step back and an overall look at the BBC’s coverage of the subject. 

But first of all, we would like to thank the many people who wrote in to BBC Watch with messages of support, those who sent us copies of complaints to the BBC regarding specific programmes and, especially, all those of you who took the time to alert us to programmes and even made screenshots or recordings of them.

Faced with what sometimes felt like a tsunami of material, we were unfortunately not able to feature all of the items you kindly wrote in to tell us about.  The volume of material was simply so high that an editorial decision was made to try to highlight programmes from as many different BBC outlets as possible, with as many different themes as possible. But the material you sent in has not gone to waste: it now rests in the BBC Watch files, so thanks to all concerned.

On this thread, we would like to hear from you.

What do you think of the BBC’s coverage overall? Which BBC journalists did a good job of presenting accurate and impartial material and which did not?

What themes do you think dominated BBC coverage?  My list, for example, would include “Israel started it” and “it’s all because of the Israeli elections”.

What subjects, if any, do you think the BBC avoided covering?

So – over to you, everyone: as the BBC itself puts it – have your say.



26 comments on “Open thread on BBC coverage of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’

  1. “On this thread, we would like to hear from you.
    What do you think of the BBC’s coverage overall? Which BBC journalists did a good job of presenting accurate and impartial material and which did not?”

    Overall? On the ME? On this specific aspect? Appalling. As a corporate media monopoly and as so-called professional individuals employed by it. The lack of professionalism, integrity and accuracy goes from ‘top’ in Ceebeebies to whichever bunkers the market rate-rotating management (that is not on full pay sidestepping duty) in ‘charge’, however ‘passionately’, inhabit. And is now total.

    Across their entire ‘estate’: broadcast, online & the ‘we’re not responsible’ twitter & FaceBook feeds, where they seem to be clueless as to who is staff and what is ‘official’ BBC output and/or policy, and what can be hidden behind farcical disclaimers of ‘views not my employer’s… they’re my brother’s’ whilst RT’ing falsehoods under clear BBC banners (employer, logo, URLs).

    ” those who sent us copies of complaints to the BBC regarding specific programmes”

    To others, bear in mind the BBC now has an in-evidence policy of going outside any communication between simply it and licence fee payers to actively attempt to make links (for reasons they appear reluctant to explain, or justify) across the entire blogosphere between those making legitimate complaints using their mandated systems, and what they perceive as ‘attacks’ (actually simply concerns on truth and accuracy in reporting) on legitimate online forums. If you are posting here, they will be logging who you are elsewhere and with records they hold internally in breach of all data protection rules.

    This can result in what they quaintly called ‘expedited complaints’, but is in fact a banning to support the censorship of critics they cannot answer, with FoI exclusions or similar. You can appeal, but this will take months… during which time you are guilty until confirmed by the Trust as… well, we’ll see…

    Whatever else, the BBC will ensure any holding the BBC to account… is silenced.

    In light of other BBC spectaculars in failure of late, beyond their woeful service to, and representation of the British public domestically and worldwide, unleashing private vendettas and public-funded intelligence operations beyond the remit of the organisation or its Charter may be yet more ‘activity’ they as a supposed trusted, public-sector, publicly-accountable (in theory) entity may come to regret.

    Propaganda backed be censorship has poor historical precedent, as many who may frequent this site will know only too well.

  2. Even when there wasn’t open bias or malice there was ignorance, both historical and intellectual. Just some:

    The Moral Maze: that Israel has never offered peace settlement to the Palestinians. In general, Israel’s failure to find peace with its neighbours is all the fault of Israel.

    The constant focus on just Israel v Palestinians and never reminding the audience of Israel’s other implacable regional enemies.

    Proportionality simply consists of counting the bodies on each side. I’d settle for proportionality of coverage. Thousands are being killed in other conflicts but 200 dead in this one is 24/7 news story. Selective outrage.

    The main BBC malice is presenters who fail to correct lies and misinformation – like Shirley Williams and her Israel expanding settlements throughout Gaza (!) and the favoured phraseology “assault on Gaza or “on the Palestinians” instead of “on Hamas”.

  3. The worst aspects were pushing the themes that Israel’s action was prompted by Netanyahu’s concern for re-election, and that the response was “disproportionate”. Joanna Gosling kicked off with the former last Sunday (suggesting it to every interviewee who crossed her path) and others followed (presumably at the urging of the backroom editorial boffins).
    Jon Donnison was characteristically egregious, and so of course was Jeremy Bowen. I would genuinely like to know what educational qualifications, if any, Donnison brings to his job: why doesn’t the BBC provide an iota of biographical material about him? (Not very transparent, is it?)
    Not that being a graduate, even one with post-grad qualifications, necessarily makes for a fine and insightful journalist, as Bowen’s jejune “analysis” suggests time and time again.
    Wyre Davies has unfortunately been infected with at least a touch of Bowenitis, but Donnisonitis is a stronger strain of that affliction. He’s “gone native” with a vengeance, it appears, and his foolish retweet of a fauxtographic canard surely stands as the low point of BBC coverage.
    Ben Brown seemed mainly okay to me, on the whole, and the willingness of the BBC to interview Jonathan Sacerdoti in several news bulletins was welcome.
    Of anchor persons, the brisk and businesslike, yet always courteous, Annita McVeigh seemed to me to be a model interviewer, scrupulously adhering to her Charter obligations. In my view she is one of the BBC’s best newsreaders and interviewers.
    One disappointing aspect was the behaviour not only of Mishal Hussein in her interview with Gil Hoffman of the “Jerusalem Post” but of Clive Myrie last weekend (Sunday evening if my memory serves me correctly) with Gil Hoffman. Myrie is characteristically a probing interviewer (that trait must be due to his legal training) and that is fine, most of the time, since it is applied to all interviewees generally. But Myrie subjected Hoffman to a hectoring lecture regarding Israel’s actions and impatiently dismissed the points he was making, frequently and combatively interrupting him so that Hoffman was prevented from make his (excellent) points adequately. Myrie seemed to allow his own emotions to rule his head. I was also concerned at Myrie’s apparent fit of mirth when interviewing “Evening Standard” defence correspondent Robert Fox about Operation Pillar of Cloud, and its implications for the region. It was most unprofessional and disturbing, though in fairness Fox also seemed to find amusement in the apparently intractable ME situation. They were like two schoolboys sniggering.
    And, as usual, the BBC News website is loaded against Israel…

  4. It’s funny…part of me is hesitant to put my true feelings to ink (for lack of a 21st century equivalent) because the BBC clearly has a bias, slant or agenda that will not waiver based on anyone’s feedback. But, alas, it is partially cathartic to tell you what I, Joe Public, thinks is broken at the BBC.

    If I want to read radical anti-Israel news, I’ll look at 3 websites: Ma’an, Al-Jazeera, and the BBC. Yep, you guys have made the cut! It’s as if you go out of your way to report any news story and to give it an anti-Israel spin. I think of myself and being intellectually unbiased. I am not Israeli and I don’t have a vested interest (per se) in the outcome of Israel-Arab or Israel-Palestinian conflicts. But except for the (very) odd exception to the rule, the BBC clearly has an anti-Israel agenda. I’ve seen you Tweet false tweets attached to false images (and then kind-of sort-of offer an apology well after the damage is done), report one-sided news stories and do what you can to make big, bad Israel look like big, bad Israel.

    There are 3 sides to most stories, except when it comes to the BBC covering Middle East politics. There is only one side, and that’s the side that makes Israel look like a monster, an instigator, a blood-hungry hate-filled murderous nation that cares not about Palestinian lives but only wants to colonize the Middle East, the world and, one day, the moon. And shame on you for it.

  5. Am I the only person on this page who thinks the BBC is biased towards the Israelis?
    Biased is not the right word perhaps,its more a case of failure to ask the right questions.
    Certainly the response in the studio is usually fairly anodyne.
    Israeli spokespeople usually get an easier ride when there is also a representative from the ‘other side’.This may have something to do with ‘balance’.Unfortunately there is nothing balanced about the current conflict.
    However I would agree that the standard of journalism often seems to be poor.A question of ‘not doing one’s homework’?
    As for the people down ‘on the ground’ well what do you expect? I can show you a photograph of a dead Palestinian infant that should give one sleepless nights forever and a day..It gives an altogether new meaning to the expression ‘Toast’.
    People who have the dubious pleasure of visiting war-zones end up singing from the same hymn-sheet because of what they see.

    • I think the answer to your question is, yes, you probably are.

      Here’s a couple of questions for you Matthew:
      1. During the conflict did the BBC mention the number of rockets fired from Gaza at Israel either over the last 12 months, or since the Israeli pulled out of Gaza. Both you and I know they didn’t.
      2. Why does the BBC never (without exception) report rocket fire into Israel until Israel responds ?

  6. Seems predictable.

    Can’t bring myself to watch the BBC so I wouldn’t know though. I can’t watch a television channel that sides terrorists.

  7. Matthew, have you bothered to read any of the analyses on this website? If so, what specifically do you disagree with?

  8. I followed the conflict closely, and complained formally via the BBC’s website on a number of issues. The responses I have received so far have been unsatisfactory

    It does seem that the BBC reports half the story all the time. Putting aside their insistence on placing moral equivalence to Hamas and the Govt of Israel, it seemed to me that we didn’t get the full picture from the National broadcaster

    For comparison, I channel hopped between the BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, and CNN. The BBC was the most biased against Israel. I thought Sky, whilst not perfect, was pretty fair (liked Sam Kiley). Al Jazeera always surprises me, as I expect it to be biased, but in fact allows Israel to speak for herself. CNN too was pretty good.

    Question though, which I’ve never had a satisfactory answer to: why does the Government of Israel, through people like Mark Regev, never directly challenge the BBC’s bias, inaccuracy, and misreporting on air ? There is ample opportunity to do this, particularly with trust in their reporting at such a low ebb right now. I feel that the Govt of Israel “dignifies the questions” of the BBC by giving them too much respect, and failing to point out its deliberate bias

    • It’s also funny, because the BBC must realize that they’re biased. I mean, why else have this forum for discussion? The better question is: does the BBC care that they’re biased? Does their anti-Israel bias get them better ratings, therefore, is their MO for it?

  9. I too thought that Al-Jazeera would be biased against Israel, but I was pleasantly surprised at its balance. Its Al-Beeb that has an anti-Israel bias.

  10. The Beeb say that settlements are against international law, although that is very much in doubt, whenever a story involves settlements. Never once during Operation Pillar of Defence did the BBC mention that firing rockets at civilian targets is a war crime as is locating military assets among civilians. The BBC also failed to mention the 150 rockets that were fired that failed to make it out of the Gaza Strip, some of which caused civilian casualties including the death of the 4 year old boy that was held by the PMs of Gaza and Egypt, and was whose death was ascribed to an Israeli air strike in at least one BBC news bulletin (unlike other news agencies, AFP apart, the BBC did not retract this false ascription).

  11. The BBC also go on about the disproportionate numbers of civilian deaths on the 2 sides without mentioning that Hamas are trying to kill as many Israeli civilians as they possibly can and celebrate each Israeli civilian death, while Israel is trying to destroy Hamas’s capability to kill its civilians while trying to avoid killing the Palestinian civilians that Hamas are using to protect their rockets.

  12. Nevertheless, I had some amused satisfaction upon reading one or other PSC actually demonstrated outside the BBC because they think it was biased towards Israel!! Its nice to see the BBC damned by its own groupies.

    • Ah, but this kind of thing just plays into the BBC’s hands, enabling them to say that they get complaints from both sides, an indication that in their coverage “we get it about right”.

  13. Theme wise:

    1) the focus on Netanyahu initiating a conflict out of political self-interest. A theme that began with the wheeling out of an unidentified Palestinian ‘official’ before the conflict even began.

    2) the usual ‘disproportionate’ accusation and focus on numbers of civilian deaths. I find it very difficult to believe that well-educated, BBC reporters are not aware of the definitions of ‘proportionality’ as per ‘jus in bello’ . From what we know to date, Israel did not stray from ‘jus in bello’ criteria; Hamas failed to follow it at all. I simply do not believe that the BBC has no knowledge of Just War theory. And that leaves me with the sickening belief that the BBC deliberately misled its viewers into believing morality and justice in war is a matter of casualty figures. Because it is coming from the BBC it will be no small wonder if this is how Brits come to view conflict morality and justice. Which, seven decades ago, would have had some supporting, marching and holding sit-ins against the Allies and, by default, supporting Adolf Hitler.

    3) Context-free reporting. Again and again and again.

    4) Failure to challenge known myths (e.g. apartheid) when they are aired by those being interviewed or in discussions.

    5) Rather manipulative use of images.

    • Oh they do know about it. They know, but they just don’t care. The facts have become irrelevant.
      Slurs, insinuations and mis-information have made the facts irrelevant. We’re at a point where an image of a dead child substitutes for an argument. As the song says, “We conned the world; we made the world abandon reason.”

    • You credit BBC staff with far too much classical education. At University they will simply never have come across Thomas Aquinas and the ‘Just War’ theory. Istead they will have read Chomsky, Edward Said and Naomi Klein and therfore know for a fact how evil the West is.

    • Sue

      Thanks for the link. You’re absolutely right – the BBC is familiar with Just War theory, but did you notice that the article was almost entirely about what Israeli may and may not do? Barely a mention of what Hamas has done and is doing! On two occasions I’ve heard BBC reporters use the word ‘revenge’ to describe Israel’s operation. This would suggest an accusation of crime as revenge is certainly not allowed in Just War theory.


      I’ll send the BBC a copy of Thomas Sowell’s ‘Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy”. No need to even open it: the title alone conveys a pertinent point!

  14. Has anyone mentioned the BBC;s failure to correct interviewees who referred to Israel’s “occupation” of Gaza? Myrie and the rest surely know that Israel cleared out of Gaza in 2005.

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