Following complaint, BBC Arabic corrects partisan terminology

Readers may recall that on January 2nd the BBC Arabic website published a report on the death of Hilarion Capucci which included less than impartial terminology.bbc-arabic-capucci-art

“In the article’s second paragraph Jerusalem as a whole is described as “the occupied city of Jerusalem” and readers are told that Capucci “was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces on charges of supporting the Palestinian resistance…”. [emphasis added]”

BBC Watch wrote to BBC Arabic on the subject but did not receive a reply. We therefore submitted a complaint which has been upheld.

“Thank you for getting in touch and your complaint about an article published on the BBC Arabic Service website. I forwarded your comments to one of the editors in the Service, Mohamed Yehia. Below is his reply…   […] 

Thank you for your message. After looking into your complaint and reviewing the piece it referred to on our website, the BBC Arabic Service has decided to uphold all three points mentioned in the complaint regarding the language used to describe Jerusalem, the Israeli military and the PLO. We have made the necessary changes to bring the text in line with our editorial guidelines. We apologise for this editorial mistake which we take very seriously and will be addressing it formally with the journalist responsible for publishing the article.

Mohamed Yehia

Editor, BBC Arabic Service

I hope the above apology and correction of the article allays the concerns you have raised.”

The corrected article now reads:

“Capucci was born in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 1922 and was appointed bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the city of Jerusalem in 1965, and in 1974 he was arrested by Israeli security forces on charges of smuggling weapons from Beirut to the benefit of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in his own car.”

However, no footnote has been added to inform readers of the correction and it does not appear on the BBC’s page of “significant corrections“.

BBC Trust: ‘it ain’t what we say; it’s what we meant to say that matters’

h/t Dr CL

The BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s latest publication includes a section which will be of interest to anyone contemplating allocating some of their precious time to making a complaint to the BBC.

On page 75 of that document we learn that the BBC dismissed a complaint concerning an inaccurate statement made by a BBC reporter on the grounds that it wasn’t what she meant to say.

“The complaint concerned the accuracy of a sentence in a news item about an upsurge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Speaking about Jerusalem’s Old City and over general pictures from the Old City showing Muslims and Jews going about their day, the correspondent said:

 “It’s home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims and Jews.””

That report by Orla Guerin from October 9th 2015 can be found here.Guerin filmed 9 10

The statement is obviously inaccurate but the BBC’s response to the complaint was as follows:

“BBC Audience Services raised the complainant’s concern with BBC News:

“They note your points and accept that [the reporter] shouldn’t have said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was sacred to both Jews and Muslims. She meant to say the compound (which includes the Mosque and the Dome of the Rock).” Audience Services said they had nothing further to add and that they did not believe the complaint had raised an issue that justified further investigation.”

Apparently BBC Audience Services also did not see the need for a correction to be made. Unhappy with that response, the complainant pursued the issue.

“The complainant appealed to the BBC Trust reiterating the points he had made. He rejected the explanation given by BBC News, asserting that even as amended it was wrong:

“The … response that [the correspondent] intended to say Al Aqsa Compound is unacceptable. Accuracy demands the description/name used should have been that historically used for many hundreds of years which is extensively documented, as Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif).”

He said the description the correspondent used was the one favoured by the PLO and was evidence of bias.”

Readers will no doubt recall that in November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document (since removed from its website) instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. 

The BBC Trust Adviser advised against the complainant’s request for a review on the following grounds:

“The Adviser took the following factors into account:

  • the BBC said that the reporter had used the wrong wording: it was a slip of the tongue and not intentional
  • this was a passing reference to one of the flashpoints in the ongoing conflict
  • the majority of the report concentrated on a number of incidents – which had occurred elsewhere in Jerusalem and the occupied territories – and speculated that “lone wolf” stabbings of Jewish civilians might be the beginning of a third intifada

The Adviser reached her decision for the following reasons:

  • whilst the statement, that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred to Jews, was incorrect, the audience would not have taken the statement literally and would have been unlikely to conclude that a mosque was sacred to Jews
  • the main point of the reporter’s reference here was to communicate to the audience that the area was sacred to both Judaism and Islam
  • this was achieved using unambiguous language which stated simply that it was considered sacred to both religions: neither view was favoured over the other, they were both given equal weight
  • the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated very close to, and on the same raised platform as, the Dome of the Rock (under which the ruins of the two Jewish temples are assumed to be buried – although there was ongoing debate about this) [emphasis added]
  • the audience would not have expected nor needed more details on this point in order to reach an informed understanding about the main focus of the programme
  • the audience were not therefore likely to have been misled on a material fact.”

One can only hope that the bolded statement above does not suggest that the BBC subscribes to or accommodates the narrative of ‘Temple denial’ propagated by some PA officials and others.

The complainant then appealed that decision by the Adviser and an ESC panel subsequently rejected his appeal.

“Trustees agreed that if they took this matter on appeal they were not likely to uphold a breach of the Editorial Guidelines given that:

  • the BBC had said it was the wrong wording, i.e. that it was inaccurate
  • an apology was given. The BBC had said “we’re sorry for this error”
  • the matter had been resolved. […]

Trustees decided not to take the appeal, on the basis that it would not be appropriate, proportionate or cost-effective since there was no reasonable prospect of the appeal succeeding.”

Surely the most cost-effective way of dealing this complaint would have been for the BBC to issue a prompt correction nine months ago when the clearly inaccurate statement was made.  Nevertheless, the valuable lesson we learn from this case is that what a BBC journalist later claims to have meant to have said – but didn’t – is grounds for the rejection of a straightforward complaint concerning an obviously inaccurate statement.

Is it really any wonder that members of the public find the BBC complaints system so ‘through the looking glass’ frustrating?

Related Articles:

Orla Guerin tells BBC audiences Al Aqsa Mosque ‘sacred to Jews’

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

The Temple, the Times and the BDS Supporter (CAMERA) 

BBC Trust rejects appeals on Willcox ‘Jewish hands’ complaints

Eighteen months after the original broadcast, the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has now published its findings concerning complaints about remarks made by Tim Willcox during a broadcast from Paris after the terror attacks at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hypercacher supermarket in January 2015.Willcox

Readers will no doubt recall that in response to complaints, the BBC originally claimed that Willcox’s subsequent apology on Twitter sufficed. Having received a large number of complaints, the BBC then decided to consolidate them. Concurrently, additional complaints made to OFCOM were rejected.

In February 2015 the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit provisionally rejected the consolidated complaint, sparking condemnation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In May 2015 the ECU finalised its decision.

On June 16th 2016 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published the outcome of appeals against that decision. A summary can be found on page 4 and the full decision is on page 11 here.

Unsurprisingly, the ESC rejected all the appeals and the convoluted ‘rationale’ behind that decision raises issues in itself. [all emphasis added]

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“Given the apology by [the presenter] at the time, it is clear we accept that the question itself was somewhat clumsy, and the phrase ‘Jewish hands’ might not have been chosen in a scripted context, given the specific point behind the question was about Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. We note the earlier findings that this phrase, while clumsy and insufficiently specific, was not a breach of the BBC’s guidelines given the regular conflation of Israel and Jewish by critics of Israel’s policies, and the use by some of the phrase ‘Jewish state’ to describe Israel.” […]

The Committee did not uphold the points of appeal, for the following reasons:

  • whilst some of the audience clearly found it both harmful and offensive to conflate Jewish and Israeli, the perspective was clearly attributed to critics of Israel
  • it was posited neither as the presenter’s view nor as a valid position. The presenter’s remarks were positing a reason the perpetrators might have used or others might use to try to justify or legitimise their actions in making Jews a target of the attack. The Committee did not accept the suggestion that the presenter had been seeking to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel
  • while it is abhorrent to murder Parisian Jews as a response to the actions of the State of Israel, and the actions of the State of Israel cannot be used to excuse or legitimise the events in Paris or to connect Parisian Jews to the State, it is evidently a justification used by those who perpetrate such acts of violence
  • physical attacks in Paris on Jewish people and their institutions during the war in Gaza a few months prior to the January massacres are evidence that the presenter’s observation was factually based
  • there have been comments by Jewish community leaders in France and the UK acknowledging that the war in Gaza was the motivation for anti-Semitic attacks […]
  • the conflation of Jewish and Israeli was duly accurate and editorially justified in this particular instance: it was clearly attributed, well-sourced, based on sound evidence, and was adequate and appropriate to the output.The Committee acknowledged the sensitivity of the subject matter and the genuine offence felt by some listeners. However, Trustees considered it important to note that the Editorial Guidelines permit the legitimate use of challenging material and allow reporters and presenters, where appropriate, to raise difficult issues in accordance with generally accepted standards. Trustees considered that, although the presenter had acknowledged that some viewers may have been offended by his choice of language, for which he had apologised promptly, given all the circumstances, his phraseology did not breach the Harm and Offence Guidelines.The Committee concluded that the BBC had demonstrated a clear editorial purpose in positing a connection between Jews “being the targets now” and “many critics of Israel’s policy” who would “suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands”.”

In other words, the BBC Trust appears to be claiming that because anti-Israel activists – and murderous antisemites – use the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘Jewish’ interchangeably, it is legitimate for it to adopt the same language and that the use of such language is legitimate according to its editorial guidelines. One can of course only speculate whether or not the BBC would find it similarly appropriate to adopt and amplify the language of ‘justification’ used by those perpetrating acts of violence against, for example, the gay community.

The ESC likewise rejected appeals concerning the inadequacy of Willcox’s Twitter apology and the absence of any apology broadcast on the station which aired the remarks.

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“It is important to note that far from failing to recognise the issue, action was taken soon after the interview took place with [the presenter] accepting that the question he posed had been poorly phrased. He gave a clear apology the following morning via the social media network Twitter… This apology was also provided to media organisations by the BBC Press Office.”

The Committed noted the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit at Stage 2 that the Twitter apology was sufficient because the presenter’s comments did not constitute a serious breach of editorial standards which would require a formal public correction and apology.

The Committee concluded that as the presenter’s comments had not breached the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence, the Twitter apology for the poor phrasing and its wider circulation in the media via the BBC Press Office, was adequate and appropriate.”BBC Trust

Notably, this is not the first time that the self-regulating BBC Trust has rejected appeals concerning remarks made by this reporter, despite their having been flagged up by expert bodies dealing with antisemitism: the CST and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

It is of course also remarkable that the BBC Trust (along with OFCOM, as cited in this document) is apparently convinced that it possesses the authority and expertise to make judgements what is – or in this case, what is not – antisemitic discourse. And that despite the fact that both OFCOM and the BBC have yet to inform their funding public which accepted definition of antisemitism – if any – they use as the basis for such decisions. 

 

 

 

 

BBC responds to a complaint about inaccuracy with more inaccuracy

Readers may recall that back in February, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s culture show ‘Front Row’ were inaccurately informed that:Front Row 22 2

“…recently the [Israeli] culture minister banned a novel about a mixed Israeli-Palestinian relationship…ahm…Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Border Life’.”

That was not the first – or last – time that BBC audiences had been given inaccurate information concerning that book (see related articles below) and so BBC Watch submitted a complaint on the topic.

The initial response received failed to address the points raised.

“Samira asked AB Yehoshua to comment on his own statement that was reported widely in the media when he referred to a ban of the book by Dorit Rabinyan called Gader Haya, (Borderlife in English). He expressed the opinion that politics and culture need to be separated and that attention needed to be paid to human experiences. He further highlights this is why he made the lead character in his new novel ‘The Extra’ a woman who did not have children, but that his work is always related to politics by others. The focus was on the impact of politics on literature.

That said, we appreciate you feel that more detail could have been given to give context to the comments made by AB Yehoshu [sic] in realtion [sic] to the book.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch therefore submitted a follow-up complaint which received the following no less unsatisfactory reply.

“Thank you for contacting us again regarding Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ on 22nd February.

We’re sorry to hear you feel our previous response didn’t address your concerns over the availability of the book ‘Border Life’.

We forwarded your concerns to the production team who explained the following:

“This was a discussion that wasn’t specifically about the Rabinyan case – it was about another author’s work and the discussion strayed into political interference in Israeli culture. As such, Samira used the shorthand “banned” in reference to the book. The book was removed from the school syllabus, but in a discussion as wide ranging as this, the point about political involvement in arts and culture still stands whether the book has been banned from society at large, or removed from the school syllabus. The decision to interfere in the distribution of this book was made by, or under pressure from, politicians. That was the point the interviewee was making and to which the presenter responded.”” [emphasis added]

To recap the facts:

The book ‘Borderlife’ was not “banned” in Israel and is freely available to all would-be purchasers in book shops. Neither was it “removed from the school syllabus” – because it was never on it. The decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by a professional pedagogic body – not “by, or under pressure from, politicians”.

This second-stage response clearly shows that neither BBC Complaints nor the production team of the programme concerned is familiar with the facts behind this story and it is therefore little wonder than the fiction the BBC began promoting at the end of December 2015 has taken on a life of its own.

BBC Watch is of course pursing the matter further.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’

BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’

An upcoming event for UK readers

UK based readers wishing to improve their ability to make effective complaints to the media may be interested in an upcoming seminar organised by UK Lawyers for Israel.complaint pic

The seminar is entitled “Media regulation, complaints, defamation and misleading advertising” and it will be held on Tuesday, April 5th 2016 from 6-8pm in Central London.

UKLFI directors Mark Lewis and Jonathan Turner will cover complaints and other relevant areas in an interactive session, with questions and discussion being encouraged throughout.  Full materials will be provided to all participants.

The seminar is free to attend but places are limited so those interested in taking part should register at the e-mail address caroline.kendal@uklfi.com as soon as possible. 

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

BBC coverage of the terror attack in Duma last summer and the subsequent investigation has thrown a spotlight on the differing terminology employed to describe the suspects in that case and other terrorists.

There are two aspects to that differing terminology, one of which is the use of the word ‘terrorists’ – a term which is never used by the BBC to describe Palestinian attackers. As we noted here last month:

“The BBC’s description of detainees in cases such as the murders of three sleeping members of the Dawabshe family in the arson attack in Duma on July 31st 2015 as “suspected terrorists” is of course accurate. Despite the fact that this article confines itself to noting “international condemnation” of the Duma attack and even amplifies baseless accusations concerning the investigation into the attack from a family member, such wording appropriately reflects the Israeli government’s classification of the attack from the very beginning.

However, the people who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they too slept in 2011 and the people who murdered the parents of the Henkin family in October 2015 and the people who murdered early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014 and the people who murdered Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 (in an attack now mentioned in this report but not reported in English by the BBC at the time) are also terrorists.

The trouble is that the BBC does not use the term terrorists to describe them or the perpetrators of countless other attacks against Israelis to its audiences. It is high time that it explained to its funding public why that is the case.”

The second difference is the specification of the suspects’ religion – as noted here last August in relation to a radio report which referred to “Jewish terror attacks”.

“Notable too is Dymond’s use of the word ‘Jewish’ before the phrase ‘terror attacks’. We do not of course see the comparable term ‘Muslim terror attacks’ used in BBC coverage: the prevailing term is ‘Islamist’ and recognized terror organisations such as Hamas are euphemistically described as “Palestinian militant Islamist groups”.”

A member of the public who questioned the BBC’s unusual reference to the religion of the suspects in one of its reports on the investigation into the Duma attack received a reply from BBC Complaints which includes the following:Duma attack indictments

“There were two references to the religion of suspects in this article. The first was in a line reporting how:

Investigations have focused on young Jewish extremists, based largely in the occupied West Bank.

During the investigation into the Duma attack, Israeli leaders publicly and specifically referred to the suspected culprits as “Jewish”.

On 15 October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters: “Sometimes it is hard, as in this single case, to find the Jewish terrorists, but we will”.

Likewise Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio on 15 December that the Duma firebombing was “clearly a Jewish attack.”

A second line in the story referred to how:

It also prompted the Israeli government to approve the use of administrative detention – a procedure under which a military court can order suspects to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial – for Jewish terror suspects.

This was in reference to the fact that the Israeli Defence Minister issued a statement after the security cabinet (of which he is a part) approved the use of administrative detention against Jewish suspects, in which he said:

“The cabinet made important decisions yesterday, including my recommendation to use administrative detention against Jewish terrorists and fanatics.”

I hope you’ll find this response useful in explaining our references to “Jewish” and thank you once again for contacting us with your views.”

So what the BBC is actually saying here is that it makes use of the term “Jewish terrorists” – including not in direct quotes and in apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ – because Israeli officials use such wording.

However, the rub lies in the fact that Palestinian officials will never be found using comparable terminology to describe their own citizens who carry out attacks against Israelis and so the BBC will not apply similar practice when reporting those stories.

The obvious outcome of that is a double standard according to which the accuracy of the terminology used by the BBC is dependent upon the honesty of the government or authority concerned – and that is clearly a big problem for a media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

BBC Trust’s ESC rejects complaint about Tim Willcox’s ‘Jewish faces’ remark

A complaint concerning a BBC programme which was flagged up in the CST’s report on Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2014 has been rejected by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.BBC Papers on website

A link to the original programme can be found below:

More BBC promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope

The BBC’s initial – and not dissimilar – response to complaints about the programme is documented here:

BBC doubles down on presenter’s ‘mansion tax’ comment

The ESC’s full decision can be found on pages 17 to 23 inclusive here with a summary appearing on pages 6 and 7. Whilst the full text of the original complaint is not available, some of the content of the decision appears – to put it politely – to have missed the point.

“The Committee concluded that:

 A reference by the presenter to ‘Jewish faces’ was not anti-Semitic in the context of a discussion about prominent Jewish people (donors to the Labour party). The presenter had been struggling for a phrase to sum up the group of people they were discussing in the heat of the live discussion, and had come up with Jewish “faces”. Trustees noted that the word “face” or “faces” was in common use as a synonym for a prominent person or people. Trustees considered it was clear that this was the meaning the presenter had intended the audience to take and that the potentially offensive meaning understood by the complainant, suggestive of a negative stereotype of Jewish facial features, would not have been intended; nor would the majority of the audience have interpreted it in that sense.”

The real significance of this ruling, however, is found in the fact that the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee obviously considers itself to have sufficient authority, knowledge and expertise to determine what is – or in this case, what is not – antisemitism even though one of Britain’s leading expert bodies on that form of racism has classified the programme concerned as an example of antisemitic discourse.

 

 

Essay on ‘rationalising terror’ notes BBC reporter’s Paris remark

Readers will no doubt recall the statement made by BBC reporter Tim Willcox whilst interviewing a participant in a rally in Paris following the terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in January 2015.Willcox

“Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

The BBC’s response to complaints on that issue began with the claim that an apology on Twitter sufficed, proceeded with a decision to handle the high volume of complaints en masse and culminated in their rejection. The head of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit informed complainants that:

“It’s clear from a number of the comments I received that I understood the first of the summarised points of complaint (“That the question put by Tim Willcox to an interviewee was misleading in that it linked the Paris killings in a kosher supermarket with events in the Middle East”) in a different sense from some who complained.

What I had in mind was a direct causal relationship between particular recent events in the Middle East and the Paris killings, and it was on that basis that I wrote “Nothing in the day’s coverage of events in Paris suggested a direct link between events in the Middle East and those killings, and I can’t see that such a suggestion can readily be derived from what Mr Willcox said”.

It has been put to me, and I have accepted, that Mr Willcox’s words suggested a broader link between perceptions of Palestinian suffering and the incidence of anti-Semitic incidents.

However, that doesn’t alter the outcome because I don’t think suggesting a link of that kind can be viewed as a breach of editorial standards (or even as particularly controversial, considering the correlation between anti-Semitic incidents and Israeli actions with an adverse impact on Palestinians which has been noted by organisations such as the Community Security Trust).”

British writer and journalist Nick Cohen – who produced some typically insightful comment on the incident at the time – has now returned to that topic in an article published at Standpoint magazine.

“An associate of the Islamist gang that pumped bullets into the staff of Charlie Hebdo also took hostages at the Hypercacher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in the 20th arrondissement. There he murdered Philippe Braham, a sales executive, Yohan Cohen, a student, Yoav Hattab, another student, and François-Michel Saada, a pensioner. The dead had provided no “rationale” and created no “particular sense of wrong”. They were ordinary citizens, shopping for food, as we all do.

But when [John] Kerry and those like him looked at their bodies closely perhaps they noticed that appearances deceived. They were not like the rest of us, after all. Hypercacher was a kosher supermarket and the dead were Jews. Few people were prepared to say what they were thinking openly, but a BBC reporter, Tim Willcox, showed no restraint. A Jewish woman in the crowd near the crime scene told him, “The situation is going back to the days of 1930s in Europe. Jews are the target now.” Willcox could not let the suggestion that Jews were innocent victims go unchallenged. “Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands,” he said, interrupting her.

If you were a Jew, it was Israel’s fault that you were murdered, and possibly your fault too for not trying to pass as a gentile, or avoiding synagogues, and Jewish shops and restaurants, or changing your name and ditching your kippah. 

If you are a freethinker satirising Islam, you are a “this” and there is a “rationale” to your murder. If you are Jewish, you are a “that” and there is a “rationale” to your murders too.”

Read the full article – titled “Shame On The Liberals Who Rationalise Terror” – here.

 

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

Whilst interviewing the then Israeli minister Danny Danon for the July 14th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’, presenter Razia Iqbal inaccurately stated that Israel is not under threat from Iran.Newshour 14 7

Razia Iqbal [interrupts]: “What does that mean? What does that mean, Mr Danon, keeping all options on the table?”

Danny Danon: “It means that we do have the capability to defend ourselves. We understand that we will have to count only on ourselves…”

Razia Iqbal [interrupts]: “But you’re not under…you’re not under threat by Iran. Nobody in Iran has threatened you for a very long time. You’re harking back to a time when President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad threatened Israel directly.”

That statement was the subject of a complaint made by a member of the public which has been upheld by the Editorial Complaints Unit.

Finding complaint Razia Iqbal

How the BBC World Service intends to relieve listeners to that programme five months ago of the misleading impression created by Razia Iqbal’s inaccurate statement is of course unclear.  

BBC Complaints conflates opinion with facts

As readers may recall, during an edition of BBC One’s ‘This Week’ broadcast on November 19th, studio guest George Galloway was given an unfettered platform for the promotion of inaccurate information concerning Israel.This Week Galloway on HP

“Along with his guests Michael Portillo and Labour’s Liz Kendall, Andrew Neil sat in total silence as veteran anti-Israel activist Galloway opportunistically promoted the blatant lie that Israel employs a ‘shoot to kill’ policy to BBC audiences.

In addition to Neil’s failure to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy – which state “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately” – by correcting the materially misleading claim from Galloway immediately after it was made, the BBC has further promoted that uncorrected clip for view by audiences who did not see the programme’s original broadcast.”

The response received from the BBC Complaints department by a member of the public who submitted a complaint on that topic includes the following:

“We understand that you were angered by comments made by George Galloway regarding Israel having a ‘shoot to kill policy’ as you believe he should have been challenged on this statement.

Although we appreciate your feelings, the fact is that George Galloway is well known for his views on Israel and the Middle East and it would be reasonably be expected for him to make his strident views on the situation known to viewers, however, we do recognise that you feel Andrew should have interjected at that point regarding his remarks.

Having watched the discussion on your behalf, George Galloway was asked what he thought about Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the planned attacks on Syria. Mr Galloway made his views about the situation in a strident and articulate manner, clearly setting out his own views and opinions. We do not make editorial comment or judgement on the views expressed by contributors to our programmes, and our aim is simply to provide enough information for viewers to make up their own minds.

The show’s policy is to invite guests from all political persuasions to get a fully rounded view on the day’s issues, in this instance the vote on Syria.”

George Galloway is indeed “well known for his views on Israel and the Middle East” and that should have been all the more reason for the programme’s presenter to be alert to the probability of attempts by his interviewee to exploit the platform provided for the promotion of gratuitous, opportunistic and off-topic falsehoods.

Despite that, BBC Complaints now defends the presentation of inaccurate information to audiences by disingenuously claiming that a statement presented as though it were fact was actually an opinion – and hence BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy do not apply.