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.

Related Articles:

BBC misrepresents cabinet decision in report on Ariel terror attack

Another ‘stealth’ correction on the BBC News website



BBC World Service amends inaccurate photo caption

As noted here yesterday, the caption to a photograph used to illustrate the webpage of the January 7th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ included an inaccurate claim.

“In addition, the photograph illustrating the programme’s webpage is inaccurately captioned as follows:

“Photo: A tourist photographs a sign in Bethlehem in 2015, calling for a boycott of Israeli products coming from Jewish settlements.”

BBC Watch asked a professional to translate the Arabic script on that sign. It makes no reference to a selective boycott of “products coming from Jewish settlements” but rather urges: “boycott your occupation…support your country’s produce” and it is credited to “the national campaign for boycott of the occupation and its goods”.”

Along with a reader, BBC Watch contacted the BBC World Service and received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch and the ‘alert’.

The caption is indeed – as you point out – inaccurate.  It was provided by the same agency which provided the image – Getty Images. We have now changed the caption on our website (…it might take a bit of time to upload) and have referred the error to the agency as well.   

Once again, thank you with apologies for the error.”

The amended caption now reads:

“Photo: A tourist photographs a sign in Bethlehem in 2015, calling for a boycott of Israeli products.”

BBC Watch commends the swift action taken to correct that misleading inaccuracy.

Related Articles:

BDS campaigner’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC World Service

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.”

Related Articles:

Radio 4 programme synopsis breaches BBC’s own style guide


The BBC, Jerusalem and historical framing

On December 28th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel: Minister leads prayers for rain to end drought” which informed audiences that:

“Israel’s Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, has joined with the country’s religious leaders in an attempt to use the power of prayer to end a drought.

Mr Ariel is an Orthodox Jew and led prayers on Thursday at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Severe drought for four years has left the country’s water supplies at low levels.

Critics said the minister should tackle the crisis more practically.”

The short report continued:

“Israel’s drought has had a significant impact on farming communities and caused the country to become reliant on its desalination plants on its Mediterranean coast.

“We significantly lowered the cost of water, we are carrying out many studies on how to save water in different crops, but prayer can certainly help,” Mr Ariel said.

The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth wrote: “Prayer is not a bad thing, but the minister has the ability to influence [matters] in slightly more earthly ways” – such as promoting policies to reduce climate change, it suggested.”

Notably, the BBC did not inform its audiences that, with or without Mr Ariel’s call for a prayer for rain, prayers would have taken place at the Western Wall on that particular day anyway because it was the 10th of Tevet: a minor fast in the Jewish calendar that marks the day on which the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began in the year 588 BCE – an event which eventually led to the destruction on the Temple in 586 BCE and the first exile of Jews from Israel. 

Could it be that for the BBC – which consistently portrays the history of Jerusalem as having commenced in June 1967 – that was too much information?



BBC News report on 2017 ‘fake news’ excludes its own

On December 31st the BBC News website published an article titled “How fake news plagued 2017” which provides readers with the following definition under the sub-heading “What is fake news?”.

  • Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform
  • Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new
  • Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people

Other proposed definitions of the phenomenon are wider. As Claire Wardle of First Draft (which is partnered by BBC News) has noted, it can also include misinformation promoted by journalists.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s article about ‘fake news’ in 2017 does not include any of its own content – which would not fall under the definition it has chosen to promote.

However, BBC Watch has recorded numerous examples of misinformation promoted by the BBC throughout the past year. Among the inaccurate claims made by the BBC to which we have managed to secure corrections are the following: 

1) The claim that most Gulf Arab countries “now accept the existence of the Jewish state”:

BBC partially corrects ‘The World Tonight’ inaccuracies

2) The claim that Jerusalem as a whole is “occupied”:

Following complaint, BBC Arabic corrects partisan terminology

3) The claim that nine people murdered in a terror attack in 2002 were “Jewish settlers”:

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

4) The claim that an attack in Syria was carried out by Israel:

BBC News website amends claim of Israeli strike in Syria

5) The claim that Tel Aviv is “the Israeli capital”:

BBC Watch prompts edit of BBC WS inaccurate location of Israel’s capital

6) The claim that Jews rioted in Manchester in the 1940s:

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Error acknowledged, complaint upheld – yet BBC inaccuracy still remains online

7) The claim that Israel was “carved out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”:

BBC WS acknowledges inaccurate claim in history show

8) The claim that Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University are “Israeli settlements”:

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

9) The claim that the Battle of Beersheba “led to” the Balfour Declaration:

Inaccurate BBC Balfour Declaration claim misleads audiences

10) The claim that “most Jewish organisations” rejected the 1947 Partition Plan:

BBC Watch complaint on Partition Plan inaccuracy upheld

11) The claim that a convicted soldier held the rank of sergeant:

BBC News website twice reports convicted soldier’s rank inaccurately

12) The claim that attacks on Israeli communities were carried out using “mortars”:

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

The BBC’s narrow definition of ‘fake news’ is of particular interest given that just last month the corporation announced that it was “launching a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information”.

“James Harding, the director of BBC News, said: “This is an attempt to go into schools to speak to young people and give them the equipment they need to distinguish between what’s true and what’s false.” […]

“I think that people are getting the news all over the place – there’s more information than ever before,” said Harding.

“But, as we know, some of it is old news, some of it is half truths. Some of it is just downright lies. And it’s harder than ever when you look at those information feeds to discern what’s true and what’s not.”

Given the above examples (as well as countless others) of misinformation promoted by the BBC – along with its notoriously slow complaints procedure and inadequate corrections mechanism which does not even include a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website – one might well conclude that the physician first needs to heal himself.

BBC Watch would like to thank all the many readers who contacted us during 2017 to bring problematic BBC content to our attention. Please continue to write in – your tips are an invaluable contribution to our work of identifying content that breaches BBC editorial guidelines and trying to secure corrections to claims that mislead and misinform BBC audiences in a manner no less pernicious than the type of ‘fake news’ that the BBC does recognise. 


Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

As noted here last week, on December 9th the BBC News website produced the corporation’s first English language report of the year on the topic of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip – despite numerous other attacks having taken place throughout 2017.

Readers of that report were told that:

“Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

After more attacks took place, the BBC News website produced another report on the same topic on December 14th – “Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket fire” – in which readers were similarly informed that:

“There has been an escalation of hostilities since President Donald Trump gave US recognition to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel a week ago.”

Relating to incidents which took place the previous evening, the article opened:

“Israel has carried out fresh air strikes in the Gaza strip on what it said were military facilities belonging to the Islamist group Hamas.

The Israeli military said its aircraft had targeted training camps and weapons storage compounds.

The strikes happened after four rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israeli territory.”

Later on readers learned that:

“One rocket landed in a field in southern Israel, one reportedly fell short, landing inside the Gaza strip, while two were intercepted.”

However, BBC audiences were not told that the missile that fell short reportedly hit a school in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip – which was fortunately empty at the time.

“Earlier on Wednesday night, four rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, a third struck an open field and the fourth fell short of the border and hit a school in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli officials.

The rocket that fell short destroyed an empty classroom in Beit Hanoun’s Ghazi al-Shawa public school, according to the IDF.”

On December 15th yet another rocket fired by terror groups in the Gaza Strip fell short, also reportedly hitting a structure in Beit Hanoun.

“A rocket was fired at Israel from Gaza on Friday evening, yet hit a residential building in the Gazan town of Beit Hanoun, the Israeli army’s coordinator of government activities in the territories said. […]

According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the house was significantly damaged. In a Facebook post in Arabic COGAT said that “once again terror organizations launch rockets at Gaza residents themselves.”

Despite the BBC being one of the few media outlets to have a permanent presence in the Gaza Strip, no mention of that shortfall missile appeared in the BBC News website’s December 15th report titled “Jerusalem: Palestinians killed in fresh clashes with Israel“.

In the first two versions of that report, readers were told that:

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website, pointing out that the projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip throughout the past ten days were not “mortars”. The report was subsequently amended and that paragraph now reads as follows:

Remarkably, despite the recent uptick in missile fire from the Gaza Strip the BBC has not sent any of its Jerusalem-based correspondents to report from the Israeli communities affected by those attacks. As we see – and not for the first time – the corporation also continues to ignore residents of the Gaza Strip who fall victim to shortfall rockets fired by terror groups in the territory.

Related Articles:

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Why doesn’t the BBC tell audiences about Gaza’s shortfall missiles?


After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Back in May an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ was broadcast from Manchester following a terror attack in the city the previous day. As was noted here at the time, during a discussion about “tensions that have riven the city in the past”, listeners heard presenter Ritula Shah refer to “Jewish riots in the 1940s”.

Contrary to that claim, records show that in early August 1947, during a bank holiday, rioting against Jews took place over a number of days in Manchester, Salford and additional towns and cities.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint about that error, requesting that audiences be relieved of the inaccurate impression of a seventy year-old event in the history of their own country by means of an on-air clarification in the same programme. The response received was unsatisfactory.

“I understand you found presenter Ritula Shah made an inaccurate comments about Jewish riots in the 1940s in Manchester.

Firstly, I’m sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I know people appreciate a prompt response and unfortunately we’ve taken longer to reply than usual – please accept our apologies.

I appreciate your comments and this was a discussion about the tensions in cities across Britain that have occurred throughout recent history. Please be assured it is never our intention to mislead our listeners Ritula was trying to provide some context to this discussion and was discussing how different communities in Manchester have at one time been divided.”

A second complaint was submitted and in its reply, BBC Complaints acknowledged the error but declined to take any corrective action.

“It’s clear you remain unhappy with Ritula Shah’s reference to the riots in 1947. Ms Shah had intended to refer to anti-Jewish riots in reference to the events in Manchester and elsewhere that year. This was a live interview and we accept that she could have been clearer in making this reference.

However the general point was, that despite the earlier comments made by a contributor that Manchester is a ‘tolerant’ city, there is a history of tension towards ethnic minority communities.

We’ve noted your points but do not consider they have suggested a possible breach of the BBC’s standards to justify further investigation or a more detailed reply. Opinions can vary widely about the BBC’s output, but may not necessarily imply a breach of our standards or public service obligations.

For this reason we do not feel we can add more to our reply or answer further questions or points. We realise you may be disappointed but have explained why we are not able to take your complaint further.”

BBC Watch then submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the Executive Complaints Unit to which we have yet to receive a reply. However, eight days later the following communication was received from BBC Complaints:

“Thanks again for raising your concerns with us about ‘The World Tonight’ as broadcast on May 23.

As part of your complaint we referred the reference to the programme’s editor. As a result of this, we’ve now published a statement on the Corrections and Clarifications page below:

We hope this helps resolve the matter to your satisfaction. Should you have any remaining concerns, the ECU can consider these as part of any appeal you wish to pursue.”

The published statement reads as follows: 

While that statement is obviously welcome, the likelihood that the listeners who were misled by the original inaccurate claim almost three months ago will see it is of course minimal.

This should have been a very simple issue to resolve. A genuine error was made and listeners to ‘The World Tonight’ could and should have been informed of that fact shortly afterwards. Instead, it took nearly three months of repeated communication to extract a simple correction that most members of the BBC’s audience will not see.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ inverts history in Manchester 


BBC Watch prompts edit of BBC WS inaccurate location of Israel’s capital

Last week we noted that the synopsis to a BBC World Service radio report on the recent Radiohead concert in Tel Aviv inaccurately described that city as “the Israeli capital”.

After BBC Watch alerted the programme concerned to that inaccuracy, the wording was changed.

However, the edit does not include acknowledgement of the error and – in line with long-standing BBC policy – of course does not bother to inform those who previously read the misleading information that Jerusalem is in fact the capital of Israel.  



Accuracy trumped by politics in BBC report on Israeli PM’s Paris visit

On July 16th an article titled “Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d’Hiv deportation of Jews” appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages. However, the version of that report which is currently available is markedly different from its earlier editions.

The article originally opened as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris to commemorate the victims of a mass arrest of Jews in Nazi-occupied France in 1942.

More than 13,000 Jews were rounded up and detained at a cycling stadium, the Velodrome d’Hiver, before being deported to Nazi death camps.

Mr Netanyahu will also hold direct talks for the first time with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The visit has been criticised by some groups as politicising a tragedy.” [emphasis added]

About an hour after publication, that latter sentence was amended to read:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.” 

BBC website visitors who read the article’s first two versions were later told that:

“Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony has not been welcomed by everyone in France.”

That statement was replaced in version 3 by the following:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.

Some in France have criticised Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony arguing it was becoming too politicised.”

Readers of the first three versions of the report were next informed that:

“Elie Barnav, a former French ambassador to Israel, told AFP news agency: “The presence of Netanyahu makes me a little uneasy.

“This story has nothing to do with Israel.””

Obviously the BBC did not copy/paste the AFP report it recycled properly because the person concerned is actually called Elie Barnavi rather than ‘Barnav’.

Clearly too, the BBC did not bother to check the original AFP article in French because had it done so, it would know that Mr Barnavi is in fact “l’ancien ambassadeur d’Israël en France” – the former Israeli ambassador to France – (2000 to 2002) rather than “a former French ambassador to Israel” as was inaccurately claimed in the English language version of that AFP report.

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

It would therefore have been appropriate for readers to have been informed of Mr Barnavi’s links to political groups of a particular stripe – which are far more relevant in the context of his comments than his time spent in the diplomatic service.

“Within months of being sent off to Paris by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he found himself with a new boss: Ariel Sharon. Barnavi, a Peace Now activist, wondered what to do. Many French Jews expected him to resign.”

Similarly, when the BBC decided to promote the view of a tiny fringe French group also quoted in the AFP article (including a link to its website) it should have clarified to readers that UJFP supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“The Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) described the decision to invite Mr Netanyahu as “shocking” and “unacceptable”.”

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website raising those issues and subsequently the article was amended yet again to correct the inaccurate reporting of Mr Barnavi’s name and former position. The tepid and unhelpful description “a pro-Palestinian organisation” was added to the sentence promoting the UJFP.

No footnote was added to advise BBC audiences who had read the earlier versions of the report of the inaccuracies in its first three editions.

Obviously the BBC was far more concerned with amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli prime minister’s Paris visit (at the invitation of the French president: a point strangely absent from the BBC’s account of the story) than it was in ensuring that audiences were provided with accurate and impartial information.

Eventually – some six and a half hours after its original appearance – the article was amended once again and the sections amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli PM’s participation in the ceremony that was its subject matter were completely removed.  

Related Articles:

BBC News drops Associated Press, expands links with AFP


Following complaint, BBC corrects inaccuracy in Trump-Abbas meeting report

Earlier this month we noted that a BBC News website report concerning the Palestinian president’s visit to the White House informed readers that:

“On Wednesday, the US president stressed there would be no lasting peace unless both nations found a way to stop incitement of violence.”

However, the official transcript of the meeting showed that – in contrast to the BBC’s claim – the American president’s remarks did not refer to “both nations”:

“But there cannot be lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violate – and violence and hate.  There’s such hatred.  But hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long.  All children of God must be taught to value and respect human life, and condemn all of those who target the innocent.”

Mr Noru Tsalic submitted a complaint to the BBC on that topic (including a link to the transcript) and after two weeks, he received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that US President Donald Trump has said there is “a very good chance” of a Middle East peace deal, during talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. (

You’re right and we’ve since amended this line in the piece to now refer to how:

On Wednesday, the US president stressed there would be no lasting peace unless Palestinian leaders spoke out against incitement to violence.

We’ve also added a correction note to the bottom of the article explaining this change.

Please accept our apologies for the inclusion of this error and thank you once again for taking the time and trouble to make us aware of it.”

The footnote appended to the report reads as follows:

The absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that it is highly unlikely that those who read the original article with the inaccurate claim that remained in situ for two weeks would have seen that amendment and footnote.

One must again ponder the question of why an organisation committed by its charter to standards of accuracy continues to refrain from taking the very simple step of introducing a dedicated corrections page in order to relieve members of its audience of any misleading impressions they may have received from its online news output, prevent the waste of resources on unnecessary complaints and increase its transparency.