BBC corrects ‘angel of peace’ claim after two complaints

Last month we noted that a BBC News website article promoted inaccurate information which the BBC itself had already clarified twenty months earlier.

“The consequence of that failure to clarify inaccurate information in a timely manner to both BBC audiences and BBC staff was apparent in a report which appeared on the BBC News website on January 14th 2017 under the title “Mahmoud Abbas: US embassy move to Jerusalem would hurt peace“. There, the ‘angel of peace’ theme – which the BBC itself reported as being misleading twenty months ago – is repeated.”

angel-of-peace-para

After having had one complaint on the matter rejected, Mr Stephen Franklin submitted a second complaint to the BBC to which he received a response that includes the following:abbas-us-embassy-art

“I’m sorry that our initial response did not address your concerns. After considering them further we’ve since amended this piece to now explain that:

Israeli relations with the Vatican were further strained after it was reported that Pope Francis described President Abbas as “an angel of peace” during the canonisation ceremony of two Palestinian nuns at the Vatican in 2015. The Vatican later clarified that this was an encouragement to Mr Abbas rather than a description of him.

We’ve also added correction note at the bottom of the article outlining this change.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and please accept our apologies both for the inclusion of this error and that it wasn’t recognised when you first complained.”

correction-angel-of-peace-art

footnote-angel-of-peace-art

The changes made to the article can be seen here.

BBC News website corrects Carmel fire inaccuracy

As noted here previously, multiple versions of a BBC News website article concerning the forest fires in Israel which ran on November 24th and 25th included an inaccurate portrayal of the number of people who died in the fire on Mount Carmel in 2010.haifa-fires-art

“All versions of the written report – which is currently headlined “Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa” – inform BBC audiences that:

“In 2010, 42 people died in a fire on Mount Carmel, just south of Haifa.”

In fact, as the state ombudsman’s report into that disaster and many additional sources note, the number of fatalities was forty-four.”

Following communication from BBC Watch that inaccuracy was corrected.  

correction-carmel-fire

 

BBC News amends misleading portrayal of Israeli construction

Earlier this week we noted that a report titled “US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal” which was published on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages on September 13th presented an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of Israeli construction. As was observed at the time:military-aid-art

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Following communication from BBC Watch, the version of the article currently available online has now been amended.

The passage which previously stated “Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” now reads as follows:

“Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

The sentence which previously read “Last month, the White House warned that the construction of settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” has also been amended:

“Last month, the White House warned that the construction in settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

[All emphasis added]

The amendments to the article can be viewed here.

Unfortunately, no footnote was added to explain the changes made and the continued absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website means that those who read the report in the week before it was amended will not be aware that they received inaccurate and misleading information.

BBC Radio 4 programme edited following BBC Watch complaint

Back in July the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld a complaint submitted by BBC Watch which had previously been twice rejected by the corporation’s complaints department. The complaint concerned the inaccurate claim that the book ‘Borderlife’ by Dorit Rabinyan had been ‘banned’ by an Israeli minister. 

Borderlife ECU

As was noted here at the time:Front Row 22 2

“During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.”

We can now report that the programme concerned has been edited and the recording available online no longer includes the inaccurate claim (previously from 27:03) that the book ‘Borderlife’ was ‘banned’ by the Israeli Minister for Culture. At the beginning of the recording an insert advises listeners of the edit and the webpage now includes a footnote with the URL of the ECU decision.

front-row-footnote

The action taken by the ‘Front Row’ team is of course welcome and appropriate: new listeners to the recording will now not be misled by inaccurate information. However, it remains highly unlikely that audience members who heard the original broadcast nearly seven months ago would at this juncture return to that webpage and see that a correction has been made.

Related Articles:

How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom

BBC responds to a complaint about inaccuracy with more inaccuracy

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

Correction secured to BBC Persian article about Elie Wiesel

At the beginning of July we noted here that a BBC Persian article concerning the death of Elie Wiesel included an inaccurate claim.BBC Persian Wiesel art

“The final paragraph of that article tells readers that in 2014, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Elie Wiesel accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. A translation of that paragraph (confirmed by a professional Farsi translator) reads as follows:

“Two years ago, Elie Wiesel, together with 300 Holocaust survivors, criticised Israel because of its attack on Gaza, and accused the Israeli government of genocide.”

Elie Wiesel made no such accusation and did not put his name to that statement advertised by IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) in the New York Times. In fact, the IJAN statement included direct criticism of Wiesel and was made in response to an earlier advertisement criticising Hamas’ use of human shields which was put out by Wiesel himself.”

We also noted that:

“The BBC should be familiar with the facts behind that story: after all, it took it upon itself to amplify that IJAN statement extensively at the time.”

Following communication from BBC Watch, that paragraph has been amended and a footnote has been added to the article which reads:

“Clarification: In the first version of this article it was written by mistake that Elie Wiesel was a signatory to a letter that accused the government of Israel with genocide. Hereby the mistake is corrected.” 

 

BBC Earth corrects ‘border of Palestine’ inaccuracy

As was noted here a few days ago, on August 10th BBC audiences were inaccurately told that the Dead Sea lies on the border of a country called Palestine.

Following communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and the passage which previously stated “Few are more famous than the Dead Sea, nestled on the borders of Jordan, Israel and Palestine” now reads as follows:

BBC Earth correction

We commend BBC Earth for that quick correction.

Related Articles:

BBC Earth article contravenes style guide with inaccurate terminology

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

As readers may recall, since late last year various BBC radio programmes have misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

With previous efforts to alert BBC World Service programme makers to the inaccuracy having proved fruitless, after the February 22nd broadcast of ‘Front Row’ on Radio 4, BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the following inaccurate claims made in that programme:

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

As readers may recall, the complaint was twice rejected by the BBC Complaints department, with the second response including the programme production team’s claim that:

“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 syllabusThe 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]

As we noted at the time:

“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”.”

BBC Watch pursued the matter further and the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld our complaint, as is now noted on the BBC website’s ‘corrections and clarifications’ page.

Borderlife correction

The ECU’s reporting of its findings includes a section titled ‘Further action’.

Borderlife ECUGiven the production team’s above response to the second stage complaint, one must obviously question whether in fact it is in a position to “ensure that presenters are appropriately briefed”.Front Row 22 2

During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.

One cannot but question the efficacy – and commitment to transparency – of a publicly funded complaints system which apparently does not include a mechanism to ensure that audiences are automatically informed in the most efficient manner possible of the fact that they were given misleading information, rather than the outcome being dependent upon decisions made by individual departments. 

 

Minor amendment to BBC report on gay pride murder sentencing

As was noted here on June 26th, a BBC News report from that day concerning the sentencing of Yishai Schlissel, who was previously convicted of the murder of one person and the attempted murders of six others at the Jerusalem gay pride march in 2015, failed to provide audiences with the full story.Schlissel sentencing art

Following communication from BBC Watch, one sentence in the report was amended. The original article stated:

“A police investigation last year called for the removal of six senior Israeli officers over the attack.”

That sentence – which did not inform readers that the recommendation was implemented – was later amended to read:

“Several senior Israeli police officers were sanctioned or reassigned following the attack.”

However, the report was not amended to include details of the full sentence handed down to Schlissel: life imprisonment and 31 additional years, plus an order to pay damages of 2.6 million shekels to the families of his victims.

Related Articles:

Incomplete BBC portrayal of sentence for gay pride murderer

BBC corrects inaccuracies in reports on Israel’s coalition government

As was noted here last week, an article which appeared on the BBC News website on May 20th inaccurately described the Yisrael Beiteinu party as bringing six (rather than five) additional Knesset seats into the coalition government.correction

An additional article published on May 25th also inaccurately described the new coalition as having 67 seats in the Knesset rather than 66.

Following communication from BBC Watch both those articles have been amended – see here and here.

The footnote added to the May 20th article reads:

correction coalition art 1

The footnote added to the report from May 25th reads:

correction coalition art 2

Related Articles:

BBC audiences get a blinkered look into Israeli politics

BBC bungles basics in report on Israel’s new coalition

Inaccurate synopsis to BBC report amended

As was documented here a few days ago, the synopsis to a filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 15th inaccurately described its subject matter as follows:

“The real life story of the Palestinian doctor who lost his children in Israeli air-strikes has been turned into a play.” [emphasis added]

Following contact from BBC Watch that synopsis was amended and it now opens:

“The real life story of the Palestinian doctor who lost his children when Israeli shells fell on his home in Gaza, has been turned into a play.”

obrien report