BBC airs an advert promoting itself

As readers may know, the BBC News website has two different versions: a UK edition that does not carry adverts and an international edition that does. 

The licence fee paying public might therefore not have seen an advert recently produced by the corporation itself which is currently being prominently promoted in banners on the website’s international edition.

A click on that banner leads the website’s visitors to a video titled “BBC World News: Always championing the truth“.

The advert itself – presented by Katty Kay – tells viewers:

“When you’ve covered the story from every angle,

When you’ve reported the facts whatever the obstacles,

If you’ve asked the questions others won’t,

When you’ve never taken sides in any war, revolution or election,

When you’ve come under fire from people in power around the world,

And you’ve always championed the truth,

Then you can call yourself the most trusted brand in news.”

Whether or not that advert is intended as a response to recent criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the Brexit referendum is unclear but research conducted by OFCOM in 2015 showed that members of the British public differentiate between ‘trustworthy’ and ‘impartial’.

“More people consider the BBC an accurate and trustworthy source of TV news than any other channel in the UK, but the corporation it not rated as highly for impartiality as its Channel 4 counterpart, according to research by Ofcom.

Slightly more than six in 10 (62%) people who watched BBC News rated it highly for being “accurate and reliable” and 58% gave it a good rating for being “trustworthy” in polling conducted for Ofcom’s annual news consumption report. However, just under half (48%) rated the BBC highly for being “impartial and unbiased”.”

Tell us what you think about the BBC’s new advert in the comments below.

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BBC advertising revenue from countries restricting press & internet freedom


BBC advertising revenue from countries restricting press & internet freedom

Whilst visitors to the BBC News website based in Britain do not see advertisements when they access reports there, non-UK-based viewers do.

“The BBC puts advertising on its website for users outside the UK. We use the income to help fund BBC services and keep the licence fee, (paid by UK households), lower than it otherwise would be.” 

Some of the advertising space is purchased by commercial companies such as car manufacturers or banks, whilst other adverts appear to be funded by foreign governments or government-linked agencies and usually promote tourism to or trade with those countries. 

It may therefore be of interest to licence fee-paying British-based readers to be aware of the source of some of the advertising revenue which is accepted by the BBC in order to supplement its income.

The 2012 Freedom House report on Malaysia defines that country as ‘partly free’, stating:

“Freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed but restricted in practice. The 1984 Printing Presses and Publications Act gives the government the authority to revoke licenses without judicial review. It also requires that publications and printers obtain annual operating permits, encouraging self-censorship and limiting investigative journalism. Privately owned television stations have close ties to the BN and generally censor programming according to government guidelines. State outlets also reflect government views. Books and films are directly censored or banned for profanity, violence, and political and religious material.

The internet has emerged as a primary outlet for free discussion and for exposing cases of political corruption. The government has responded in recent years by engaging in legal harassment of critical bloggers, charging them under defamation laws, the ISA, the Official Secrets Act, and the Sedition Act, all of which can draw several years in prison. The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), an agency responsible in part for regulating the internet, has been known to monitor online content and order outlets or bloggers to remove material it views as provocative or subversive.

While the BN government continues to articulate the need for a tolerant and inclusive form of Islam, religious freedom is restricted in Malaysia. Ethnic Malays are defined by the constitution as Muslims, and practicing a version of Islam other than Sunni Islam is prohibited. Muslim children and civil servants are required to receive religious education using government-approved curriculums and instructors. Proselytizing among Muslims by other religious groups is prohibited, and a 2007 ruling by the country’s highest court effectively made it impossible for Muslims to have their conversions to other faiths recognized by the state; in very rare exceptions, a small number of non-Malays have been allowed to revert to their previous faiths after converting to Islam for marriage. Non-Muslims are not able to build houses of worship as easily as Muslims, and the state retains the right to demolish unregistered religious statues and houses of worship.”

A similar picture is portrayed in the 2012 US State Department report on Malaysia.

“Other human rights problems included some deaths during police apprehensions and while in police custody; caning as a form of punishment imposed by criminal and Sharia courts; the persistence of laws that allow detention without trial; restrictions on freedom of the press, including new laws to regulate Internet activity; bans on religious groups; restrictions on proselytizing and on the freedom to change one’s religion; obstacles preventing opposition parties from competing on equal terms with the ruling coalition; instances and perceptions of official corruption, the allegation of which sometimes led to harassment of whistleblowers and investigators; violence and discrimination against women; non-acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; and restrictions on the rights of migrants, including migrant workers and refugees. Longstanding government policies gave preferences to ethnic Malays in many areas. There were restrictions on union and collective-bargaining activity, and various practices continued to create vulnerabilities to child labor and forced labor, especially for migrant workers.”

Here is a screen shot from an advert promoting tourism to Malaysia currently appearing on the BBC News website. 


Whilst Freedom House defines Indonesia as being ‘Free’, its internet and press are categorized as only ‘partly free’.

“Indonesia is home to a vibrant and diverse media environment, though press freedom remains hampered by a number of legal and regulatory restrictions. Strict but unevenly enforced licensing rules mean that thousands of television and radio stations operate illegally. Foreign journalists are not authorized to travel to the restive provinces of Papua and West Papua without special permission. Reporters often practice self-censorship to avoid running afoul of civil and criminal libel laws. In addition to legal obstacles, reporters sometimes face violence and intimidation, which in many cases goes unpunished.” […]

“The 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) extended libel and other restrictions to the internet and online media, criminalizing the distribution or accessibility of information or documents that are “contrary to the moral norms of Indonesia” or related to gambling, blackmail, or defamation.” […]

“Indonesia officially recognizes Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Members of unrecognized religions have difficulty obtaining national identity cards. Atheism is not accepted, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who “distort” or “misrepresent” official faiths. The national government has often failed to respond to religious intolerance in recent years, and societal discrimination has increased. A 2006 joint ministerial decree requires religious groups seeking to build houses of worship to obtain the written approval of 60 immediate neighbors. In 2010 the Supreme Court overturned the 2006 revocation of a building permit for GKI Yasmin Church in West Java, but the local administration has continued to prevent the congregation from using the premises. In April 2011, a Buddhist statue in Sumatra was ordered taken down by the Religious Affairs Ministry after complaints from local residents.

Violence against Ahmadiyya, a heterodox Islamic sect with approximately 400,000 Indonesian followers, continued in 2011. In the February mob attack in Cikeusik, West Java, the brutal killing of three Ahmadis was captured on video. Soon afterward, 29 Ahmadis, allegedly under coercion, renounced their faith and converted to mainstream Islam. Allegations of a military role in forcing conversions surfaced in March. Ahmadiyya was banned in West Sumatra and Depok that month, in South Sulawesi in June, and in Bekasi in October. In a December report, the National Commission on Violence Against Women listed 26 regencies and municipalities that have passed bylaws restricting or banning Ahmadiyya. Discrimination and violence against the sect have increased since 2008, when the Religious Affairs Ministry recommended that it be banned nationwide, and the government, seeking a compromise, instead barred Ahmadis from proselytizing.”

The 2012 US State Department report on Indonesia presents a similar picture.

“The suppression or abridgement of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities was a problem. The government applied treason and blasphemy laws to limit freedom of expression by peaceful independence advocates in the provinces of Papua, West Papua, and Maluku and by religious minority groups. Official corruption, including within the judiciary, was a major problem. Other human rights problems included killings by security forces, abuse of prisoners and detainees, harsh prison conditions, trafficking in persons, child labor, and failure to enforce labor standards and worker rights.”

Below is a screenshot from an advert promoting trade with Indonesia which currently appears on the BBC News website.


Kazakhstan is classified as ‘not free’ by Freedom House, with its press also defined ‘not free’ and internet only ‘partly free’. The 2012 report states:

“While the constitution provides for freedom of the press, the government has repeatedly harassed or shut down independent media outlets. Libel is a criminal offense, and the criminal code prohibits insulting the president; self-censorship is common. Most media outlets, including publishing houses, are controlled or influenced by members of the president’s family and other powerful groups.” […]

“The government has a record of blocking websites that are critical of the regime. In August 2011, the popular blogging sites LiveJournal and were blocked along with some 20 other sites on the grounds that they contributed to “terrorism.” In July, a new independent news site,, reported suffering a complex denial-of-service cyberattack shortly after it opened.”

“The constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and many religious communities practice without state interference. However, laws passed in 2005 banned all activities by unregistered religious groups and gave the government great discretion in outlawing organizations it designated as “extremist.” Local officials have harassed groups defined as “nontraditional,” such as Hare Krishnas, Protestant Christians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Legislation enacted in October 2011 required reregistration of all religious groups, gave the government unprecedented authority to regulate the activities and organization of religious communities, and forbade prayer or religious expression in government institutions.”

The 2012 US State Department report on Kazakhstan states:

“The most significant human rights problems were severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and association; and lack of an independent judiciary and due process, especially in dealing with pervasive corruption and law enforcement and judicial abuse. Other reported abuses included: arbitrary or unlawful killings; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner torture and other abuse; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; infringements on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of religion; prohibitive political party registration requirements; restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); violence and discrimination against women; abuse of children; sex and labor trafficking; discrimination against persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities; societal discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and persons with HIV/AIDS; and child labor.”

Here is a screenshot from an advert created by the government-supported Kazakhstan Boxing Federation which currently appears on the BBC News website.


Just so you know…

BBC manager’s za’atar tantrum is tip of iceberg

In an article in the Atlantic on June 4th, writer Debra Kamin tells how a short article she wrote on the subject of za’atar – a popular herb flavouring in Israel – brought about a barrage of over-reaction on Twitter. 

“But then last week I wrote a short, simple, 200-word piece on the herb blend for an Israeli newspaper, explaining the spice to tourists who visit the country and might be curious about it. And suddenly, faster than you can say “retweet,” I realized that in this part of the world, it’s not just land that’s contentious. It’s the very contents of your lunch.

I filed the text, describing the spice blend as a Middle Eastern favorite enjoyed by Israelis. An anonymous web editor was left in charge of selecting a photo and writing a headline. The piece ran with a title calling za’atar “The Spice of Israel” and a picture of an Arab, headscarf-wearing woman hand-sorting the mix.

Within moments, the armchair outrage of online commentators began clogging up my Twitter feed.”

One of the outraged was Mohammad Karim – a London-based marketing manager for the BBC World Service – whose profile picture alone appears to suggest that he adopts the position that BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality do not apply to his Twitter account.  

“Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.” 

Karim header

Karim tweet

Karim’s Israel-related political tweets are not however confined to the subject of herb garnishes, as a look at his Twitter timeline shows.

Karim tweet 2

Karim tweet 3

Karim tweet 4

The background to Karim’s za’atar related outrage becomes clearer when one takes a look at his Linkedin profile, where we discover that before joining the BBC just over a year ago, he worked for the Hamas-linked outfit Middle East Monitor (MEMO).  

KArim linkedin

MEMO is of course the organization which invited Raed Salah to the UK in 2011 and includes some seasoned anti-Israel activists among its ranks

“Daoud Abdullah, who is the director of MEMO as well as deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and a senior researcher for the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Palestinian Return Centre, has two major claims to fame. The first is his lead of the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK. The second is his signing of the Istanbul Declaration which potentially endorsed terrorism against British service personnel.

Senior editor of MEMO is Ibrahim Hewitt, who also heads ‘Interpal’ – the charity which has been the subject of three investigations by the Charity Commission and named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial in the United States, as well as having been banned in Israel because of its Hamas connections.”

One has to wonder whether companies currently purchasing advertising space from the BBC World Service have thought through the potential effects of linkage between their product and the publicly viewable political messaging of one of that organisation’s managers.