BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ breaches impartiality guidelines with ‘specialist’ academic

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Two television programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item concerning what presenter Reeta Chakrabarti euphemistically described as “the problems in the Labour Party”.

Although The BBC has been covering that topic with varying degrees of accuracy and impartiality for well over two years, it was presented to viewers as something that has recently come to light. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Chakrabarti: “It’s been widely assumed that all forms of racism exist within the far right of politics but it’s now being suggested that the Left has issues with antisemitism too. Where has that come from?”

In her second question to guest journalist Jonathan Sacerdoti, Chakrabarti said:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wonder if we can broaden this out a little bit from the Labour party to the sort of ideas of antisemitism – quite where they come from – because there’s often quite a conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, isn’t there? Can you explain just quite simply what the difference is?”

As Sacerdoti spoke about Jewish self-determination in Israel, viewers were shown a very interesting selection of images, none of which reflected the content of his reply.

Chakrabarti then brought in another guest – Katy Sian – previously identified as “a sociology lecturer at York University specialising in racism”.

According to York University Ms Sian’s field of interest does not include antisemitism.

“The main thrust of her scholarship is focused on critical race theory and the performance of postcolonial subjectivity among ethnically marked communities stranded in metropolitan archipelagos. The initial iteration of her research can be seen in her first monograph, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. This book has generated much debate with its pioneering mapping of Sikh-Muslim antagonism as it circulates throughout Britain. Katy is expanding this research by investigating Sikh-Muslim conflict in the USA and Canada where little work exists.” 

Chakrabarti went on:

Chakrabarti: “[…] You study racism; that’s your…part of your profession. How big an issue do you think that antisemitism is within the whole spectrum of hate politics across the UK?”

Viewers heard that antisemitism “isn’t as bad as has been made out”, that it is “remarkable” that other forms of racism are not being discussed in the same way and that Katy Sian does not “think it’s right to just exceptionalise one form of racism over another”.

Chakrabarti then asked:

Chakrabarti: “…I wonder then why you think antisemitism gets so much air-time?”

Clearly one answer to that question would be that Labour Party members are not promoting Romaphobia, Islamophobia or anti-Black racism on social media or in local council meetings but the ‘expert’ answer viewers heard was as follows:

Sian: “I think it gets so much air-time because of Corbyn and his historic kind of…ehm…support for Palestinian rights. So it’s part of a much wider political project which is to essentially silence any critique of the Israeli state expansion.”

Leaving aside the question of what those three last words are supposed to mean (seeing as Israel has only withdrawn from territory throughout the last fifty years), it would of course have been appropriate – according to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint” –  for viewers to have been informed that Katy Sian stood on behalf of the Labour Party in a district of Leeds during local council elections in 2011. 

Moreover, seeing as the programme’s producer arranged her appearance via Twitter, one presumes that he was aware of the fact that Sian’s feed shows that she has not changed her political affiliations since then and that she regularly Tweets anti-Israel material.

At that point in the show, Chakrabarti read a statement from the Labour Party before bringing guest Geoffrey Alderman to speak about the historic aspect of antisemitism in the UK. When Professor Alderman said that he thought it “outrageous” to suggest that those objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party were doing so because they wanted to “get rid” of Jeremy Corbyn or “to do down the Labour Party”, she jumped in:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wanted to ask if it also has something to do with the actions of the Israeli government.”

Less than a minute later she asked Jonathan Sacerdoti:

Chakrabarti: “Do you not accept that for some people it’s the actions of the Israeli government they are protesting against?”

She subsequently claimed that Sacerdoti was misrepresenting Sian’s statement concerning “a wider political project” before going on to give her “a final right of reply”.

Sian: “I mean I would argue that bigotry, violence, harassment, abuse, hatred and systematic oppression enshrined through laws and policies directed at Jews for simply being Jews is antisemitic. To critique Israel’s settler colonial state is not antisemitic.”

Chakrabarti made no effort to challenge Sian’s false and materially misleading portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonial state”, instead allowing her to read out loud from an obviously pre-prepared statement on India which had nothing to do with the issue of antisemitism in Britain’s Labour Party.

The fact that a Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party supporter – and quite possibly a party member – was brought in to comment on this topic while inadequately presented as a ‘neutral’ academic is clearly a breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The fact that audiences were also not informed that the same supposedly ‘neutral’ academic regularly promotes anti-Israel material and four years ago had a book launch organised by the (Corbyn favoured) Iran linked, self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) – which organises the annual anti-Israel ‘Quds Day’ hate rally in London – likewise clearly impairs their ability to put her claims and pronunciations into their appropriate perspective.

Resources:

BBC Complaints website

 

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BBC producer breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality yet again

Section 4.4.13 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality states:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  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.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […] advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.”

Not for the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) a clearly identified BBC employee – who describes his position as “BBC News Arabic service producer in Israel and the West Bank” – has allowed himself to “advocate” a “particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate” on social media, thereby contradicting the BBC’s editorial guidelines and compromising its impartiality.

Clearly that Tweet from Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on that legislation. 

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC Complaints defends Bowen’s inaccurate history

As noted here last week a report on Prince William’s visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authority controlled territories that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on June 25th included an inaccurate portrayal of a historic event.

Part of the conversation between presenter Martha Kearney and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen went as follows:

Kearney: “And interesting how some of the various groups have been greeting the visit. The Palestinian diplomatic representative in London said – referring to the Balfour Declaration – said that this is…eh…considered to be an act of indirect apology.”

Bowen: “Yes. Balfour Declaration of course being the decision by Britain when it was the colonial power in Palestine to say that they supported the establishment of a Jewish state – that was about 100 years ago. So for the Palestinians it’s as if it happened yesterday: they’re very, very angry about it still.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that inaccurate portrayal, pointing out that while the Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2nd 1917, British forces did not complete their First World War ‘Sinai and Palestine Campaign’ until October 30th 1918 – almost a year after the Balfour Declaration was issued – and that the region was not under British control – “colonial” or otherwise – when the Balfour Declaration was issued as claimed by the BBC’s Middle East editor.

The response received from BBC Complaints includes the following:

“We raised your complaint with the programme team and senior staff, who respond:

The presenter, Martha Kearney, put it to our Middle East Editor that Prince William’s visit was being seen as an ‘indirect apology’ for the Balfour Declaration, in the words of the Palestinian Representative in London who had commented on the visit.

As this was the first mention of the Balfour Declaration, Jeremy Bowen responded by attempting to explain in a few words the significance of Balfour for the audience. His summary was not intended to mislead but rather help listeners unfamiliar with the complex historical background and give context to Prince William’s trip. His phrase ‘about a hundred years ago’ clearly indicated that he was précising the details for the benefit for the listener and not setting out an exact sequence of historical events. Nor do we think ‘colonial power’ is an inappropriate phrase to cover this period, given that at the time Britain had a large Empire and went onto administer Palestine at the behest of the League of Nations in 1923.”

Quite how that inaccurate presentation of the chronology of events can be claimed to “help listeners unfamiliar with the complex historical background” is of course unclear. So much for BBC editorial standards of ‘accuracy’. 

Related Articles:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ forces Brexit and Gaza into royal visit report

BBC’s ECU upholds ‘Andrew Marr Show’ complaint

Readers may recall that back in April the BBC’s Andrew Marr managed to shoehorn Israel into a discussion about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.

During the papers review in the April 8th edition of ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ show guest journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer spoke about a Guardian report on the previous evening’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma in Syria, stating:

Hartley-Brewer: “We’ve got to stop the nonsense that they’re not using chemical weapons. They are using them. And of course I would say I do think we need to remember that it was our country that chose not to get involved even after chemical weapons attacks as a result of votes in Parliament led by former Labour leader Ed Miliband.”

The “light” Andrew Marr then chose to shine on the issue of international inaction despite repeated chemical weapons attacks in Syria was as follows:

Marr: “And the Middle East is aflame again. I mean there’s lots of Palestinian kids being killed further south as well by the Israeli forces.”

As the Daily Mail reports:

“Anti-semitism campaigner Jonathan Sacerdoti complained, writing: ‘When talking about a story on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Andrew Marr for some reason decided to talk about Israel (which was unrelated anyway). He stated there’s a lot of Palestinian kids being killed further south by Israeli forces.

‘This is completely incorrect and is made up. This was irrelevant to the conversation on Syria… and also actually completely false.’

BBC producers initially tried to defend Marr’s comments by pointing to the fact that five ‘younger people’ had been killed between the beginning of the year and the date of the programme.

They also said several Palestinian children and younger people were killed in the week following the broadcast, but Mr Sacerdoti argued that later events could not be used to justify Mr Marr’s comments.

His complaint has been upheld.”

Mail on Sunday

The relevant part of the ECU’s response stated:

Note the BBC’s use of a WHO document (which is based on figures supplied by the same terror group that organised the violent rioting) as a source of information concerning “a large number of children injured” even though Marr’s comment referred to “Palestinian kids being killed”.

A BBC journalist asks ‘what’s wrong with Hamas?’

On March 28th the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn posted a link on his Facebook account to an interview he had given earlier to the Jewish News.

Among the hundreds of comments below that post was one from a ‘broadcast journalist’ at the BBC called Becky Branford.

As regular readers know, BBC editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” state:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests. […]

Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”

Branford’s comment has since been removed. Nevertheless, the fact that a journalist creating content for the BBC News website apparently thinks there is nothing “wrong” with a terror organisation responsible for the murders of hundreds of civilians gives plenty of food for thought.

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

Few would have been surprised to see Ha’aretz publisher Amos Schocken’s March 22nd Tweet promoting the notion that Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’: he has, after all, touted such  allegations on the pages of his paper for years.

“Of the characteristics of apartheid: one legal system for Jews and another for natives”

Members of the BBC’s funding public may, however, have been disturbed to see a clearly identified BBC Arabic producer retweet that controversial smear to his own Twitter followers.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  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.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Clearly that retweet of an ‘apartheid’ smear by BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on Israel. 

Related Articles:

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

BBC interviewees appear in report on extremism in UK charities

The Henry Jackson Society think tank recently published a new report:  

“The British taxpayer has handed over more than £6 million to charities that are currently, or have been in the past, used by extremists to further their radical agenda, according to a new report from the Henry Jackson Society. […]

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamist Extremists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector finds that, despite more than a decade of attempts to improve regulations, a concerning number of UK-registered charities continue to fund and support extremism.

Figures from across the Islamist spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood, form a network which seeks to delegitimise and push out moderate voices, while masquerading as representatives of ‘true’ Islam. […]

 The Charity Commission – legally unable to de-register these ‘bad’ charities – has been particularly ill-equipped to deal with these organisations. Its powers have been extended in recent legislation, but the public is still waiting for those new powers to be put to use to tackle this problem.”

The report itself states:

“Charities have long been used to support the Islamist extremist cause, with a network of charitable organisations playing a pivotal role in the funding of international jihadism. […]

Beyond the exploitation of charitable status by violent Islamist extremists to support terrorist activities, they may also be used, wittingly or unwittingly, to provide violent or non-violent extremists with the platform and legitimacy they require to spread their illiberal and extremist views. This may take the form of an individual or small group of extremist entryists seeking to abuse a pre-existing charity for their own purposes, or the establishment of an organisation with charitable status specifically for Islamist extremist objectives. These charities, which for example provide platforms for extremist individuals and promote their literature, can be used to create a climate conducive to radicalisation and introduce potentially vulnerable members of the public to individuals who hold intolerant and extremist views. […]

The 2015 Counter-Extremism strategy recognises that charities were one of the institutions vulnerable to exploitation by extremists, who may use them to spread their ideology and charities have in the past, for example, promoted hate literature inciting the murder of homosexuals and Muslims and have hosted speakers who promote homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic views.”

Members of the British public would probably not expect any of the organisations and individuals named in such a report to have been showcased by their publicly funded broadcaster. They would, however, be mistaken.

Page 37 of the report states:

“There are a number of well-reported incidents involving charities providing humanitarian aid and running aid convoys being involved in non-violent and violent extremism; above all, they highlight the blurred line between the two. On 16 October 2017 the Charity Commission published recent cases of individuals convicted of terrorism offences who were involved with charities. On 23 December 2016 two individuals, Syed Hoque and Mashoud Miah were convicted of entering into funding arrangements that they knew to be for the purposes of terrorism (contrary to Sec 17 Terrorism Act 2000). […]

During their trial the Charity Commission stated that they were investigating a number of charities organising aid convoys, including Al Fatiha Global, with which one of the pair was also involved. […]

Al Fatiha Global is a UK-registered charity that had a total income of £218,778 in the financial year ending 2016. It was investigated by the Charity Commission in 2014 after the son of its Chief Executive was photographed in Syria with two men holding assault rifles. The Charity Commission had “serious concerns about [the charity’s] governance and financial management” and set out to investigate allegations of “inappropriate links between the charity and individuals purportedly involved in supporting armed or other inappropriate activities in Syria”.

On August 13th 2014, the BBC aired a filmed report from the Gaza Strip by Orla Guerin which was based in part on a British woman’s unchallenged allegation that an IDF sniper had shot a Palestinian for “no reason whatsoever”. As was pointed out here at the time:

“Viewers are also not told that Ms Andolini’s activities in the Gaza Strip include distributing aid funded by a British charity called Al-Fatiha Global […] which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission due to “serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity”.”

The HJS report states:

“Alan Henning, an aid worker who was kidnapped and executed by Islamic State, travelled with an aid convoy reportedly organised by either Al-Fatiha Global or Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raises money for Al-Fatiha and others. […]

Additionally, Aid4Syria, whose parent charity was al-Fatiha, and for which Alan Henning had been an ambulance driver, showed signs of extremism. The charity had promoted an event entitled “O’Ummah Wake Up and Rise!” on its Facebook page, involving speakers Zahir Mahmood and Moazzam Begg. The convoy’s team leader had posted on his Facebook page “Our men love death like your men love life”, alluding to a similar quote by Osama bin Laden. Aid4Syria had also named its water project and emergency vehicles after Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in the US for attempting to kill US military personnel.”

Readers may recall that in late 2013 reports by BBC journalist Catrin Nye – who travelled with one of those convoys – were heavily promoted on a range of BBC platforms. Nye produced additional reports on the same subject in July 2014 which once again failed to adequately inform audiences of the convoys organisers’ links to extremism.

The HJS report goes on:

“One of the charity workers on the convoy, Majid Freeman, had posted extremist comments online, including calling for prayers for the brothers of Islamic State fighter Ifthekar Jaman. […] Freeman also had approvingly posted a link on Facebook to a video presenting Islamic State as a legitimate reaction to Western foreign policy. […] Freeman had retweeted support for Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, as well as the group’s propaganda, and on Facebook wrote that Jerusalem would be “conquered by jihad, not by peace”.”

Freeman – described as “a credit adviser from Leicester” – was featured in one of Catrin Nye’s articles and following the kidnapping of Alan Henning he appeared in numerous other BBC reports – e.g. here, here and here.

Another charity appearing in this report is Islamic Relief (from p.64). In 2014 the BBC published an article in which that organisation’s links to Hamas were denied and later the same year the BBC produced a very superficial report on an audit of the charity.

The organisation ‘Viva Palestina’ – which had its charitable status removed in 2013 following an inquiry by the Charity Commission – is discussed on page 72 of the HJS report. Its founder – George Galloway – has appeared frequently on BBC platforms.

Among the individuals named in the report is Cerie Bullivant of ‘Cage‘ who not only has his own BBC profile but has appeared on numerous BBC programmesincluding one on ‘how best to tackle radicalisation’. Moazzam Begg – also of ‘Cage’ – has likewise been a BBC contributor. The report also names Haitham al Haddad (from p. 96) who was featured in a series of reports by Catrin Nye as well as in additional BBC content.

As regular readers are aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“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.”

However the BBC usually makes little effort to adhere to that clause when quoting and promoting NGOs, charities and their representatives.

The same editorial guidelines state that due impartiality does not require “detachment from fundamental democratic principles” of the type typically rejected by extremists and the BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “contribute to social cohesion” in the UK.

Obviously that obligation is not met – and the wider interests of the public not served – through the provision of platforms and legitimacy to extremists – particularly when charities are regularly promoted without the required disclosure of their ideologies, political agendas and any extremist links.

Related Articles:

UK government’s MB review shows 2014 BBC report misleads

Not just about journalism: BBC editorial guidelines and the wider public interest

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.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

Five years of BBC reports on one story show impartiality failure

For the past five years the BBC has been reporting on a proposed housing project in the south Jerusalem district of Givat HaMatos.

Givat HaMatos

In December 2012 BBC audiences were told that:

“…on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

And, quoting the EU:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

In October 2014 the BBC told audiences that:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighbourhood in East Jerusalem”

Two months later, in December 2014, the BBC’s Tim Franks revisited the same story.

“When I was posted here a few years ago as Middle East correspondent, one of the dominant stories was over the expansion of Jewish settlements on territory which Israel had occupied in the aftermath of the 1967 war. Undesirable if not downright illegal, said the rest of the world. Israel, for its part, said that the status of the territory was a matter of dispute and in the meantime it needed a place for its burgeoning population to live. So much might be familiar but in the last couple of months the announcement of a big new building development in occupied East Jerusalem has been described as a game-changer and brought furious international criticism. Why?”

Audiences heard just one view on the topic from a representative of the political NGO ‘Ir Amim’ which has received funding from foreign sources – including from the EU.

In late January 2017 Tim Franks returned to the same location and BBC audiences again heard one view of the story; this time from the inadequately introduced founder of that same political NGO.

Franks: “This is Givat HaMatos – an area of scrubland really – on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a couple of kilometres behind me to the south is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. And I’m here with a man called Danny Seidemann – he’s an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem.”

Seidemann: “Givat HaMatos is pretty unique. It’s one of two or three schemes that we call a Doomsday settlement. These settlements are in and of themselves capable of making the two-state solution impossible.”

None of the BBC’s various reports on Givat Hamatos has informed audiences that part of the planned housing units have been ear-marked for Arab residents of the adjacent neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

To date, not one brick has been laid in the proposed project on which the BBC has already produced four reports and the JCPA recently published a backgrounder that explains why that is the case.

“The plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem was already approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee in 2014. However, it has been frozen for four years.

Under pressure from the United States, Germany, and other European Union countries, the issuing of the construction tenders has been suspended time after time. […]

Germany is playing a central role in pressuring Israel not to build Givat Hamatos; other European countries oppose it as well. In October 2014 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the decision to build homes in Givat Hamatos threatened the two-state solution: “One cannot claim to support a solution and at the same time do things against without consequences being drawn.” In October 2017, the European Union requested clarifications from Israel about plans for housing units in Hamatos, saying that such building “is likely to harm severely the continuity and the existence of a future Palestinian state.””

While the views of representatives of an EU funded political NGO have been amplified in half of the BBC’s four reports on the story and the EU itself quoted in one other, audiences have not heard any alternative views whatsoever.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We must apply due impartiality to all our subject matter.  However, there are particular requirements for ‘controversial subjects’, whenever they occur in any output, including drama, entertainment and sport. […]

When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.” [emphasis added]

Obviously BBC reporting on the proposed housing project in Givat HaMatos throughout the past five years has not complied with those guidelines. Rather, it has exclusively promoted monochrome framing of the story that has denied audiences access to information and perspectives that contradict the BBC’s chosen narrative.

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2017 frequently included contributions or information sourced from NGOs.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“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.”

However, in the vast majority of cases audiences were not informed of the political agenda of the organisations and their representatives promoted in BBC content and on some occasions the connection of an interviewee to a particular NGO was not revealed at all.

For example, an interviewee who was featured on BBC World Service radio at least three times between September 3rd and December 7th (including here and here) was introduced as “a mother of two” from Gaza but audiences were not informed that she works for Oxfam.

Similarly the founder of Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem was introduced to BBC audiences in February as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” and in June as “an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem”.

In September a BBC World Service history show featured an interviewee without mentioning her significant connection to Medical Aid for Palestinians and related anti-Israel activism. In October the same programme featured a sole interviewee whose connections to the NGO Euro-Med Rights were not revealed to audiences.

Interestingly, when BBC radio 5 live recently conducted an interview concerning a UK domestic story with a political activist who was inadequately introduced, the corporation acknowledged that “we should’ve established and made clear on air this contributor was a political activist”. 

On other occasions, while contributors’ connections to NGOs were clarified, the political agenda of the organisations concerned was not.

In October, when an interviewee from the Amos Trust appeared on BBC Radio 4, the NGO was inadequately described as “a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza” with no mention made of its anti-Israel activities.

A TV debate concerning the BDS campaign that was aired in February included representatives of War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with no background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both those organisations provided to viewers.

In September the BBC World Service interviewed the director of ‘Forward Thinking’ which was described as a “mediation group” while listeners heard no clarification of the relevant issue of the interviewee’s “particular viewpoint” on Hamas.

Audiences also saw cases in which BBC presenters amplified unsubstantiated allegations made by political NGOs during interviews with Israelis. In June, for example, while interviewing Moshe Ya’alon, Stephen Sackur invoked Human Rights Watch and Breaking the Silence.

In November Andrew Marr employed the same tactic during an interview with the Israeli prime minister, amplifying allegations from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International without informing viewers of the political agendas of those NGOs.

BBC audiences also saw Human Rights Watch quoted and promoted in various reports throughout the year including:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

Additional NGOs promoted by the BBC without disclosure of their political agenda include Adalah and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (see here) and UJFP.

Material produced by the UN agency OCHA was promoted in BBC content without that organisation’s political stance being revealed and audiences saw a partisan map credited to UNOCHA and B’tselem used on numerous occasions throughout the year.

The political NGO Peace Now was frequently quoted and promoted (including links to its website) in reports concerning Israeli construction plans – see for example here, here and here – as well as in an amended backgrounder on the subject of ‘settlements’.

In April the BBC News website described Breaking the Silence and B’tselem as “human rights activists” without fully informing audiences of their records and political agenda.

B’tselem was by far the BBC’s most promoted NGO in 2017 with politically partisan maps it is credited as having produced either together with UNOCHA or on its own appearing in dozens of BBC News website reports and articles throughout the year, including the BBC’s backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

BBC audiences were on no occasion informed that the organisation from which that map is sourced engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS.

The NGOs quoted, promoted and interviewed by the BBC come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even active in legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and – as in previous years – in 2017 audiences hence remained unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs