The BBC – its funding public is told – “aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism” and to ensure that its audiences “remain informed about world events”.
Recently it has become apparent that BBC editors are of the opinion that those aspirations are served by providing audiences with commentary on current affairs from a teenager qualified with nothing more than a Twitter account.
Whilst it may be difficult to imagine that the BBC would deem commentary from such a source likely make any serious contribution to meeting its public purpose remit of informing audiences about British defence policy, in a certain part of the Middle East anything goes.
The August 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ purported to discuss what it described as the “Gaza Truce” as though nothing at all has happened in neighbouring Israel during the past 50 days and more. Presenter Ben James hosted a number of interviewees during the programme (available here) including the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly, the Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, Shoshanna Jaskoll, Dr Bassel Abu Warda of Shifa hospital and Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department.
But James’ star guest – and the one to which the programmes editors elected to devote a stand-alone item on their website – was Farah Baker; a sixteen year-old girl from Gaza City who has during the last seven weeks been extensively courted and promoted by the international media (including BBC Radio One’s ‘Newsbeat’ programme aimed at younger audiences) due to her activity on Twitter.
One might assume that before a potential interviewee whose only qualification for talking about international affairs is that she Tweets personal views was put on air, producers would take a look at the relevant Twitter account in order to check out what they were actually amplifying and promoting. Farah Baker Tweets under the handle @Farah_Gazan and in her profile uses an offensive comparison of herself to Anne Frank.
That is not a one-off theme.
But Farah Baker’s Holocaust analogies do not end there. Perusal of her timeline shows that she uses the hashtag #shujaia_holocaust and her Tweets and Retweets indicate that the teenager feted and promoted by the Western media is rather fond of antisemitic imagery.
That obviously was not the cause of any concern to Ben James or his producers and unfortunately, past experience shows that should not come as much of a surprise to the rest of us. We have previously documented here the appearance of Nazi analogies and defamation on the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook wall despite the supposed existence of a moderation policy set out in ‘House Rules’.
The August 26th programme also invited listeners to comment on the WHYS Facebook account and below are some of the comments which still appear there at the time of writing.
This, licence fee payers may be dismayed to learn, is apparently what the BBC believes is ‘standard-setting’ journalism.