A job well done: local BBC radio and TV coverage of Israeli help for UK flood victims

When a delegation from the Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID arrived recently in flood-stricken West Yorkshire to help locals with the massive clean-up operation, BBC Radio Leeds reporter Daragh Corcoran went along to interview one of the team members.

The local TV news programme BBC Look North also reported on the story.

“It’s a job well done” says Cathy Booth at the end of her report, referring to the clean-up efforts. The same description applies to the typically Yorkshire matter-of-fact reporting of this Israel-related story by both Cathy Booth and her colleague from BBC Radio Leeds.  

The same can be said of a report aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme at the end of December. With guest editor Rohan Silva at the helm, Kevin Connolly produced a report described as follows:

“Israel likes to think of itself as the ‘start-up’ nation and there is evidence that it’s better than most other countries at getting small high-tech businesses off the ground and on to the stock exchanges of the world.
Our guest business editor for the week Rohan Silva wondered if that success might be down to the Israeli government’s creation of a post called chief scientist.”

That untypically business-like report can be found here.  

Dumbest interview question ever on BBC Radio Leeds

On January 28th, prior to his meeting with the Lib Dem Chief Whip, the MP for Bradford East David Ward was interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds on the subject of his remarks about “the Jews” not having learned the lessons of the Holocaust. For reasons best known to himself,  he has since seen fit to upload that interview to Youtube. 

When asked by the interviewer Liz Green if he regretted the timing of his remarks, given their proximity to Holocaust Memorial Day, Ward replies:

“Well, one better. Which particular day of the year would the State of Israel prefer that I criticise them? There will never be a good day for them.”

Once again, it seems that Mr Ward is unable to distinguish between Jews (and non-Jews who have criticised his remarks) and Israel. 

At 2:13 the interviewer poses what must be one of the most pointless questions ever asked on radio:

“OK. Are you antisemitic?”

But of course that just gives Ward the opportunity to distort his original statement even further. 

One of the most remarkable – and worrying – aspects of the BBC’s coverage of this affair has been its superficiality. An almost pantomime quality of “Oh yes he did. Oh no he didn’t” has dominated its reports, which have consistently tried to play down Ward’s statements rather than explaining to audiences precisely why those criticising them find them so problematic. 

One increasingly plausible explanation for that could be that the BBC itself does not properly understand the gravity of the issue and therefore is unable to provide those clarifications to its audiences. For an organisation committed to diversity, that is obviously a problem.