After three months BBC corrects inaccurate claim

Back in January the BBC News website published an article about one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India in which readers were told that:

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.”

As noted here at the time, that portrayal is inaccurate and BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website but did not receive a reply.

Mr Stephen Franklin made a complaint to the BBC on that issue which was initially rejected. Mr Franklin filed a second complaint and – two months later – received the following response:

“Thank you for getting in touch again about our feature article entitled: Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-42731363) and we’re sorry that the initial response from our central complaints team did not address your specific concerns.

To hopefully do so now, you are quite correct and we’ve since amended this sentence to now read:

But the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962, when a rabbinic council decreed that Bene Israelis would have to have their maternal ancestry investigated if they wanted to marry Jews from other communities.

We’ve also added a correction note at the bottom of the article which outlines this change.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The footnote added to the article reads:

The continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article in the three months since its publication will be unlikely to know that it included inaccurate information.

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BBC News website corrects Palestinian envoy’s title

As noted here earlier in the week, a March 31st BBC report relating to the previous day’s violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip closed by telling readers that:

“Riyad Mansour is of course not “[t]he UN envoy for Palestine”: he is a Palestinian envoy to the UN who holds the title “Permanent Observer of Palestine”. BBC Watch has requested a correction to that inaccuracy.”

The BBC News website responded:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that the Israeli military has warned it could take action against “terrorist targets” inside the Gaza Strip. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43603199)

You raise a fair point and we’ve since amended this sentence to refer to “The Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour…””

No footnote has been appended to the report and the continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article in the first three days after its publication will still be under the erroneous impression that the UN has an envoy “for Palestine” called Riyad Mansour.

BBC double standards on terrorism on view again

BBC News website coverage of the March 23rd terror attack in south-west France included two reports – “France hostage crisis: ‘Two dead’ in Trèbes supermarket” and “France shooting: Police kill supermarket gunman” – featuring an insert titled “Major terror attacks in France”.

Obviously the BBC’s description of those attacks as acts of terror is appropriate – notwithstanding the corporation’s supposed editorial policy of avoiding the word ‘terrorist’ without attribution in order to avoid “value judgements”.

However, as regular readers will be aware, while its reports on attacks in certain locations (especially Europe and North America) do use such terminology, the BBC consistently refuses to use the word terror in its reporting on comparable attacks against Israelis and audiences have never been provided with an insert titled “Major terror attacks in Israel”.

While previous responses to complaints on the issue of inconsistent terminology have included the claim that terror attacks in Israel are “very different” to those in other locations, almost a year ago the BBC complaints department provided a new ‘explanation’ for that double standard. [emphasis added]

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

France is of course part of the coalition involved in military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but once again the BBC apparently does not consider that to be “direct physical combat” and is not inclined to promote the notion that France’s actions against jihadist terrorism might be “considered as terrorist acts”.

Sadly, that contorted excuse for the double standards seen in the language used in BBC coverage of terrorism in different locations was given the OFCOM rubber stamp later last year.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions the double standard evident in the BBC’s use of terminology is rooted in the fact that it chooses to conflate means with ends, claiming that if a person commits an act of violence against civilians with the purpose of furthering a political or religious agenda in a country in which there is “an ongoing geopolitical conflict”, that is not terrorism but if he does the exact same in a country where there is no such ongoing conflict, it does fit that description.

And so, while the BBC regularly uses appropriate language in its coverage of terror attacks in France (and elsewhere), its reporting on attacks against Israelis does not employ the same terminology.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

BBC’s double standards on terror get OFCOM rubber stamp

 

 

 

One month on BBC corrects inaccuracy regarding Israeli cabinet decision

In the original version of its February 6th report on a terror attack near Ariel – “Israeli man stabbed to death at West Bank settlement” – the BBC News website claimed that:

“It [the attack] comes a day after Israel retroactively legalised an unauthorised settlement outpost in response to the killing of a resident last month.”

A later version of the same report included the same claim:

“Israel retroactively legalised Havat Gilad, an unauthorised settlement, in response to the murder [of Rabbi Raziel Shevach].”

As was noted here at the time:

“Both those statements are inaccurate and misleading: Havat Gilad was not “retroactively legalised” on February 4th as the BBC claims. Rather – as the Times of Israel reported: [emphasis added]

“The cabinet on Sunday voted unanimously to begin the process of legalizing the Havat Gilad outpost less than a month after the murder of resident Raziel Shevach.

The approved proposal declares the government’s intention to establish the hilltop community southeast of Nablus as a full-fledged settlement “on lands that are privately owned by Israelis or state lands.”

The proposal authorized Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to instruct relevant government bodies to examine the legal aspects of recognizing Havat Gilad as an official settlement. It also tasked the Finance Ministry with auditing the financial costs of establishing a new settlement. […]

However, the proposal’s language regarding the legal ownership of the land hinted at a significant hurdle that still remains ahead of the outpost’s legalization.””

BBC Watch immediately contacted the BBC News website to point out that error but did not receive a reply and no action was taken to correct the inaccurate claim. A complaint was therefore submitted and the response received includes the following:

“…after considering this complaint we have amended the sentence in question to now read:

The Israeli cabinet backed a plan to retroactively legalise Havat Gilad, an unauthorised settlement, in response to the murder

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

A footnote advising readers of the amendment has not however been added to the article and of course the enduring absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website means that those who read the claim that “Israel retroactively legalised Havat Gilad” over a month ago will remain completely unaware that it is inaccurate.

We have previously observed here on many occasions that it would not be difficult for the BBC News website to set up a dedicated corrections page along the lines of the one run by the NYT. As Craig Silverman wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2011:

“The point of an online corrections page is to have a centralized place where readers can see the latest mistakes and corrections. It gives them the opportunity to discover if a recent article they read, or reporting they heard or saw, has been updated or corrected. It also provides a basic element of transparency. A dedicated page makes corrections more visible and accessible, and it increases the likelihood that people will receive the corrected information. After all, that’s the point of making correction in the first place.”

After all, one would expect that an organisation which regularly promotes itself as a trustworthy media source would be enthusiastic about taking onboard such a simple method of increasing transparency and improving its reputation for accuracy.

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BBC News Channel apologises for HMD broadcast errors

In a report aired on January 25th on the BBC News Channel the BBC’s Religion editor Martin Bashir referred to Holocaust Memorial Day as about to be “celebrated” two days later and misquoted Britain’s Chief Rabbi, claiming that he said that “our silence would be to mourn the loss of those six thousand Jewish men, women and children…” [emphasis added]

Mr Stephen Franklin submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning those inaccuracies and received a reply including the following:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding the BBC News Channel’s ‘Afternoon Live’ on 25 January.

We understand you feel our Religion Editor Martin Bashir used insensitive language to describe Holocaust Memorial Day and misquoted the number of Jewish victims.

During this timeframe Martin described events leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day and the people involved in the commemorations.

Please be assured, we strive to present accurate and relevant information throughout our news service. Reporters closely follow these guidelines while providing distinctive descriptions. They often deliver items under pressure and time restrictions, particularly in a live ‘rolling’ news environment.

We regret any editorial oversights but mistakes of this nature can occasionally slip through, despite the best endeavours of our experienced reporters.”

In light of that unsatisfactory response, Mr Franklin submitted a second complaint, to which he received an apposite reply from the Executive Editor of the BBC News Channel.

“I wanted to let you know in person that I think you are quite right to point out the errors in this broadcast.

Regrettably, Martin Bashir misspoke when he said Holocaust Memorial Day was being ‘celebrated’ when he intended to say ‘commemorated.’

I am very sorry for this mistake.

Clearly, too, Martin meant to give the figure of six million victims, not six thousand, and again we are sorry for this mistake.

The correct figure of six million victims was used before the report, and within it by a Holocaust survivor herself, but you are right to say this should not have happened.

While mistakes do occur in live broadcasting, it was very unfortunate that they should have occurred on this subject above all others.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Taylor

Executive Editor BBC News Channel.”

The fact that a member of the public had to submit two complaints before obvious inaccuracies were appropriately acknowledged once again demonstrates the inefficiency of the BBC’s outsourced audience services.

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BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

A member of the public who submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning Tweets sent by its Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas criticising a ‘Newsweek’ headline to a story about Ahed Tamimi received the following reply from BBC Complaints.

“Thanks for contacting us with your comments regarding a tweet by Middle East [sic] correspondent Kim Ghattas. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

Kim was making the point that the newspaper concerned had not placed enough context in its headline. That’s made clear in the follow up tweets.

She is making a point about there being two sides to the issue. Her tweets were not about the incident itself but the need for more sophisticated reporting from Newsweek. She was pointing out the other perspective on the issue which was not reflected in the Newsweek headline.

We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for your feedback.”

Leaving aside the obviously highly relevant question of whether it is in fact a BBC journalist’s job to call out “the need for more sophisticated reporting” at another media organisation, let’s take another look at those Tweets which the BBC claims “were not about the incident itself”.

Obviously the statements “Her 15 yr old cousin had just been shot in the head” and “Ahed Tamimi, unarmed, slapped a gun toting Israeli soldier who was in her backyard” not only refer to the incident but portray it in a specific light. 

Moreover, Ghattas’ use of the phrase “Blame the victim?”, her claim that Ha’aretz “wrote an editorial describing her as the victim, not an assailant” and her claim that “she lives under occupation” (Nabi Saleh is in Area B) clearly show that she is advancing a specific narrative – just as she accused Newsweek of doing in a subsequent Tweet in which she also promoted the notion of “double standards”.

Although BBC editorial guidelines state that “those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects” and “News and Current Affairs staff should not […]  advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate”, the BBC’s outsourced complaints system has, as we see, chosen to ignore those directives in its response.

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BBC claims Abbas’ historical distortions and smears not ‘relevant’

Two weeks ago we noted that the BBC’s report on a long speech given by Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the PLO’s Central Council made no mention whatsoever of the assorted distortions of history, anti-Israel smears and renewed commitment to rewarding terrorism that made up a significant proportion of the Palestinian president’s address.

A member of the public who wrote to the BBC to complain about those omissions received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on Mahmoud Abbas’s comments following the announcement of US plans for an embassy in Jerusalem.

He gave a two-hour speech and we have selected what we believe to be the relevant sections as far as the topic in hand is concerned.

We don’t believe the rest of Mr Abbas’s comments are relevant, or reveal anything that was not previously known – our report contains a section entitled “Did he say anything new?”.

Out of his full speech, you have made a selection of comments that you felt were of note – we believe we have carried the most newsworthy and there will be many more from such a long presentation that will not get reported.” [emphasis added]

Apparently we can therefore conclude that the BBC does not consider it relevant that the Palestinian leader it frequently touts as a ‘moderate’ denied the Jewish people’s historical and religious links to the region and portrayed modern Israel as a Western colonialist endeavour.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday night implied European Jews during the Holocaust chose to undergo “murder and slaughter” over emigration to British-held Palestine, and alleged that the State of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion imported Jews from Yemen and Iraq to the country against their will.

The Palestinian leader further asserted that the State of Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests.”

Obviously the BBC does not believe that – even at a time when the topic of foreign donations to the Palestinians is in the news – its audiences needed to know that Abbas pledged to continue the PA’s policy of making payments to convicted terrorists – a subject that it serially under-reports.

“There is an important matter, and it is the issue of the payments to [the families of] the martyrs, to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We steadfastly refuse to stop these payments, and we will not allow anyone to infringe on the payments to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. They are our sons, and we will keep paying them money.”

As David Horovitz aptly put it at the time:

“The man whose doctoral thesis blamed Zionist agitation for the Holocaust, and disputed the number of Jewish victims, on Sunday set out a series of falsehoods obvious to the most casual student of 20th century events. He detailed a narrative that allowed no historic Jewish connection to this land — no Biblical history, no Temples, no ancient sovereignty. He airbrushed the Jewish nation out of its own past.

Obviously, no leader so determinedly blinded to his enemy’s legitimacy could ever have agreed to reconciliation. Abbas’s public excuse for rejecting Olmert’s statehood offer in 2008 may have been “He didn’t give me a map.” What plainly motivated his rejection, however, was his insistent conviction that the Jews have no right to be here whatsoever.”

While the BBC may claim that the Palestinian president did not “say anything new”, the fact is that his refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, his denial of Jewish history, his false allegations against Israel and his incitement and glorification of terrorism is new to BBC audiences because the corporation repeatedly censors such statements from its coverage. Even the BBC’s profile of Abbas gives more space to his own denial of charges concerning his book titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement” than it does to explaining the criticisms leveled at it.

The bottom line is of course that this response from BBC Complaints further shows that the corporation will not report statements made by Abbas or any other Palestinian Authority official that would open audiences’ eyes to factors beyond the narrative it has chosen to promote regarding the ‘reasons’ for the failure of the so-called peace process to yield results.

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BBC amends style-guide breach in R4 synopsis

Late last month we noted the use of terminology that breaches the BBC’s own style guide in the synopsis to a music programme aired on BBC Radio 4.

Although the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” states “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank”, BBC audiences were told that:

“For Grammy Award Winning artist John Legend, it’s become an anthem for addressing the criminal justice system of America whilst in Palestine, for ‘Musicians without Borders’ practitioner Ahmed al ‘Azzeh it’s a song that inspires him to work towards a better life.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that point and received a response including the following:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding Radio 4’s ‘Soul Music’.

I understand you were unhappy with the use of the word ‘Palestine’ in the synopsis for the 27 December episode on the programme’s section of our website.

Having consulted with the programme’s production team and senior editorial staff at BBC Radio 4, we have now amended this to ‘Palestinian Territories’.

We would like to thank you for brining [sic] this to our attention.”

The amended part of the synopsis now reads:

“‘Musicians without Borders’ practitioner Ahmed al ‘Azzeh finds the song inspires him to work towards a better life in the Palestinian Territories.”

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