The BBC and definition of terrorism

Earlier this year we noted statements made by the BBC News Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed during a BBC Radio 4 interview about public criticism of the corporation’s reporting of the Christchurch terror attack. During that interview Ahmed claimed that:

“There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist.”

“…terrorism and a terror attack carry a huge amount of different opinions about when we should use that term…”

“There is no agreed definition of what a terrorist is. It is disputed.”

The introduction to Section 11 of the BBC’s new editorial guidelines – “War, Terror and Emergencies” – references the OFCOM Broadcasting Code:

“The BBC has a special responsibility to its UK and international audiences when reporting conflict including wars, acts of terror, sieges and other emergencies. People across the world access our services for trustworthy news and information. They expect us to provide context and analysis and to offer a wide range of views and opinions. We need to be scrupulous in applying due accuracy and impartiality [1] […]

[1] The sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relate to this are 3: Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse and 8: Privacy.”

Section 3 of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code – “Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse” – includes the following:

“Meaning of “terrorism”: see the definition in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is also summarised in Ofcom’s guidance to this section of the Code.”

Citing section 1 of the UK government’s Terrorism Act 2000 that guidance states:

““Terrorism” is the use or threat of action which:

    • involves serious violence against a person;
    • involves serious damage to property;
    • endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action;
    • creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; or
    • is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system,

where the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.”

While that definition of terrorism is not included in the OFCOM Broadcasting Code in relation to the issue of “use of language”, obviously the claim from the Editorial Director that the BBC only uses the term terrorist with attribution because “[t]here is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist” does not hold water.

As we see the UK government has defined terrorism and OFCOM has adopted that definition. The question therefore arising is why the BBC – to which the OFCOM Broadcasting Code applies in relation to television, radio and on-demand content – does not also use that same definition and thus bring an end to the long evident double standards in the language it uses when reporting terrorism.  

Related Articles:

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

Are BBC guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ about to get worse?

4 comments on “The BBC and definition of terrorism

  1. The answer to your rhetorical question (“Why the BBC…………..bring an end to the double standards”), as you know, is that the BBC simply wants to follow Iran’s instructions to damage/destroy Israel as best it can. It is not interested in the finer points.

  2. OFCOM are tarred with the same antisemitic brush probably because of a lot of employee migration from the BBC, not fit for the purpose and unwilling to put their neck on the line or enforce the regulations as laid down.

  3. Pingback: 08/03 Links: Swastika raised with Palestine flag during weekly Gaza riots; White House demands info on any misuse of American funds by UNRWA; Time to Stop Feeding the ‘Crocodiles’ – 24/6 Magazine

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