Welcome to BBC Watch.
The BBC is the largest and hence one of the most influential broadcasting organisations in the world today, with weekly audiences of some 225 million abroad and 97% of the population of the United Kingdom.
The BBC enjoys a high level of public funding for several of its many operations via the licence fee paid by British residents. In the near future, the British public will fund even more of the BBC’s output due to cuts in the government grants it has received for many years (for details see the section entitled ‘BBC background‘).
Operating under the terms of a Royal Charter renewable every decade, the constitution and mission of the BBC are clearly defined, as is the mechanism for feedback from its funders – the licence fee payers (see the section entitled ‘Get Involved‘). The concurrent document known as the Agreement between the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the BBC defines its role in more detail and includes the following clause: (emphasis added)
“In developing (and reviewing) the purpose remit for sustaining citizenship and civil society, the [BBC] Trust must, amongst other things, seek to ensure that the BBC gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas.”
In other words, in contrast to many if not most media organisations, the BBC is legally bound to the production of accurate and impartial content. The themes of accuracy and impartiality are frequently cited by representatives of the BBC as reasons for its reputation and broad outreach. In its editorial guidelines, the BBC defines its editorial values as follows:
“Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest. We are committed to achieving the highest standards of due accuracy and impartiality and strive to avoid knowingly and materially misleading our audiences.
The BBC is independent of outside interests and arrangements that could undermine our editorial integrity. Our audiences should be confident that our decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures, or any personal interests.”
However, the BBC’s coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has long been a source of contention, with severe criticism of its standards of accuracy and impartiality being frequently voiced.
In the year 2000, British and Israeli lawyer Trevor Asserson established the ‘BBC Watch’ website and over the following decade produced several reports on various aspects of BBC reporting on the Middle East. In recent years however, Mr. Asserson’s external commitments as founding partner of a UK law firm based in Israel have restricted his ability to continue with that work. The closing of the media monitor ‘Just Journalism’ in 2011 further exacerbated the obvious need for close and regular monitoring of the world’s most influential broadcaster.
It was therefore decided to re-launch BBC Watch as a sister project to CiF Watch (established in 2009 to monitor the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Comment is Free’ website) and with the independent support of CAMERA – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. The site is run by Managing Editor Hadar Sela and Adam Levick – Managing Editor of CiF Watch.
As of the re-launch in October 2012, Mr Trevor Asserson carries no responsibility for material published which did not form part of his original BBC Watch site.
As a new era approaches in which British licence fee payers will be funding foreign as well as domestic BBC content, BBC Watch will seek to continue the monitoring of BBC output on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to examine the broadcaster’s adherence to its legal obligation to produce accurate and impartial reporting as a service to its funding public.