BBC News and BBC Sport ignore FIFA’s Jibril Rajoub disciplinary

As was documented here earlier this month, the BBC News website’s framing of the reason for the cancellation of a football friendly between Israel and Argentina was glaringly apparent in the article’s headline – “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” – and in its tagging – “Gaza border clashes” – as well as its opening lines.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Using the same tag the BBC News website also promoted a report by ‘BBC Minute’ that framed the story in the same way.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup friendly against Israel that was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem. It’s apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Listeners to that edition of “the dynamic 60-second news bursts aimed at younger audiences around the world” were told by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell that:

“…if the Argentinians played their game here in Jerusalem then they would be ignoring Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city and also those deadly protests that have been taking place along the Israel-Gaza border.”

Beyond that context-free presentation, in common with the BBC News website article the BBC Minute report failed to make any mention whatsoever of the threats received by the Argentinian team members – even though the BBC was obviously aware of that part of the story.

As numerous media outlets (for example here and here) reported a week after that story broke, FIFA has since announced the opening of related disciplinary proceedings against the head of the Palestinian football association.

“FIFA said Thursday it has started disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian Football Association’s chief, after he called for protest against Lionel Messi and his plan to play with Argentina in Jerusalem.

“The FIFA disciplinary committee has opened disciplinary proceedings against the president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub,” a spokesman for the world body said in a statement to AFP.

Its decision, he wrote, “came as a result of his statements, widely reported in the media, with respect to the international friendly match that was scheduled to take place on 9 June 2018 between Israel and Argentina.””

Interestingly, neither the BBC News website nor the BBC Sport website has to date seen fit to inform audiences of that development in a story it previously reported on multiple platforms.

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BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC failed to adequately report on three separate incidents of severe vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing carried out by Palestinian rioters – on the instruction of Hamas – on May 4th, May 11th and May 14th.

The sole reference to the May 4th incident came in the form of twenty-two words in a BBC News website report on another topic that was published the following day:

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.” [emphasis added]

The May 11th incident was completely ignored and, despite the corporation’s extensive coverage of the events of May 14th, the fact that Palestinian rioters once again set fire to the sole commercial crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip was not reported to BBC audiences.

The day after the second incident on May 11th it was announced that the crossing would have to be closed while repairs were underway.

“The Israeli military on Saturday announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip, a day after Palestinian rioters trashed key infrastructure serving the only entry point of outside goods into the Hamas-run Strip, causing immense damage.

The crossing will be closed while the damage is repaired, and will reopen in accordance with the security situation, officials said. […]

Apart from humanitarian cases, the IDF said the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain closed until the “extensive damage” caused to the torched gas lines, electricity infrastructure and a conveyor belt used to transfer goods into the Strip is repaired.

The army estimated the damage to Kerem Shalom would cost $9 million to repair.”

On the evening of May 14thit was announced that the crossing would reopen at limited capacity.

“Israel announced on Monday night that it would be reopening the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza on Tuesday, after Palestinian rioters set fire to parts of the facility on three separate occasions during border protests this month — including on Monday. […]

Israel closed the crossing on Saturday night in order to assess and repair the damage caused by rioters the day before. […]

While the crossing was scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, it will only be able to function at a partial capacity in light of significant damage caused to the facility, including to the fuel lines — the only way to bring diesel and gasoline into Gaza in significant quantities.”

On May 15th the crossing did indeed reopen but, as the Times of Israel reported:

“Palestinian officials on Tuesday refused to allow trucks loaded with goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which Israel had reopened in the morning after rioters from the coastal enclave set fire to parts of the facility three times over the past month.

Shipments of medical supplies, food and diapers arrived at the crossing in the morning. But officials on the Palestinian side said they could only allow through the medical supplies and sent back 14 trucks full of food and diapers, The Times of Israel has learned.”

Now let’s take a look at how the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell presented that story in a report aired on BBC World Service radio’s “Global News Podcast” at 13:00 GMT (15:00 local time) on May 15th.

04:41 Knell: “We have had the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh…he left Gaza and went to Egypt where he’s been meeting members of the Egyptian intelligence. A lot of speculation that there is a lot of diplomatic pressure – international pressure – being applied to try to calm things down. Even though Israel had said that it was going to close the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing – the one commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza – indefinitely, it has now opened that crossing. There have been some supplies going in. And the Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been opened and we’re told it will stay open for an extended period beyond what was initially imagined at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. So it could be that these kinds of moves as well, going on behind the scenes, give people in Gaza some kind of hope.” [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

So what did Knell do there? First of all she steered audiences towards the belief that Kerem Shalom had been reopened on May 15th after “international pressure” rather than – as was actually the case – on the recommendation of the IDF and COGAT. Secondly, she failed to clarify to audiences that the reason for the prior announcement of indefinite closure of the crossing was the serious damage done to its infrastructure rather than some Israeli caprice. Third, she refrained from telling BBC World Service listeners that the extensive damage was deliberately caused by Palestinians themselves on three separate occasions within eleven days. And fourth, she completely avoided the topic of the refusal by Palestinian officials to allow some types of goods to enter the Gaza Strip on the day of her report.

That is apparently what passes for “accurate and impartial news [..] of the highest editorial standards” at the BBC. 

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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.

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BBC Arabic amplifies Assad’s conspiracy theory in Golan attack report

Just after 5 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, October 21st residents of some of the northern communities in the Golan Heights were woken by the sound of the siren warning of incoming projectiles from Syria. Israel subsequently responded to the incident.

“The Israeli army on Saturday hit three Syrian artillery targets across the border in the northern Golan Heights, hours after five projectiles landed in open ground in Israel as a result of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria.

The IDF vowed it would intensify its responses to future such stray fire. “Even if this is just spillover, this is an exceptional incident and the continuance of such events will be met with a more fierce Israeli response,” a statement by the IDF said.” 

As the day progressed, however, assessment of the incident altered.

“Israel believes five rockets fired across the border from Syria early Saturday morning may have been deliberately launched at Israel, rather than constituting errant spillover from clashes in Syria, military sources said late Saturday. […]

The Israeli army said five projectiles were fired at around 5 am, and that four of them fell relatively deep inside Israeli territory. The rockets set off alarms in several locations. They landed in open ground, and caused no injury or damage. One of them landed close to an Israeli residential area.

Channel 2 news reported that although the IDF officially referred to “spillover” fire in its statements Saturday, there was “a growing sense” in the army that the Syrian fire was deliberate.

There was no fighting going on in Syria at the time of the fire, the TV report said. It added that the area from which the rockets were fired is under the control of the Syrian army. And it noted that the projectiles fell deep inside Israeli territory on the Golan Heights, one after the other, rather than close to the border.”

Meanwhile, as usually happens in such cases, the Syrian regime promoted baseless conspiracy theory.

“Syria…claimed that Israel had “coordinated” with terror groups, inviting them to fire into Israel as a pretext for the IDF response, and it sent letters of complaint to the United Nations.”

While the BBC’s English language services did not consider the story newsworthy, the corporation’s Arabic language website did publish a report headlined “Israel bombs Syrian artillery in the Golan” in which – once again – the Syrian regime’s propaganda was uncritically amplified.

“The Syrian Defense Ministry said the armed opposition had fired missiles at Israeli-controlled areas to provoke them to retaliate against the Syrian army. […]

The bombing of the terrorists, acting under the direction of Israel, is a free zone to provide an excuse for this attack,” the ministry said.”

Earlier this year, when the BBC World Service began expanding its foreign language services following a £289 million boost in funding provided by the British tax-payer, the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

BBC World Service Director Francesca Unsworth added:

“For more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe.”

As those two senior BBC executives acknowledge, it is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from the countless media outlets in the Middle East that operate according to a particular political or ideological agenda by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction.

Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of Syrian regime propaganda that audiences could just as easily find at the Syrian State news agency is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

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‘Ensuring accuracy’ at the BBC Monitoring Jerusalem office

BBC Monitoring is the partially licence fee funded department that translates open source traditional and new media from around the world and describes its mission as being “to provide news, information and insight to BBC journalists, UK government customers and commercial subscribers, allowing users to make well-informed decisions”.

Earlier this year BBC Monitoring advertised some vacancies in its Jerusalem office, including a position titled Digital Journalist that was described as follows:

“On a day-to-day basis, you will contribute to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East by monitoring local media for key developments, coming up with new angles, ensuring accuracy and adding context as well as integrating video, images and data into BBCM’s output.” [emphasis added]

The successful applicant for that position is apparently called Vera Sajrawi.

A native of Nazareth, Sajrawi has in the past worked for BBC Arabic, Reuters and Al Jazeera among others.

Sajrawi has claimed that “AIPAC is the American group lobbying for more weapons for Israel to kill Palestinians” and is apparently at ease with the notion that ‘the occupation’ commenced in 1948.

That obviously does not bode well for BBC Monitoring’s commitment to “ensuring accuracy”, for consumers of supposedly impartial BBC Middle East related content or for clients (including the UK government) relying on the information it provides to help them make “well-informed decisions”.

 

OFCOM begins new role as BBC’s external regulator

For the first time in its ninety-five year history, yesterday – April 3rd 2017 – the BBC ceased to be an entirely self-regulating body. Under the terms of the new Royal Charter, OFCOM is now the BBC’s external regulator.

As required by that Charter, OFCOM has compiled an ‘Operating Framework’ for the BBC, details of which can be found here.

OFCOM also recently published a document titled “Introduction to Ofcom’s Operating Framework for the BBC“.

“During 2016, the Government ran a review process for setting a new Charter for the BBC. An independent review to look at how the BBC is governed and regulated was commissioned by the Government and, in March 2016, concluded that regulation of the BBC should pass to Ofcom. The Government confirmed its decision that Ofcom should regulate the BBC in a White paper published in May 2016.  

A new BBC Royal Charter for the period 2017-2027 was published by the Government on 15 December 2016, together with an accompanying Agreement between the BBC and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The Charter and the Agreement together set out how the BBC will operate in the new Charter period.”

The document states:

“Under the Charter and Agreement, Ofcom has regulatory responsibility for all areas of BBC content standards including, for the first time, for the accuracy and impartiality of news, and the impartiality of any programme covering politically controversial issues or current public policy.

Ofcom holds the BBC to account under the rules of its Broadcasting Code (“the Code”). These rules reflect the standards objectives set out in the Communications Act 2003 which Ofcom also applies to all its licensed broadcasters. From 3 April 2017, the Code applies in full to BBC licence-fee funded broadcasting services and, as relevant, to BBC on demand programme services (such as the BBC iPlayer).”

The newest version of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code can be found here.

With regard to complaints, the document states:

“Complaints about BBC programmes are considered under a ‘BBC First’ complaints framework. The BBC handles complaints in the first instance, and complainants can refer their complaints to Ofcom if they are dissatisfied with the BBC’s response or if the BBC fails to respond in a timely manner. To ensure the effectiveness of the ‘BBC First’ framework and to have assurance that audiences are being appropriately safeguarded, Ofcom has oversight mechanisms (such as regular reports from the BBC on complaints handling). Importantly, Ofcom also has the power to ‘step in’ and intervene in a BBC content standards case at an earlier stage, or to launch an investigation in the absence of a complaint, where we consider it necessary.

Ofcom has set and published transparent and accessible complaints procedures for the handling of BBC content standards complaints. These make clear to consumers and other stakeholders how Ofcom considers complaints it receives on a ‘BBC First’ basis and how Ofcom handles content standards investigations (including fairness and privacy cases) for BBC broadcasting services and BBC on demand programme services. Our procedures also set out how Ofcom considers the imposition of sanctions on the BBC.”

And:

“The Charter and Agreement requires that the BBC and Ofcom must set and publish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints about the BBC’s compliance with its obligations, including content standards. The BBC’s procedures must provide that, with the exception of complaints relating to Fairness and/or Privacy, a complaint must normally in the first instance be resolved by the BBC before a complainant can refer a complaint to Ofcom. This is known as the ‘BBC First’ approach.

Ofcom has set and published procedures for the handling and resolution of relevant complaints about the BBC which are referred to Ofcom in the following circumstances:

  • If a complainant is not satisfied with the resolution of a complaint by the BBC;
  • If a complainant considers, following the resolution of a complaint by the BBC, that the imposition by Ofcom of a sanction, where available, may be appropriate;
  • If the BBC has failed to resolve a complaint within the time period set in its procedures.”

Those complaints procedures are available here.

With regard to the UK version of BBC Online the document states:

“BBC complainants will also be able to obtain an independent opinion from Ofcom on whether the BBC has observed editorial guidelines on the content of online material in its UK Public Services, once Ofcom has the necessary functions in legislation. Ofcom will enter into an arrangement with the BBC making provision for this and will publish procedures to inform consumers and other interested stakeholders as to how we will consider and handle complaints about BBC online material.”

The legislation referenced in that paragraph is The Digital Economy Bill which is currently in process in parliament.

Importantly, OFCOM’s new role does not include standards regulation of all BBC platforms.

Ofcom does not regulate standards for the BBC World Service. BBC commercial broadcast services, provided by BBC companies, are not UK Public Services but are subject to Ofcom’s content standards regulation under the terms of their Ofcom licences.” [emphasis added]

Whether or not this new system of regulation will provide a better alternative for members of the BBC’s funding public who have for years been frustrated by the corporation’s unnecessarily complicated maze-like complaints system remains to be seen.

The process of introducing OFCOM regulation of the BBC is however not yet complete, with the corporation’s operating licence expected to be published in September 2017. A related consultation titled “Holding the BBC to account for the delivery of its mission and public purposes” was launched on March 29th and will remain open until July 17th

Apparently, the new BBC Board also intends to hold a public consultation concerning a new complaints framework in the near future. 

BBC ignores a good news story from Gaza

Last year the BBC World Service’s business department produced a series of highly politicised reports concerning the economy in the Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Notably, the BBC appears to be less interested in reporting some recent good news on the Gaza economic front.

“The Coca-Cola Company inaugurated its first bottling plant in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a facility which will eventually employ 270 people and indirectly support hundreds of households. […]

The new plant currently employs 120 workers, spans more than 15,000 square meters and contains a single bottling line capable of filling up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Over the next three years the company plans to introduce a second line and expand the number of workers to 270.”

The plant also provides additional employment opportunities:

“Expectations were high in the Gaza Strip in the months leading up to the opening of the plant not only because it meant an end to the import of coke products through border crossings, but also because of the 120 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs the plant brings to workers, suppliers and distributors.”

To date there has been no BBC reporting on that story. 

BBC’s new foreign language services raise an old question

As readers may be aware, the BBC recently announced the expansion of its foreign language services.ws-expansion

“The BBC World Service will launch 11 new language services as part of its biggest expansion “since the 1940s”, the corporation has announced. […]

The new languages will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.”

With that announcement meaning that the BBC will be broadcasting in forty foreign languages,  the longstanding issue of the accuracy and impartiality of content produced by the BBC’s foreign language services is obviously of interest.

The BBC World Service Operating Licence published in November 2016 does not clarify the mechanism by which adherence to the four relevant BBC public purposes or compliance with editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality are to be ensured for broadcasts in foreign languages although the licence does state that:

“As far as is relevant, the editorial standards that apply to the BBC’s UK Public Services apply equally to the BBC’s international services.”

The BBC World Service webpage directs members of the public wishing to make complaints to the general online complaints form. However, in our experience when complaints have been made about foreign language reports (for example, this one in Persian), the BBC complaints department has declared itself unable to deal with the complaint and suggested contacting the department which produced the programme.

With OFCOM set to take over later stage handling of complaints from the BBC next year, the issue of the technical ability to handle complaints concerning foreign language content at both early and advanced stages is clearly one which needs to be addressed and clarified to members of the BBC’s funding public.

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BBC double standards on disputed territories

At the beginning of November the BBC World Service produced two items concerning a decades-old conflict involving an invasion, disputed territory, thousands of people living in refugee camps and more than twenty years of failed negotiations.Witness W sahara audio

However, BBC audiences did not hear the words ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’ as they so frequently do in content relating to Israel. In fact, what they did hear in those two programmes was a nostalgic and sympathetic portrayal of Morocco’s ‘Green March’ into Western Sahara in 1975.

The audio version of that episode of ‘Witness’ uses the term “disputed territory” in its synopsis.

“In November 1975, King Hassan the Second ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into disputed territory in the desert. He wanted to claim the colony of Spanish Sahara for Morocco. The Green March led to a diplomatic victory for the King, but sparked a guerrilla war and decades of instability in the region. Witness speaks to a Moroccan who was on the march.”

The synopsis to the filmed version of the same programme uses the same term.Witness W Sahara filmed

“Forty years ago, the King of Morocco ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into the Sahara desert to claim an area of disputed territory from Spain. The Green March, as it became known, was instigated in part to boost King Hassan the Second’s faltering support at home and sparked a long guerrilla war.
Moroccan TV journalist, Seddik Maaninou, was on the march and spoke to Witness about a turning point in North African history.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide entry for Western Sahara describes it as “[d]isputed territory administered by Morocco” and readers will not find terms such as ‘occupied’ or ‘international law’ in the corporation’s profile of Western Sahara.

 

 

BBC webpage: Israel occupying ‘traditional Arab lands’ since 1948

BBC Editorial Guidelines concerning online content include the following:

“However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it. […]

Claims that an item is inaccurate, biased or seriously misleading must be properly investigated by the originating content team where possible. Such complaints may, at the complainant’s discretion, be referred through the BBC’s published complaints procedure up to the BBC Trust.”

Here is yet another example of a BBC webpage (headed “Education”) with no date stamp which is still available online and contains inaccurate and misleading content – in this case the claim that Israel occupied land in 1948.

“In 1948 the state of Israel was created in traditional Arab lands. Its existence was challenged by neighbouring countries and, in response to attacks by Arab neighbours, Israel secured its borders by occupying lands in which Palestinians had lived for generations.”

Ashrawi page

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