Should BBC News allow its agenda to be dictated by social media?

December 28th saw the appearance of a filmed report in the technology section of the BBC News website (also apparently shown on that day’s edition of BBC Breakfast on BBC One and the BBC News channel) under the title “What news event got us tweeting and posting in 2014?“.

Regarding what he described as “the top three news events shared on social media this year”, presenter Graham Satchell told audiences:

“At [number] three, the month-long bombardment of Gaza: a conflict with Israel seemingly without end.”

Those words were presented with a background of two images: notably both black and white photographs whilst the rest of the report is of course in colour.

Satchell filmed image 1

Satchell filmed image 2

No further context was provided. Probably much like the Tweets and posts which made this topic the third most shared of the year, Satchell’s report made no effort to inform audiences that “bombardment” of Israeli villages, towns and cities also took place throughout the fifty days of the conflict or that what led to its outbreak were over 280 incidents of missile fire by Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations at Israeli civilian targets between June 14th and July 8th and the later discovery of cross-border tunnels constructed for the purpose of terror attacks.

Social media is of course by nature both superficial and easily manipulated to create a level of ‘noise’ way beyond the actual significance of a story by focusing on its eye-catching sound-bites alone. How many of the Tweets and posts which placed the “bombardment of Gaza” in third place actually originated from a small number of political activists and how such activism serves the interests of Hamas’ PR war is not a topic which Satchell saw fit to address.

Satchell stated:

“What we like, share is now influencing everything – including the news.”

That of course can only be the case if news services allow social media to influence their agenda. Among the questions BBC audiences may be asking is why they even need the mainstream media to act as an intermediary between them and what they can already discover for themselves (for free) and do they actually want the content provided by their news service to be dictated by the Tweets and Facebook posts of interest groups and anonymous subscribers to those services and others.

The BBC’s contract with its funding public obliges it to “inform, educate and entertain“. The issue of whether context-free amplification of topics popular on social media – as seen in this report – can be said to meet the terms of that remit is one which readers are invited to discuss in the comments below.

6 comments on “Should BBC News allow its agenda to be dictated by social media?

  1. I have no idea “how many of the Tweets and posts which placed the “bombardment of Gaza” in third place actually originated from a small number of political activists….”. However I do know that the Israeli governmen invests large sums in getting their message onto social media, as is evident from this Haaretz report:
    http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.541142, which starts as follows:

    “Prime Minister’s Office recruiting students to wage online hasbara battles
    PMO and national student union to create covert units at universities to engage in diplomacy via social media; unit heads to receive full scholarships.
    By Barak Ravid 05:50 13.08.13 23

    The Prime Minister’s Office is planning to form, in collaboration with the National Union of Israeli Students, “covert units” within Israel’s seven universities that will engage in online public diplomacy (hasbara).”

    • nothing covert about this. Every Israeli is asked to work on the public opinion which is created by gullible people who believe every bit of “info” posted. Recently somebody claimed that Israel killed 10,000 lebanese. Which means that Israel is in cahoots with Hizbollah’s and the likes, Pathetic if not so sad.

      • “nothing covert about this”
        Strange then that Haaretz makes it clear that the scheme was intended to be secret.

        “Every Israeli is asked to work on the public opinion”
        Far from involving ‘every Israeli’ this group was selected specifically from university students who are paid to voice Israeli propaganda.

    • Don’t be fooled: there is no sincerity in allegations of Israeli ‘hasbara’. It is just another racist tactic in the greater war to destroy Israel: this time to preemptively discredit anything a pro-Israeli says. Palestinians and their lackies are grand masters of lies.
      http://www.israpundit.org/archives/63603538

      December 30, 2014

      How the US Army sees the propaganda war

      By Ted Belman

      In response to the previous post, Sovereign States Don’t Do Hasbara, I received this Army Report from a senior intelligence officer, prepared during the last Bush administration. He said “this analysis was prepared with the help of Muslim correspondents for a major news gathering organization which is run by 2 former students of mine.”

      The Palestinians (and Hezbollah) have already defeated Israel in the international public relations war.

      a) The Palestinians have gained control of the reporting of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the world media by gaining control of the words, phrases and definitions that the world media currently utilizes in describing underlying political, military and social conditions and in explaining their causation; in describing events on-the-ground; in presenting alternative negotiating positions; in evaluating proposed solutions; etc. Some examples include:

       ? 

      •occupation, occupying power, illegal occupation, brutal occupation;
      West Bank, occupied territories, Palestinian territories, Palestinian West Bank;
      •militants (referring to those Palestinians committing acts of terror) rather than using the term “terrorists”;
      •catastrophic economic conditions in Gaza caused by Israel’s economic blockade, the economic and health catastrophe now occurring in Gaza, collective punishment, high unemployment rate which makes it difficult for Palestinians to feed their families, cuts in electrical power distribution which greatly curtails factories, inability to run hospitals due to the lack of electrical power and basic medical supplies;
      •disproportionate response, innocent civilian casualties, women and children killed; • military check-points that choke Palestinian development, daily humiliation, humiliate Palestinian residents, prevent Palestinians from seeking medical care.

      b) The Palestinian’s usually get their version of the story out first and their spokespersons stay “on message.” Even when, as is frequently the case, the Palestinian-issued accounts prove to be false, their story gains worldwide headlines. On the other hand, Israel’s response pattern is to hold back until they can demonstrate the validity of their information.

      Then the Israeli story, if it’s covered at all, is relegated at best to the inside pages of newspapers or to the tail end of TV news broadcasts.

      [Recorder’s notes: Israel’s government and media were criticized for Israel’s ineptness in making its own case and in responding to various Palestinian and Hezbollah accusations, thus creating, by default, substantial victories for the Palestinian and Hezbollah public relations machines.]

      Three of Israel’s major public relations defeats were described in detail:

      1) The Palestinian-generated fires that damaged the Church of the Nativity’s interior during Israel’s siege of Palestinian gunmen who had taken up positions inside the church;

      2) The deaths of civilians (mostly women and children) when an apartment building in Kana, Lebanon collapsed several hours after an Israeli air attack on nearby Hezbollah missile firing positions; and

      3) Israel’s incursion into Jenin. The discussion of the world’s media coverage of Israel’s April, 2003 military incursion into Jenin was cited as the most illustrative: Palestinian spokespersons (Saeb Erekat, Yasser Abed Rabdo, Ahmed Abdel Rahman) claimed that Israel had carpet bombed and destroyed the entire Jenin camp, that Israel had massacred thousands (500 to 3000, “half of them women and children”), that the Israeli invasion army bulldozers had buried the “martyrs” in mass graves in order to conceal the massacre, and that 60 to 70 Palestinians had been summarily executed by the Israeli military.

      For several weeks, these and similar stories dominated the world news media and the editorial pages of much of the world press (Agence France Press, Associated Press, BBC, CBS, CNN, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, NBC, United Press International, United Nations press releases, etc.). Nearly two weeks elapsed before Israel began to respond: in fact, only about 10% of the buildings in the camp had been destroyed, nearly all due to the intense building-by-building, hand-to-hand combat that took place (this was confirmed by satellite photographs, interviews with PLO fighters and independent on-the-ground NGO observers); there had been no summary executions; the total Palestinian death toll was set at 56 (nearly all of them fighters) by the Palestinian medical authorities and was confirmed by Fatah’s director for the Northern West Bank (Kadoura Mousa Kadoura). However, the early false stories of Palestinians killed and massive destruction still dominates the public’s memory of the incident]

      c) The Palestinians (and Hezbollah) exercise extremely tight operational control over all media access in nearly all areas that are controlled by the Palestinians or Hezbollah. In order to obtain any information on events occurring in these areas, the western media is forced to rely nearly entirely on the inputs generated by local stringers (who are usually allied with the local extremist establishment). Should any member of the media report any “unfriendly information” then the reporter’s physical safety is explicitly threatened and the reporters’ organization will be threatened with denial of all future access.

      The western media, by continuing its presence in these areas, has demonstrated its willingness to comply with these restrictions on its reporting and it has also demonstrated that it will not reveal these restrictive and bias-inducing conditions to their audiences. [Recorder’s notes: some of the news organizations that have readily accepted these Palestinian and Hezbollah demands were listed. ]

      My intelligence officer goes on to advise:

      2. As Henry Kissinger points out every nation must develop a good understanding of their interests and then act forcefully to promote these interests. Israel talks and threatens “bold responses” “harsh responses” etc. etc.Israel must act rapidly, act forcefully, act decisively.

      Protective Edge

      Let us start with the recent operation in Gaza. “Protective edge” is a stupid operational name. It should have been something like “defang the cobra” or “smash the Viper” or something with regional and international recognition. Israel should have announced that its response would be proportional and proportional is whatever it takes to stop the missiles from Gaza now and in the future. The response should not have been that the missiles fired from Hamas were harmless because they fell into unpopulated areas or they were neutralized by iron Dome is and should have been that as soon as any Israeli is threatened Israel will raise the retaliation so that any potential enemy will conclude “never again”. The human shields were successful because Israel made them a very cost-effective weapon for the Hamas. Israel should have completed its missions regardless and on the 3rd night there would be no human shields to deter and/or blunt Israeli attacks. The observers of the Israeli action include Hamas, Hezbollah, Isis, the Muslim brotherhood and many other current and future groups. They were the target for deterrence… and Israel failed.

      3. All arguments should be simple and direct. The rule that you shoud be able to deliver them “while standing on 1 foot” is very good for an operating guide.

      And gives one specific example.

      Currently, American blacks are sold the argument that Israel is a apartheid nation . Utilizing Ethiopian and other black Jews such as military officers, engineers. , beauty Contest winners, etc. and targeting black high schools and colleges would provide a very good example of Israeli acceptance of blacks in Israel. Some black student leaders could be included in operation birthright tours. I have encountered black Jews in America. Reaching out to them to reach out to the black community would be one aspect of such a submarket approach.

      4. Short concise materials such as that prepared by stand with us , supplemented with detailed documentation should be part of every speaker’s kit. some of your responders and your circle of friends can prepare the list of major talking points.

      Examples:

      *** We have been the inhabitants of this area for thousands of years. Then the Jordanian army ATTACKED and occupied the area AND FOLLOWING NAZI DOCTRINE KILLED or expelled all Jews making the land Jew-free. It was the Jordanian occupiers that brought in Arabs to Jerusalem to occupy Jewish homes.

      *** The Arab nations expelled nearly 100% of the Jews that had lived in these countries for many hundreds of years. They stole all of their possessions.

      *** Israel gave these refugees shelter and they became citizens of Israel. Those Arabs that chose to stay peacefully in Israel became citizens of Israel. Those that left (most at the urging of their leaders to free the Arab armies to slaughter the Jews) were offered a peaceful return but they refused. The number was far less than the Jewish refugees from Arab lands and currently they would number approximately (?) 40,000.

      ** WHY DO THE ARAB NATIONS CONFINE THEIR ARAB BROTHERS TO CAMPS, NOT PERMITTING THEM TO WORK AND INTEGRATE WITH THE LOCAL POPULATION. WHY DON’T THE ARAB NATIONS TAKE IN THEIR ARAB BROTHERS AND PERMIT THEM AND THEIR CHILDREN TO LIVE A NORMAL LIFE?

      Posted by Ted Belman @ 7:06 am

      Editor

      Ted Belman
      tbelman3- at- gmail.com

  2. Depressing and ironic that a country as advanced and which produces such excellent minds as Israel can be so totally out-manoeuvred on the propaganda front by genocidal hate-machines, yet if western media weren’t sympathetic to the racist scum they would have had a much harder job gaining the upper hand. Israeli blood is on the hands of Peter Beaumont, Jeremy Bowen et al.
    http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Palestinians-are-winning-propaganda-war-against-Israel-former-lawmaker-says-385945

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