h/t @Sussex Friends
“If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.” (BBC editorial guidelines – Live Output – How To Deal With A Serious Incident In A Live Broadcast)
When BBC Radio 4 producers invited long-time anti-Israel activist Ken Loach to appear on the February 25th edition of ‘The World Tonight’ to talk about a campaign in which he is involved there can be little doubt that they knew in advance exactly what they were going to get. It was therefore to be expected that listeners to the item concerned (from 32:52 here) would hear the tirade of inaccurate statements, crude distortions and downright lies which included the following:
“Israel has been oppressing the Palestinians for 70 years. They steal their land. They destroy their houses. They kill them with impunity. They break international law. They disregard United Nations resolutions and they break the Geneva conventions. They’re constructing an apartheid state.”
“If you look in the West Bank, for example, you’ll see settlements that are only available to Israeli Jews. The Palestinians live in villages at the foot of those settlements. You’ll see roads that only Israelis can travel on. The Palestinians, in their own land, cannot travel on those roads. You’ll see checkpoints that only Palestinians are forced to go through. Israelis don’t have to go through checkpoints. […] it satisfies the United Nations definition of apartheid.”
“Will they go to Gaza and see the rubble? Will they see the schools that were bombed by Israel in 2014? Will they see the hospitals that were targeted by Israel? Will they see the places where families were herded together and then executed? Will they hear about the people who were asked if they spoke Hebrew and if they spoke Hebrew they were executed?”
And in addition to all that, listeners also heard promotion of the BDS campaign – once again without their being told what that campaign really seeks to bring about.
So what efforts were made by presenter Ritula Shah to counter the inaccurate and misleading information promoted by her interviewee? Her first interjection – as usual – failed to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.
“You can object to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, to settlements that are defined as illegal under international law, but that’s not the same as an apartheid state. That’s a very serious and particular accusation to be levelling.”
No serious attempt was made by Shah to challenge the specific lies and inaccuracies promoted by Loach and she confined herself to generalized “there are those who would say” statements on Israeli Arab citizens, Israeli democracy and the lack of justification for boycotts. The second half of the item included an interview with a representative from the Israeli Government Tourist Office which was presumably intended to tick the impartiality box and will no doubt be cited in response to any complaints about this item.
Significantly though, no substantial effort was made to relieve Radio 4 audiences of the multiple inaccurate impressions they received from listening to Ken Loach’s vulgar agitprop and the real issue with this item is that despite its various nods to ‘impartiality’, the programme’s producers must have known in advance that the defamatory messaging in Loach’s three and a half minutes of unchallenged propaganda was exactly what listeners were going to take away from this item.