Follow up to a story the BBC reported in April

Over the years BBC audiences have seen several reports concerning two zoos in Khan Younis and Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

April 2012: Gaza zoo resorts to displaying stuffed animals

“Mohamed Owaida from the Khan Younis Zoo says it is proving too costly to feed his living animals, and he can not always get live specimens through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip.”

August 2016: The last tiger to leave Gaza zoo

“He [the tiger] has lived with me through three wars. He saw disaster and terror. He lived through difficult nights. Like all of us, like me.”

“Dozens of animals died during fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel.”

August 2016: BBC Radio 4 ‘PM’, Yolande Knell

“Akram Mahali says daily life is a struggle. Neither he nor his six children have ever seen life outside Gaza and they’re not likely to any time soon. With Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, both Israel and Egypt impose tight border restrictions and limit travel.”

“Then, just after dawn, the animals leave Gaza. Their suffering will soon be over but they leave behind Palestinians who continue to feel trapped.”

April 2019: Gaza zoo animals evacuated to Jordan by Four Paws group

“Mr Jomaa blamed the Israeli and Egyptian blockades of Gaza, which is controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and bad economic conditions for the squalid conditions in the zoo.”

Now the Times of Israel reports that the Rafah zoo has reopened.

“In April, international animal rights charity Four Paws took all the animals to sanctuaries, receiving a pledge the zoo would close forever.

But last month, it reopened with two lions and three new cubs, penned in cages only a few square meters in size.

Critics say the owners want to bully Four Paws or other animal welfare organizations into giving them thousands of dollars to free the animals into their care.

Four Paws paid the zoo’s owners more than $50,000 in the year before its closure for medical treatments, food and caretakers. […]

The newly reopened zoo’s manager, Ashraf Jumaa, from the same family that owned the old one, said they brought the new lions through tunnels from Egypt.”

Given the BBC’s previous record, should it decide to cover this latest development in the story it reported in April we can no doubt expect to see more politicised commentary blaming the conditions suffered by animals in Gaza zoos on inadequately explained Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

Related Articles:

BBC News claims Hamas rule in Gaza ended 5 years ago

BBC News corrects inaccurate ‘Palestinian unity government’ claims

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC Culture promotes Palestinian pop and a political narrative

h/t AS

On September 17th BBC Culture published an article by freelancer William Ralston titled “The rise of Palestinian pop”. In among Ralston’s long portrayal of the Palestinian (and not Palestinian) music scene readers were served context-free political framing. The article opened by telling readers that: [emphasis added]

“Growing up in East Jerusalem, Bashar Murad turned to music for comfort in a life blighted by fractious political realities and the emotional pressures of being a gay man battling the conservative elements of his society. It also became a way of transcending the borders imposed on his life by the Israeli occupation; a medium to connect with the world outside.” 

As noted when he was previously featured in BBC content, despite those alleged “borders imposed on his life” Murad:

“…was educated in an American school in Jerusalem, attended Bridgewater College in Virginia [USA], and had his work sponsored by the United Nations’ Men and Women for Gender Equality program.”

None of that was however mentioned by Ralston, who went on to promote the notion of “Palestinians with an Israeli passport” even though the majority of Israeli Arabs do not self-identify as Palestinians.

“Since its launch four years ago, the spot has become a second home for Palestinians with an Israeli passport or those with documents allowing them to travel through Israel.”

Readers were told that:

“In cash-stripped [sic] Gaza, the smaller Palestinian territory, there are even fewer opportunities. Recording studios are scarce, and any equipment must be sourced from Egypt or Israel at an extraordinary premium. Hamada Nasrallah, vocalist for Sol, a seven-piece folk outfit from Gaza, explains that he had to sell off his possessions just to afford a guitar, only for it to be destroyed in the August 2018 Israeli bomb attacks on the Said al-Mishal Centre.”

Not only does that promoted link lead to a politicised and partisan report from the Guardian but readers were not informed that the ‘cultural centre’ was located in a building also used by Hamas’ interior security unit or that the strike came in response to over 180 missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.

The article failed to inform audiences that the reason why the population of the Gaza Strip suffers from a lack of electricity and clean water is internal feuding between Palestinian factions.

“The electricity shortages and lack of drinking water make it “hard to focus on music” because “we don’t have the basics to live”, MC Gaza, a local rapper, says. “

The writer’s failure to mention the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas – which he euphemistically described as “the Islamist organization that governs the territory” – means that readers are unable to put his subsequent descriptions of restrictions on movement into their correct and full context – including the fact that in the week before this article was published 8,673 people used the Erez crossing.

“Exacerbating the problem are the restrictions on movement that Palestinians face, which means that many cannot travel abroad for gigs, or, significantly, meet with industry professionals. Special permits are required to enter Israel, which are rarely granted, especially not quickly. Palestinians have long had no access to airports in the Palestinian territories: those in Jerusalem and Gaza ceased operations around the turn of the millennium, so most Palestinians must travel to Jordan in order to fly anywhere, which costs around US$500 (£400) one-way.

Those in Gaza have great difficulty in travelling at all. There are only two crossings out: Rafah and Erez, controlled by Egyptian and Israeli authorities respectively. […] Erez, meanwhile, is also tricky, and, for reasons of security, only Israeli-defined categories of people, mainly those requiring urgent medical attention, are eligible for a permit. Permits are also granted to businessmen, students, and artists, but they are far from guaranteed…”

As is usually the case in BBC content, history in this article began in June 1967, with no mention of the fact that parts of Jerusalem were illegally occupied by Jordan in the 19 years that preceded the Six Day War or that Jordan chose to attack Israel in that conflict.  

“The position of those born in Jerusalem is uniquely complicated. After occupying and annexing East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel offered Palestinian residents Israeli citizenship but many refused, and instead took permanent residency, allowing them to live, work, and receive benefits in Israel. They have what’s called a ‘laissez-passer’, a travel document that allows them to pass through Israel, but they cannot pass into another country without a visa, which is hard to obtain because they don’t have any citizenship.”

The same lack of historical context appeared in a section in which Druze residents of the Golan Heights were described as ‘Syrian’ and the relevant factor of the closure of the Quneitra crossing because of the civil war in Syria was erased.

“Musicians in the Golan Heights face similar difficulties for the same reasons: Israel annexed the land, seized from Syria, after the Six-Day War. Although Syrian, the local musicians are considered part of the Palestinian scene because they’re subject to similar restrictions: they are not even allowed to travel to Syria, so they can pass through Israel and the West Bank only.”

Yet again Ralston failed to adequately clarify that if some of his featured musicians from Jerusalem and the Golan Heights do not have passports, that is because they have chosen to pass up the opportunity to apply for Israeli citizenship.

“All four members of TootArd, whom promoters regularly label as Palestinian, grew up in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan area, and have permanent residency in Israel, but their official nationality is also ‘undefined’, and they have no passport.”

As we see what could have been an interesting article is seriously marred by the writer’s uncritical promotion of a politically motivated narrative which he advances by failing to provide the relevant background information and key context which would facilitate proper audience understanding of the topic. 

BBC WS radio corrects inaccurate claim of a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip

At the beginning of August BBC World Service radio aired an edition of the programme ‘The Food Chain’ which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.”

BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that programme’s repeated inaccurate portrayal of the Gaza Strip as being “under siege”, noting that in the week that this programme was aired twice, 1,768 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip from Israel, including 6,785 tons of food. We pointed out that the “intermittent power supply” portrayed in the programme has nothing to do with Israel and that as well as breaching BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by leading listeners to wrongly believe that the Gaza strip is “under siege”, it also compromises the BBC’s impartiality seeing as that false claim is one of Hamas’ main talking points.

On August 31st we received a reply from the programme’s editor.

“Thank you for your email and your comments about the episode of The Food Chain titled ‘Food under siege’.

I’m sorry you were unhappy with the programme and I should say from the outset that I agree with some of the points you are making.

The use of the word ‘siege’ in the programme was intended to be a colloquial reference to the difficulties of food provision in different parts of the world, with the programme focusing on the creative solutions that people have adopted in such circumstances.

As a food programme our aim was simply to examine how people cook under duress and we didn’t intend to imply there were exact political or military similarities between three different parts of the world.

But on reflection we can see that in the absence of providing more context about Gaza, the title of the programme and the reference to the historical notion of a siege might have led listeners to infer that we thought this was a precise description of the position in Gaza, which was not our intention.

So we agree that this episode would have benefited from more information about the blockade and I am sorry we did not provide this.

This is, as I say, a food programme rather than a detailed examination of the background to any of these conflicts so I do not think we needed to go into any great detail but even within these confines I think we should have provided more context, for the reasons I have suggested.

As a result, we have included more information about the blockade and re-worded the programme script in places where we accept the position in Gaza should have been made clearer.

We have also placed a note on our correction and clarifications page.

Best wishes,

Robb Stevenson, Editor”

We have not yet been able to locate that note on the BBC’s correction and clarifications page but the amended synopsis to the programme now reads:

“Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. A journalist reveals how it feels to feast in a cafe in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat, and an electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a message of compassion and resistance.

We also hear about the Palestinians living under the blockade of the Gaza strip. A cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and some ingredients are scarce.

This programme was originally broadcast on August 1 but has since been re-edited to provide more context about the Gaza blockade and to distinguish this more clearly from conditions in Aleppo and Sarajevo.”

Several significant amendments have also been made to the programme itself.

Update: The following clarification has been published.

 

 

 

 

BBC repeats uncritical promotion of ‘Gaza’ film

h/t AB

Earlier this month we documented the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme’s one-sided presentation of the Gaza Strip in an item concerning a new film about that location.

Gaza propaganda on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

The August 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ devoted over nine of its fifty-three minutes of airtime to a similar exercise.

“And a new documentary shows everyday life for those living in Gaza.”

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 43:38 here) using some bizarre linkage that included an unsupported assertion. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kesby: “Now, the Palestinian territories have been in the news over the past few days, partly because Israel denied permission for two US Congresswomen to visit them following pressure from President Trump. Israel did then allow Democrat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib permission to make a humanitarian visit to her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank but she rejected that offer. She said she couldn’t comply with the oppressive conditions being imposed. Whatever your view on the political situation in the Holy Land, there is little debate that life for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip is very tough. It’s only 25 miles long and seven miles wide but home to two million people, many of whom live in desperate poverty. A new documentary film has just been released called ‘Gaza; and it depicts ordinary life in the territory. [clip from film] And that’s the sound of children playing in the sea off the Gaza coast, the beaches of Gaza being some of the only open spaces available in a densely populated city. It’s the beginning of the film and earlier I spoke to the production manager Fadi Hussam Hannona in our Gaza bureau and first to the co-director of the film, Andrew McConnell.”

McConnell began by repeatedly promoting the claim that the film shows audiences aspects “that they don’t expect to see in Gaza”, and:

McConnell: “…it’s only later on that we bring in sort of the familiar imagery; that of protests and conflict.”

Turning to her second interviewee, Kesby commented on one part of the film.

Kesby: “…the young lad to begin with, he says he’s from an enormous family – I think he’s one of 14 children – and he says he quite enjoys sleeping down by the sea because there’s more room down there. It gives you a sense of just how densely populated and, I suppose, pressurised that area is.”

Hannona: “Listen Gaza has been used to an image of violence and destruction on the news. Yes, there is a conflict in Gaza but people here just want to live a normal life like you, like everyone. So we tried through our film ‘Gaza’ to show the other side of Gaza: the side where the normal people are suffering every day. And the Gaza Strip cannot be understood by only looking at the political and focusing on the conflict – no. It can be understood by living with the people. So we did that. Through our film, through our character, the audience will have a chance to spend hour and half with the normal people from Gaza and see how they live and think and worry. So we just want to be like everyone else. This is our message.”

Kesby of course refrained from reminding listeners that those “normal people” voted Hamas into power in four out of five Gaza constituencies in the 2006 election and that “everyone else” does not elect a terror organisation that dedicates itself to the destruction of a neighbouring country. Instead she went on to bring up another character from the film.

Kesby: “…ehm, there’s a young girl in the film who plays the cello.”

Hannona: “Yeah Karma she’s a young girl and I found this character, you know, we need to show the people on the world we have children. They need the right to live a normal life and Karma one of them. But Karma also she have problems. She can’t keep living under this situation, you know, every month, every two months, we have some problems in Gaza. We hear bombing, we are under siege, we can’t…we can’t leave Gaza, you know. You need to wait one year if you decide to leave to study or to attend a festival outside of Gaza. So they need their rights.”

Kesby made no effort to clarify to audiences that the Gaza Strip is not “under siege” or to provide the context of the terrorism perpetrated by numerous armed factions in the Gaza Strip. In fact the word ‘Hamas’ was not uttered even once by any of the three participants in the item.

Kesby: “Hmm…have you ever left Gaza?”

Hannona: “No, actually I…actually it was a chance for me last…in the beginning of this year to attend the world premiere of ‘Gaza’ documentary at Sundance Film Festival and we did everythingeverything – just one day before the day I was supposed to leave they closed the border between Gaza and Rafah.”

Kesby: “Wow.”

Hannona: “And I didn’t…I lost the chance.”

Kesby: “What a pity.”

Seeing as Hannona told that same story in his Radio 4 interview eleven days earlier, Kesby should have been able to inform listeners that “they” are the Egyptians, who closed their border crossing with the Gaza Strip in February due to Hamas’ take-over of the Rafah Crossing after Palestinian Authority staff had been withdrawn.

Kesby then asked McConnell how he and Hannona met and his answer included the following:

McConnell: “…we also returned back last year – 2018 – and the border protests had started and which has now become sort of a huge part of everyday life in Gaza and these continue to this day, over a year later. Many people have been killed. And we…so we managed to film a lot of that, especially on the 14th of May when the embassy was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and that was one of the bloodiest days since the war in 2014 when over 60 people died.”

Kesby made no effort to clarify to audiences that those so-called “protests” are in fact weekly episodes of premeditated violent rioting organised by terror groups and that fifty-three of the sixty-two people killed that day were claimed by terrorist organisations. Instead she continued her innocuous questioning.

Kesby: “And was it quite challenging to strike the right balance between reflecting ordinary live people, you know, getting married, going about their normal lives, trying to educate their children, trying to enjoy themselves and this constant pressure and…and, you know, elements of violence and threat that people live under?”

Towards the end of the item listeners heard three times – twice from Hannona himself and once from Kesby – that he has not seen the film “because there’s no cinema in Gaza”. Seeing as that talking point also arose in the earlier ‘Today’ interview, Kesby should have been able to inform listeners that the reason there is no longer a cinema in Gaza is because it is ruled by an extremist Islamist terror organisation.

And so for the second time BBC audiences heard uncritical, unchallenging and uninformative promotion of this film in an item which only served to hinder their understanding of a complex topic.

BBC continues to yawn at Gaza border incidents

One theme repeatedly promoted in cross-platform BBC reporting is that the situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. Often no attempt is made at all to explain why the counter-terrorism measures had to be put in place. On other occasions the BBC uses the “Israel says” formula to tick the impartiality box but without any substantial explanation of what Israel’s “security concerns” or “security reasons” actually entail. Some more recent examples include:

“A blockade, which Israel says it’s imposed because of security concerns, has severely restricted imports and exports and the movement of people.” BBC World Service radio 1/8/19

“But peace didn’t last long and Israel still controls who and what goes in and out of Gaza. It says the blockade is for security reasons.” BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1 XTRA 14/5/19

“And really the context to all of it is that the Palestinians in Gaza say they want an easing of the blockade that Israel says it carries out for security reasons.” BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1 XTRA 13/5/19

“…Israel tightened its blockade on the region citing security concerns and strictly controlling all movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip.” BBC Two 13/5/19

“One of the demonstrators, Bahaa Abu Shamala, said Palestinians were highlighting their historical dispossession and calling for an end to the blockade which Israel says it imposes for security reasons.” BBC Radio 4 30/3/19

“Hospitals have been badly affected by the economic blockade maintained by Israel and on the other side by Egypt – they say for security reasons.” BBC Radio 4 18/1/19

“Gaza’s economy has also been badly hit by a blockade by Israel and Egypt – needed, they say – for security reasons.” BBC News website 30/12/18

“However, given the blockade maintained by Israel – it says of course that’s for security reasons – travelling to the West Bank requires special permission which many do not get.” BBC Radio 4 24/12/18

“The economy’s been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for their security…” BBC World Service radio 17/12/18 

“Gaza is a place that the UN said six years ago could be unlivable by 2020. Today they’re warning that two million people who live here are slipping deeper into poverty because of what they’re calling deplorable living conditions. The blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons – is a major factor.” BBC Radio 4 17/12/18

Early on the morning of August 10th a serious incident took place in the southern section of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“The Israeli military said on Saturday that a “large-scale terror attack” was thwarted as troops killed four Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip, armed with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, hunting knives and bolt cutters. The Israel Defense Forces released a number of photos of the seized weapons.

The army said in a statement that the incident began at 4:00 a.m. Saturday as lookout troops spotted four figures heading toward the border fence “in military formation” from the direction of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. […]

The four Gazans were killed by Israeli soldiers who “opened fire once one of the terrorists scaled the fence,” the military said in an initial statement, adding that a hand grenade was thrown at the troops during the clash but none of the soldiers were injured.”

On the morning of August 11th another incident took place in the northern sector of the same border.

“Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian gunman who opened fire at them while attempting to sneak into Israel from Gaza early Sunday, the military said, as fresh fighting broke out on the tense border. […]

“IDF lookouts spotted an armed terrorist approaching the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. The terrorist shot at IDF troops. The troops, who were prepared for the event because of the lookout, opened fire at the terrorist,” the army said in a statement.”

Earlier this month a similar incident took place in the southern sector when a Hamas operative infiltrated Israeli territory, injuring three Israeli soldiers.

A media outlet truly committed to providing “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” would of course report such incidents in order to provide its audience with context to the phrase “the blockade which Israel says it imposes for security reasons”.

The BBC, however, has to date ignored all three of those serious recent incidents in its English language reporting. The two latest attacks have however been briefly mentioned on the BBC Arabic website.

Related Articles:

No BBC reporting on serious Gaza border incident

 

 

Gaza propaganda on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

h/t FB

The August 8th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 44:25 here) concerning a film about the Gaza Strip. Presenter John Humprys began with some unsurprising framing.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Gaza is by any standards a pretty bleak place to live. Now a documentary called ‘Gaza’, which had its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is about to be released in this country. It’s been called a portrait of Palestinian life in which a series of people talk about how they live amid restrictions and lack of any opportunity. Mishal has spoken to Garry Keane – co-director of the film – and Fadi Hussam Hannona the production manager in Gaza. She asked Garry Keane why he made the film.”

“Mishal” is of course the programme’s own Mishal Husain who has herself produced no small amount of one-sided reporting from or about the Gaza Strip in the past.

Keane: “The film was born out of a conversation I had back in 2012 with the documentary photographer Andrew McConnell. And I had always wanted to meet someone who had access to the Strip, who had an awareness of working on the ground there. And most importantly to meet someone who had shared, you know, shared my sensibilities about the situation there. So when we both realised that we had a passion for the plight of what we consider the trapped and tortured people of Gaza, we decided to combine our skills – as I was a documentary maker, he was a photographer – and join together to make a film about…from the point of view of the ordinary citizens of the Strip. So that conversation happened in 2012 and it took us until 2018 to finish.”

Following a clip from the film Husain introduced its production manager.

Husain: “Fadi Hannona – you were the production manager in Gaza. There are a series of individuals who are seen in the film. A couple of them are teenagers. How did you decide on those people and what was the process of filming on the ground in a place like Gaza like for you?”

Hannona: “Actually I didn’t decide. I understood what the directors wanted. The research took long time thinking about how we can present these characters to the audience in the right, most natural, real way. And look, the media around the world deal with Gaza only as a breaking news so we decide to do something completely different and we did. We have Gaza film now.”

Husain failed to challenge that inaccurate claim and listeners heard another clip from the film before her interviewee continued:

Hannona: “Gaza has been reduced to an image of violence and destruction on the news. OK yes; there’s conflicts…conflict in Gaza but people here just want to live a normal life and people want a chance. So we tried through our film to show the other side of Gaza: the side where the ordinary people are suffering every day.”

Husain: “Have the people featured in it – or indeed anyone in Gaza – got to see it?”

Hannona’s reply did not inform listeners that there is “no cinema in Gaza” any longer because it is ruled by an extremist Islamist terror organisation.

Hannona: “Actually no because there’s no cinema in Gaza and after what happened in Sundance I was very upset back then and I’m still very sad and angry about it. Not only did we miss the festival and the chance to present the film but it’s just another reminder of how wrong it is that we can’t travel. It’s, you know, it’s unjust.”

Husain: “You mean because you didn’t manage to get out of Gaza to go to the Sundance Festival yourself?”

Hannona: “Yeah I lost…yeah I lost [unintelligible] to bring me at Sundance. They close the border one day before I should leave Gaza.”

Listeners were not told to which of Gaza’s borders Hannona was referring or who “they” are. The Sundance Festival took place in the US between January 24th and February 3rd 2019. Egypt had closed its border crossing with the Gaza Strip earlier that month due to Hamas’ take-over of the Rafah Crossing after Palestinian Authority staff had been withdrawn. According to the UN that closure lasted until January 28th. On January 22nd:

“…shots were fired at Israeli troops stationed along the security fence across from the northern Strip. In response, an IDF tank destroyed a nearby observation post belonging to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

On Tuesday afternoon, during a small riot next to the border, another sniper opened fire at a group of soldiers positioned along the border, hitting a Paratroopers Brigade company commander in his helmet, causing light injuries.”

Whether or not that was the reason for a closure of the Erez Crossing is unclear but notably BBC audiences heard nothing about the responsibility of Palestinians for their travel difficulties.

Listeners heard another clip from the film before Husain went on:

Husain: “Garry Keane; do you think it is a fair portrait of Gaza? And I ask that because you talked about ‘trapped and tortured people’. The Hollywood Reporter felt that you airbrushed Hamas and its responsibility out of the story.”

The Hollywood Reporter review of the film includes the following:

“The press notes for Gaza say Hamas is one of the villains of the story, but that’s a ludicrous statement. Hamas may be one of the villains of the actual historical record, but it’s a non-factor in the documentary. Occasionally we pass by a military-affiliated figure with a rocket launcher or a machine gun, but to watch Gaza you’d think such weaponry was only used to be fired in the air when the Israelis free unjustly imprisoned Palestinians.”

Keane: “Ahm…we have been accused on occasion – on very few, you know, very limited occasions – of making a propaganda film for Hamas but anyone who claims that we feel has an agenda to serve. We show Hamas armed military wing on the streets conducting large rallies with enormous rockets on display. A character in the film says that Palestinian problems would be solved if Hamas weren’t there. We don’t serve the views of Hamas or any of their supporters. Our film is all about highlighting the effects of an unjust blockade on the ordinary people of Gaza. You know, a blockade that even the UN constitutes as collective punishment. So I think it’s ridiculous to say that, you know, that just because we disapprove of the actions of the Israeli government and want to highlight that, that we’re accused of racism or…this film is not about race or religion or about propaganda. It’s about human rights violations being perpetrated on two million citizens of the Gaza Strip. You know this is a film about promoting understanding.”

With nothing at all to say about the human rights of the Israeli civilians living for years under the shadow of Hamas terrorism, Husain closed the item there.  

Husain: “Garry Keane and Fadi Hussam Hannona, thank you both.”

Once again BBC Radio 4 has presented a one-sided item which does not even pretend to fully inform audiences but promotes plenty of buzz words and slogans which conform to the corporation’s standard politicised messaging on the Gaza Strip.

BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

h/t SG

When, in the summer of 2014, the BBC began describing the counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip as a “siege” we noted that the definition of that term is “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender” and commented:

“A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them […] in its own hospitals.”

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to promote that Hamas approved terminology and the latest example came in the August 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Food Chain’ (repeated on August 4th) which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“When access to a city is blocked, food supplies quickly plummet, electricity and water become scarce, and people are forced to find new ways to feed themselves. Black markets thrive, and some may risk their lives to feed their families. But a dwindling food supply can also inspire creativity and compassion.

Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.

A journalist tells us how it feels to eat abundantly in a café in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat. An electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a statement of compassion and resistance. And a cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and food are scarce.”

Presenter Emily Thomas opened the programme with a description of a siege and went on with some clear signposting. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Thomas: “Your home is surrounded. Enemy forces are camped outside the city. They’ve cut off electricity and water supplies and sealed off the main roads out. You can’t leave. Nothing and no-one is coming in. But you still have to eat. Could finding a way to eat well become the ultimate act of defiance? […] In this episode people who’ve lived under siege in Aleppo in Syria, Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia and the Gaza Strip are going to reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines where black markets can thrive and people may risk their lives to feed their families. We’ll hear that even as food supplies run out, creativity and compassion can flourish. How we eat behind siege lines can show our humanity and resilience.”

The first part of the programme related to Sarajevo and the last to Aleppo. In the middle (from 11:50) listeners heard a section which began with more inaccurate framing of the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ from Thomas.

Thomas: “Preserving a food culture is perhaps more important than ever when living under siege.”

Voiceover: “We make a whole variety of regional foods and as well as Arabic dishes we make pastries, different kinds of bread, chicken and rice, couscous; everything you’d expect to find in Gaza.”

Thomas: “But how much variety would you expect when more than half of the population is classed as food insecure by the UN? This is Wada Younis [phonetic]: one of a group of women who runs a catering company in Gaza. […] More than half of the territory’s labour force are unemployed so customers are in short supply.”

After her interviewee had explained that her clientele includes “women who don’t have the time to cook at home” and people with “more money”, Thomas told listeners:

Thomas: “A blockade, which Israel says it’s imposed because of security concerns, has severely restricted imports and exports and the movement of people. Gazans are not allowed to farm in the mile-wide Israeli declared buffer zone on the border: an area with some of its best arable land. Add to that an intermittent power supply and almost every household relying on tanker trucks to deliver their water.”

Notably listeners heard no explanation of those “security concerns” and the words Hamas and terrorism did not cross the BBC presenter’s lips. The inconvenient fact that the Gaza Strip also has a land border with Egypt was likewise airbrushed from Thomas’ portrayal.

Imports to the Gaza Strip are of course not “severely restricted” unless they come under the category of weapons or dual-use goods that can be employed for terror purposes and obviously that does not include food. Even anti-Israel NGOs do not claim that the buffer zone (the width of which varies from place to place) is a mile – i.e. 1,609.34 meters – wide. Gaza’s “intermittent power supply” of course has nothing to do with Israeli counter terrorism measures and everything to do with internal Palestinian disputes. In fact Israel continues to supply more than half of the Gaza Strip’s electricity and about 10 million cubic meters of water a year: hardly the actions of a ‘besieging’ force.

Nevertheless, the BBC World Service is apparently quite happy for its audiences to be misled about the reasons for the chronic power shortages in the Gaza Strip because listeners next heard Younis repeat that falsehood.

Voiceover: “The siege causes loads of problems but the main one is electricity. Sometimes there’s no electricity and when we’re baking or preparing dishes it’s a real issue. And the other problem is the financial situation; people can’t afford much and they don’t all have incomes. Raw materials aren’t available and can be really expensive which means we can’t always make a profit. Sometimes we have to sell at cost price to keep our customers.”

Thomas: “Are there some ingredients it’s impossible to get hold of at all?”

Although Younis replied in the affirmative, the rest of her response showed that the real answer to that question is no.

Voiceover: “Yeah – the ingredients for desserts and cakes aren’t really available and if they are, they’re only in a few shops and are really expensive so we can’t afford to make them. And you just can’t get the kind of ovens we need in Gaza. You can only get them outside. And we often have to throw vegetables away because the electricity cuts out and the fridges go off.”

Thomas: “The electricity then poses a real problem. What about the water supply?”

Voiceover: “You can’t drink the water in Gaza or cook with it. It’s not clean. So we have to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking as well as for washing ingredients to avoid contamination.”

Making no effort to inform listeners why residents of the Gaza Strip face chronic shortages of electricity and clean water, Thomas summed up:

Thomas: “So the electricity supply is intermittent, the water supply is difficult too, you can’t get hold of all of the equipment and the ingredients that you need. It sounds really tough to be running a catering company.”

She later went on to claim that “food is limited” in the Gaza Strip.

Thomas: “Do you think that food and enjoyment of food and the sharing of food become more important when you’re living in the middle of a political situation like this and when food is limited?”

In her closing remarks (25:42) Thomas referred to “inhumane situations” despite the fact that no context to the measures imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to combat inhumane terrorism had been provided.

Thomas: “To me their story of food behind siege lines, like the others we’ve heard, shows not just people’s resilience but also the power of food to comfort and prove our humanity when we’re placed in the most inhumane situations.”

So why did the BBC World Service mislead its audiences by inaccurately framing the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ in accordance with Hamas talking points and misinform them with regard to the background to the chronic problems with water and electricity supplies?

At the end of the interview with Wada Younis, listeners heard that it was set up by the BBC’s Gaza Strip office.

Thomas: “Many thanks to our colleague in Gaza Jihad Masharawi for arranging that interview.”

This is of course far from the first time the employees at the BBC’s Gaza office have amplified Hamas propaganda and neither is it the first time that Masharawi has been involved in producing BBC content that promotes the false notion that the Gaza Strip is ‘under siege’ by Israel.

How the BBC can possibly claim that this item meets editorial guidelines on either accuracy or impartiality is unclear.

Related Articles:

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

Stats defy the BBC’s repeated portrayal of a ‘siege’ on Gaza

BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

 

 

BBC WS radio fails to adhere to new editorial guidelines in partisan ‘Great Return March’ report

h/t ED

The closing item in the July 25th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 45:03 here) as follows:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “The Israeli army has instructed its snipers to shoot at the ankles of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border in an effort to reduce deaths. A senior Israeli officer said that the policy of shooting above the knees had led to many being killed. The health authorities in Gaza say that nearly 300 Palestinians have died on the border since the weekly protests began more than a year ago. Over twenty thousand people have been injured. The demonstrations have seen Palestinians massing and marching towards the barrier that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel. We’ve spent the day trying – and failing – to get an interview or even a statement from the Israeli army.”

As we see, almost sixteen months on the BBC is still inaccurately portraying the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests” and “demonstrations” and the participants as “protesters”, while concealing the hundreds of incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, petrol bomb attacks, arson attacks and infiltration attempts which have taken place during those so-called “protests”.  

The fact that around 80% of the fatalities have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations continues to be ignored by the BBC, as does the fact that the “health authorities” it quotes are part of the same terrorist organisation facilitating, organising and financing the violent rioting. Franks made no effort to clarify that more than half of the 20,000 people he described as injured actually suffered temporarily from tear gas inhalation. Neither did his description of IDF “policy” give listeners an accurate account: the actual rules of engagement include firing at the lower half of the body – not just “above the knees” as claimed by Franks.

Franks then introduced the one and only interviewee heard throughout the entire seven minute and 42 second item.

Franks: “Nadav Weiman is a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces. Indeed he was with the special forces sniper team that operated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He’s now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’. What does he make of the news that there’d been a change in the rules of engagement?”

The new BBC editorial guidelines which came into force ten days before this item was aired include the following:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, listeners were told nothing about the highly relevant topic of the political agenda and funding of what Franks blandly described as an “advocacy group” without explaining what it ‘advocates’ for and why. Neither were they told anything of the former Nahal reconnaissance unit soldier’s own record of reliability before the item continued on a less than ideal phone line, in less than ideal English.  

Weiman: “I think it’s quite crazy that for at least a year and three or four months since the right of return marches started to happen and we sent our snipers to stop them, we at ‘Breaking the Silence’ and other organisation and international organisation questioned about those rules of engagement; shooting at unarmed protesters approaching the fence. And everybody in Israel and the IDF told that we have to do it for security, it’s a necessity. And then suddenly this message comes out – barely talked about in Israel – it means one thing: that the IDF admits that the rules of engagement that IDF snipers got on the Gaza Strip border were wrong, were wrong, were absolutely wrong. And it means that we have over 100 Palestinian families that lost their loved ones and the IDF’s answer to that is that we made a mistake. And we have almost the same number of IDF snipers nineteen, twenty years old that they have that image in their head of that bullet hitting that Palestinian man because shooting in Gaza like happen in the last year or so, it’s 60, 70, 80 meters, it is midday. And when a sniper shoot at that kind of a distance in midday you see everything. You see the impact.”

The ‘Great Return March’ events did not just ‘start to happen’: they were planned in advance by a collection of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip and others but Franks made no effort to clarify that to audiences or to challenge the misleading and inaccurate portrayal of the participants as “unarmed protesters”. Weiman’s claim that the story is “barely talked about in Israel” is worth noting because Franks expanded on that claim later in the item.

Franks: “But are you saying that at that sort of range…because I imagine that hitting a target below the knee, particularly one that might well be moving, is difficult and if you are fearing that you’re needing to use that level of force because there is some sort of imminent danger, presumably that just is considerably more tricky than aiming at a – to put it crudely – a greater body area.”

Weiman: “Yes and no because first of all, you know, [in] sniping course and in the army they tell you that a legitimate target is an armed [unintelligible] soldier, an armed Palestinian militant. But then our soldiers are getting a command that the legitimate target is an unarmed man or woman or child approaching the fence. And it’s not endangering Israel: it’s endangering our control over the Palestinian territories and within it the Gaza Strip. First of all that’s confusing and a moving target; yes it’s hard but again those kinds of conditions – midday – it is not that hard for a professional sniper. Me and my team when we shot people in our army service it was 400, 500 meters. That kind of a distance midday with the bullet that you have as a sniper that has a lot more gunpowder, that does a lot more damage, it means that the bullet goes right through the man that you’re shooting at. The entry wound would be like a centimetre but the exit wound would be the size of a fist. So yes, when you shoot to the legs of a man standing 60 meters away from you the injury is very severe and I’m guessing that’s why the IDF changed the rules of engagement. And again stopping a human being so close to you – this is an unarmed protester – so again, live ammunition is the last resort, not the first one.”

Again Franks made no effort to challenge the myth of the “unarmed protester” and neither did he bother to clarify to listeners that Israel does not “control” the Gaza Strip because a complete withdrawal was carried out fourteen years ago.

Franks: “We’ve heard though earlier this year, even before this came out, from the head of the Israeli military’s southern command, the man who’s in charge of the area that includes the Gaza border, Major General Herzi Halevi, saying he wishes that there were, as he put it, better non-lethal weapons which he could use in order to secure the boundary, the border, with Gaza. He says he doesn’t have those and although you say that some of the people who’ve been hit are unarmed protesters, I imagine that one of the arguments that’s been used is that just in the  great crush of people who were moving towards the separation zone between Israel and Gaza, there is a fear that they could provide cover for others who do have more lethal intent.”

Franks is referring to remarks made by Maj Gen Herzi Halevi in May of this year. He did not however bother to inform audiences of additional statements made by the officer at the time.

“Halevi said the Israel Defense Forces maintains strict rules of engagement for soldiers, requiring approval of senior commanders before a shot can be fired, and performs investigations into every bullet fired.

“We don’t have results on every bullet because of the tough conditions [on the border],” he said, referring to the thick smoke, masses of people and general confusion.

“But we have not — I’m not saying not yet, I’m saying not — found even one incident of a soldier [just] deciding to shoot into the crowd, even on tough days,” Halevi said.

According to Halevi, the IDF has made use of the less-lethal weapons already at its disposal, contacted foreign countries to look into purchasing their equipment and attempted to develop new tools to respond to the riots.

These included rubber bullets, which were found to have an insufficient range; a foul-smelling spray known as the Skunk, which didn’t work well in the open fields along the border; and most recently a truck with a high-powered speaker to be used against rioters, which has not been found to be sufficiently effective.

The tear gas, which Israel continues to use along the border, is found to often be ineffective as the breeze coming from the Mediterranean blows it back into Israel.”

That information – as well as the knowledge that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – would have helped listeners put Weiman’s subsequent claims into their correct context.

Weiman: “I’ve got to say Herzi Halevi is right. An army has [a] couple of tools in its toolbox and it’s basically violent intimidation – that’s a military occupation. This is what it means. So my criticism is not against the IDF; it’s against the policy of our government. Governments for the past 52 years decided to control the Gaza Strip by military force which means basically that you don’t have a military solution to a political problem. The IDF is not equipped to stop the protests on the fence. The IDF is equipped to be a stand up army when needs to which means the solution to these kinds of problems is not supposed to be in Herzi Halevi hands. It’s supposed to be in the hand of our government and the people of Israel that’s giving the mandate to that kind of a government. And I’ve got to say that the IDF actually has other tools that they can do. You know we have a siege on Gaza since 2007. You know we are giving IDF soldiers the order to take those firearms and to go over there but there are other non-lethal means in the hands of the IDF.”

Franks did not bother to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “a siege” on the Gaza Strip before he went on to pick up on a claim made by Weiman near the beginning of the interview.

Franks: “This change in the rules of engagement came out a few days ago from the military reporter for Israel’s public radio station, Carmela Menashe. It didn’t get a huge amount of take-up and only belatedly did it get really any kind of attention as far as I’m aware in the Israeli media. I wonder how far that suggests to you that, I mean, although you’ve been speaking very passionately about it, whether this really registers across much of Israel.”

Carmela Menashe Tweeted about that story on July 22nd. On the same day the same information appeared in reports at Ma’ariv, Channel 13 and others following what appears to have been a tour for military journalists of a counter-terrorism training facility. The Jerusalem Post published similar report on July 25th. Channel 13 correspondent Or Heller reported that a senior officer responsible for training snipers deployed to the border with the Gaza Strip told the journalists that in relation to the conclusions drawn from investigations into the incidents along the Gaza border:

“Their [the snipers’] aim is not to kill but to wound and so one of the conclusions reached was about the direction of fire – in the beginning we told the snipers to shoot at the leg and when we saw that could result in death we told them to shoot under the knee. Later on we refined the order to hit the ankle.”

In other words, not only is this item’s claim of a change to the rules of engagement somewhat exaggerated – a more accurate description would be a refinement of orders in relation to a specific location within the general framework of the rules of engagement – but Franks’ claim that the story was not widely reported and only “belatedly” got attention in the Israeli media is completely inaccurate.

Weiman then went on to give an inaccurate portrayal of Israeli society and the Israeli media: in fact barely a day goes by without multiple media reports concerning the Gaza Strip.

Weiman: “After so much time people in Israel are not interested in what is happening over there because Gaza used to be and now and will be our back yard that Israelis don’t want to listen what is going on over there. And I think that the fact that you are interviewing me at the moment is important, you know, because we’re not talking about it in Israel. The international audience should hear about it as well. I wish the journalists inside Israel would do the same thing because this is a burning issue on the table of our government and the responsibility lies on the shoulder of every Israeli about what we’re sending our kids to do over there, our soldiers to do over there. And I’ve got to say it doesn’t really shock me that it didn’t reach the media in Israel because Gaza is such a volatile issue [in] the Israeli society that a lot of people prefer not to touch it.”

Franks closed that long item with yet another totally unsatisfactory portrayal of the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Franks: “Nadav Weiman, formerly with the Israeli Defence Forces, eh…now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’.”

Although the BBC has regularly provided platforms to ‘Breaking the Silence’ in the past, given Franks’ adoption of its PR talking points, his failure to challenge any of Weiman’s inaccuracies and falsehoods and the absence of any mention whatsoever of the words ‘Hamas’ and ‘terrorism’ throughout, one can only wonder whether this sympathetic interview was the result of the BBC contacting that political NGO or the other way round. Either way, BBC World Service radio listeners heard a totally partisan item replete with crucial omission which actively misled them on the topic of the ‘Great Return March’ and more. 

Related Articles:

Breaking the Silence and the British Media (CAMERA)

Breaking the Silence gets failing grade in Channel 10’s fact-check  (CAMERA)

BBC chooses not to report Hamas abuse of medical permits yet again

Readers may recall that just over a month ago listeners to BBC domestic radio’s news and current affairs station, Radio 4, were told by a presenter of the ‘Today’ show (which reaches 6.8 million listeners a week) that:

“The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people…” 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has a history of ignoring stories (see ‘related articles’ below) which explain the need for security checks before permits are given to residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to or through Israel for the purpose of medical treatment. 

Last week another such story emerged when the Israel Security Agency announced the arrest of a Hamas explosives expert who had entered Israel with a humanitarian permit for medical treatment. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“Fadi Abu al-Sabah, a 35-year-old resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was arrested in Taybeh by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police on May 18, 2019.

According to the Shin Bet, he was recruited to set up an explosive manufacturing laboratory in July 2018 by Ashraf Sabah, a 37-year-old Hamas activist from the Gaza Strip who had been released from prison in Israel in 2015 after serving 12 years in prison for his involvement in attacks against IDF forces along the Gaza Strip border and planning other terrorist attacks.
The agency said that he was first approached after Sabah heard that he was in the process of getting a humanitarian permit for medical treatment in the West Bank.

Fadi al-Sabah then secretly met with operatives from Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades and underwent “intensive military training” including training in how to manufacture explosives and explosive charges which he could then teach to Hamas operatives in the West Bank. […]

Al-Sabah “took advantage of the humanitarian permit he received from Israel to enter for medical treatment in Hebron, but in practice did not arrive at the hospital, but he joined forces with elements in Hebron in order to promote terrorist activities and carry out his mission,” the Shin Bet statement said.”

A truly impartial media organisation would of course make sure to report such stories in order to ensure that its audience had been given the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the subject.

Once again, however, the BBC has chosen to ignore a story about Hamas terrorists exploiting the humanitarian aid Israel provides to residents of the Gaza Strip and that not only means that audiences are not fully informed, but also that BBC employees such as Mishal Husain can continue to use their publicly funded platform to promote their chosen brand of journalistic activism unhindered by inconvenient truths.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

At best, BBC portrayal of the regularly reported topic of the water supply in the Gaza Strip is superficial, with no explanation of how the chronic crisis came about. At worst, BBC portrayal of that issue leads audiences to believe that Israel is responsible for the situation.

“There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems…”  Tom Bateman, BBC Radio 1, 14/5/19

“Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.” Daniel Rosney, BBC Radio 1, 14/5/19

“…they don’t even have enough clean water; whether for the patients to drink, for the staff to wash their hands or even to sterilize their instruments.” Mishal Husain, BBC One, 17/1/19

“It’s a densely populated strip of land. A place that the United Nations has warned could be unliveable by 2020. One of the most acute problems is a shortage of clean water – something that Maher Bolbol needs not only at home but for his business. It’s a coffee stall where he makes the equivalent of just £2 a day. Gaza’s economy is at a standstill; badly affected by years of a blockade by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons.” Mishal Husain, BBC One, 16/12/18

“…you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?” Stephen Sackur, BBC World News, 26/11/18

It is nevertheless highly unlikely that any of the BBC Jerusalem bureau staff will be making the two hour journey south to report this story.

“Israel’s national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinkable water into the blockaded enclave.

The new pipeline will enter Gaza at its center, crossing over from the Eshkol Regional Council in Israel to connect to the Strip’s water system […]

There are three pipelines currently carrying freshwater from Israel into Gaza at three sites along the border. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters (2.6 billion gallons) of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, roughly 11.5 million cubic meters (3 billion gallons). […]

Construction work began in recent days, and is being conducted under heavy military guard out of fear that Gazan terror groups will open fire on the crews as the pipeline-laying work nears the border.”

Yes, the story of a country supplying water to a terrorist-run entity which repeatedly attacks its citizens is not straightforward – but it is one which a media organisation with an obligation to “provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding […] of the wider world” should be telling.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

Banal BBC News report from the Gaza Strip fails to inform

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide