Although it might be glaringly obvious to most of us, the simple fact that the BBC cannot hope to meet its public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” and enabling “individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” if it allows audiences to be misled through the use of inaccurate terminology appears to escape the corporation itself.
On April 3rd BBC World News America broadcast an interview with former US president Jimmy Carter which was also featured on the ‘US & Canada’ page of the BBC News website. During that interview, Carter said:
“…President Obama made a good start in Cairo when he announced that there wouldn’t…to be no more settlements in Palestinian territory and that the 1967 borders would prevail.”
Anchor Katty Kay made no attempt whatsoever to clarify to audiences that no Israeli communities exist in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip or in the Palestinian Authority-controlled Areas A & B as defined under the Oslo accords. Neither did she bother to point out that the status of Area C – the part of Judea & Samaria in which Israeli communities are located – is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of those same accords and hence, with the agreement of the Palestinians seeing as their representatives willingly signed those accords, cannot currently be described accurately as “Palestinian territory”.
Likewise, Kay made no attempt to intervene to dispel the misleading impression created by Carter that such a thing as “1967 borders” exists. She did not clarify that what the former president referred to are in fact the 1949 armistice lines and made no effort to explain to audiences that the text of the armistice agreement specifically states that those lines do not constitute a border.
With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:
1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognized;
2. It is also recognized that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”
9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”
In just one sentence Carter managed to conjure up a double-headed chimera which misleads, confuses and actively hinders BBC audiences’ understanding of two important issues underlying the subject matter of that part of Kay’s interview. Katty Kay’s failure to challenge Carter’s inaccurate terminology obviously breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.