Manipulating BBC audience opinions with pictures

The BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ section includes a daily feature titled ‘Day in Pictures’ which mostly showcases photographs (taken by non-BBC photographers) relating to the particular day’s news and events. The section is edited by BBC Picture Editor Phil Coomes

The image below appeared in the ‘Day in Pictures’ feature for August 2nd.

In pictures August 2

The picture’s caption reads: [emphasis added]

“Israeli soldier removes a ladder placed by Palestinians who used it to climb over the controversial barrier, near Ramallah.”

The pop-up caption to the thumbnail version of the picture reads:

“An Israeli soldier removes a ladder placed by Palestinian males (not seen), not permitted to cross into Jerusalem from the West Bank by Israeli security forces, after they used it to climb over Israel [sic].” 

The picture was taken by Reuters photographer Mohamad Torokman and on the Reuters website we find another photograph from the same series with the caption:

“Palestinian males not permitted by Israeli security forces to cross into Jerusalem from the West Bank due to an age limit, climb over Israel’s controversial barrier, in the village of Al-Ram, near Ramallah, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan August 2, 2013.” [emphasis added]

Reuters photo A Ram

Reuters is of course not bound by the same editorial guidelines as the BBC. If the BBC is going to use photographs from agencies, it obviously needs to ensure that accompanying captions meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality. The inclusion of the word “controversial” clearly represents a breach of impartiality, pushing readers towards a specific political viewpoint which regards the building of an anti-terrorist fence to thwart terror attacks against Israeli civilians as “controversial”.

Likewise, the presentation of this photograph and its accompanying caption without any mention of the fact that record numbers of Palestinian civilians have received permits to enter Israel during Ramadan this year, together with the omission of any explanation regarding the criteria which form the basis of considerations for the granting of permits and why the entry into Israel by Palestinian males of a certain age might be considered a security risk, clearly also breaches editorial guidelines.

If all that relevant context is too much for one photo caption, then obviously the photograph is not suitable for use by the BBC. But when the BBC does elect to run such an image, accompanied by a caption which uses a politically loaded adjective and omits crucial context, then the only conclusion readers can reach is that this is another case of the BBC trying to shape a particular viewpoint in the minds of audiences.



12 comments on “Manipulating BBC audience opinions with pictures

  1. Pingback: BBC manipulates with pictures | Trending Central

  2. What the pictures really show is the hollowness of the wall in protecting Israel. It is clearly not working and never will. The only worthwhile protection that works for Israelis is to conclude a final peace agreement with the Palestinians and the countries surrounding Israel. These young men climbing over the wall could engage in terrorist activities – but they do not. What does that tell you?
    It tells me that they are just ordinary people who want to get on with leading ordinary lives. Israel could assist them in this endeavour by concluding a fair agreement and taking down this unnecessary wall.
    Why do you not argue for this too?
    It would be better for everyone concerned in the long run.

    • The wall parts of the fence prevent sniper attacks. The photos show that the wall also serves as a barrier that allows a patrol time to get to the area.
      It also important to note that Palestinians stage photos for propaganda. It doesn’t mean they actually made it into Israeli areas.

      • I know they do make it across the wall as there are many more Palestinians working inside Israel than there are permits issued. They are just trying to earn a wage to support themselves and their families. Why not remove the unnecessary permits?
        Have you seen ? Perhaps that is a truer explanation of the kind of twisted thinking that lies behind the walls?

        • You clearly know very little about the Palestinians. If you believe the propaganda, then they are just innocent victims mired in poverty and dispossessed off THEIR land; oh and dark-skinned, which is another plus. In reality, if you peer beneath the surface, you see a racist, genocidal culture of brain-washed haters. Not all Palestinians are like this but a very high percentage are and certainly enough to make them extremely dangerous to Jews. We would be perfectly happy to conclude a peace agreement with them that ensured both our and their survival; however, their past and present behaviour makes it perfectly clear that they don’t want it: what they want is to invade our areas and kill us. And by the way, we didn’t dispossess them: it’s not THEIR land and our claim is just as good and, in many areas, vastly superior to theirs. At best, it’s disputed land. If you take the trouble to investigate the issues in an intelligent, unbiased manner you will see this quite plainly. PS, Jews can also be dark-skinned and poor.

          • Avi: your comment is like the mythical curate’s egg – very mixed in parts. I have been to Israel and Palestine. I don’t claim to be a total expert but I have at least been on both side of the literal dividing wall. I am not sure why you have brought up race-related content. When I was in Jerusalem in March, I read a very interesting interview in the Jerusalem Post of the new Miss Israel, who I assume you know is of Ethiopian origin. She seems like a lovely person.
            If Israel – like Britain – ends up becoming a melting ethnicities pot, I will be happy to support that. I will also be happy to support any reasonable agreement between the two parties to the talks currently taking place in the USA. I do not hate or even dislike people who consume the Judaic religion. I do intensely dislike unfairness, which is what ordinary Palestinians suffer from on a daily basis. It is wrong and it should end, whoever is responsible – Israelis or Palestinians.

    • How do you conclude a final piece with a group that has only 1 objective and that is the end of the Jewish State ? If you read the 1948 Armistace Agreement (i.e. the 67 borders) you will learn that the ARABS refused to accept them as the final borders.

      • Stan: you have a definite point when viewed from today’s perspective. If Arafat and other Palestinian leaders had settled for what was on the table then, the whole problem of illegal settlements would have been avoided, as none of them would have wanted to live inside an independent Palestinian state. We will just have to wait and see if anything substantive comes out of the current talks taking place in the USA. I hope, this time, the Palestinians have better leaders – and Israel, too.

      • Stan: if your question to me is “Have the Palestinians suffered from appallingly bad leadership all along the way?” – then my answer is “Yes”. Time after time after time, their leaders have failed them. That does not mean it is sensible to continue taking advantage of their poor leadership. Right now, Israel should provide a Mandela moment in the current talks taking place, show a little generosity and magnanimity in giving just a little more to the Palestinians than perhaps they are asking for. Sometimes, giving a little more becomes a very low price for gaining peace.

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