Radio 4 listeners fed breakfast-time Hizballah propaganda

The BBC editorial guidelines that came into effect in mid-July include the following in the section concerning ‘mandatory referrals’ relating to coverage of ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’:

“11.2.6 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror, to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

Hizballah was designated in its entirety by the UK earlier this year and so we must presume that an interview with the terrorist organisation’s deputy leader by Jeremy Bowen that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on December 6th (as well as a longer filmed version which was promoted by BBC News) was approved in advance by the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan.

The question that therefore arises is of what journalistic value was that specially approved interview? Did it provide BBC audiences with “a range and depth of analysis and content” which could not otherwise be achieved and did it contribute to their being better “informed citizens”?

‘Today’ co-presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 2:36:22 here) with a pinch of Iranian propaganda.

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

Husain: “Protests in Iraq, Lebanon and in Iran where Iranian state television has said that those killed by security forces during last month’s mass protests against the petrol price rise were thugs and rioters. Our Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen joins us now. What’s your reading of those protests, Jeremy?”

Bowen: “Well Mishal, you know, what’s interesting is that there are others who say that they weren’t thugs and rioters but they were protesting and they started protesting as well against the regime and that is why the security forces opened fire in the way that they did and killed so many people. Now it’s clear that the Iranians have got a big set of problems at the moment. Ah…the kind of thing we’ve been talking about at home. Maximum pressure as Trump calls them, American sanctions and also what’s important for them is they project power through their allies and in Iraq and Lebanon where there’ve been demonstrations – and those are generally regarded as Iranian allies – many people there see Iran as part of their problems.”

It is not clear what Bowen intended to communicate with that reference to “the kind of thing we’ve been talking about at home” and his description of Lebanon – rather than Hizballah – as an Iranian ally clearly does not enhance audience understanding of the topic.

Bowen: “It’s really hard for us to try and work out what’s going in Iran [laughs] partly because they won’t let us in there. Ahm…so one good way of doing it is talking to their friends like the organisation Hizballah who are in Lebanon and they are Iranian proteges but they’re very powerful as well. One of Israel’s big enemies along with Iran itself. Now I’ve just come back from Beirut and while I was there I talked to the deputy leader of Hizballah who’s a man called Naim Qassem. He’s late 60s, he wears robes, he’s got a white turban, gives the impression of being very shrewd actually, and intelligent and strong views about the region. And he doesn’t talk much so it was a good opportunity to talk about the Middle East and they’re uncomfortable about what’s happening. They like the status quo. So anyway I started off by asking Naim Qassem of Hizballah about the crisis in Lebanon.”

Obviously any interview with a representative of a terrorist organisation needs to be very carefully edited and presented so that audiences can put its inevitable propaganda into the appropriate context. Bowen’s sartorially focused introductory portrayal of Qassem clearly did not provide any meaningful background information about the terror group’s record or agenda. Neither were listeners given sufficient information about the current political crisis in Lebanon before they were exposed to Qassem’s allegations.  

Qassem [voiceover]: “Of course the situation in Lebanon is very dangerous. Consequently you can see how the economic situation is collapsing. And you can see how people are suffering from the devaluation of the Lebanese currency. We cannot accept things to continue like this. So for this reason we said very clearly that the government has to be formed in order to put an end to this collapse and decline. And unfortunately there are some who are trying to cause damage to Lebanon and especially the United States. And every two or three days the US Secretary of State Pompeo makes statements and says he doesn’t want to see Hizballah in the government. And Hizballah is part of the people. So let America put a stop to its meddling.”

Bowen: “Now Secretary Pompeo in the US, like the British government, regard your organisation as a terrorist organisation. That’s why he says the things that he says.”

Qassem: “What concerns us is how our people view us. We as Hizballah in the minds of our people, we are a resistance that liberated the land. A party which serves the interests of the people and also serves for a better future for the people. And because America and Britain support Israel which is an occupying power, a power of aggression, a criminal power, they are taking political stance against Hizballah. If they label us as terrorists this doesn’t mean that their designation is right. We consider America to be the leading terrorist entity because it does not serve the interests of the people. The same goes for Britain as well.”

Bowen made no effort to inform listeners of the real background to the designation of Hizballah by the US, the UK and other nations and bodies or to provide factual information concerning the threats posed to Israel by Iran and Hizballah, including their military entrenchment in Syria.

Bowen: “You’re part of a coalition led by Iran that faces off against Israel and by implication against the United States as well. Iran is in real trouble at the moment, isn’t it? There are anti-Iran demonstrations in Iraq, there is feeling against Iran in this country and there’ve been big demonstration inside…demonstrations inside Iran itself. Your friends in Iran are in trouble, aren’t they?”

Qassem: “First of all we don’t deny that we are part of an axis led by Iran because Iran advocates the causes of the people’s rights and also supports the resistance. It believes in justice. It believes in the liberation of Palestine. Now, when it comes to the problems within Iran because of the decision to increase the price of gasoline, this is a domestic matter related to Iran.”

Audiences should of course have been informed at this point that in Hizballah-speak “the liberation of Palestine” means the annihilation of Israel.

Bowen: “Now with your allies in Iran you have amassed an enormous arsenal of rockets and missiles including guided missiles that presumably you’d use in a war with Israel. Under what circumstances would you use that arsenal of weapons?”

Qassem: “We are a resistance and we are defending. If Israel were to launch an aggression or attack us, we will respond. And so we don’t have any plans when it comes to initiating any confrontation with Israel. But we are determined to respond to Israel if it were to attack. Israel understands this language only. It won’t be deterred except if we are strong.”

Bowen made no effort to counter that propaganda by, for example, reminding listeners that it was Hizballah which initiated the 2006 conflict and Hizballah which just a year ago had its cross-border tunnels exposed and destroyed. Neither did he bother to clarify the background to any hypothetical attack on Iran’s “nuclear facilities”.

Bowen: “What if Israel or the US attacked Iran; attacked its nuclear facilities? Would you then use your weapons against Israel?”

Qassem: “I don’t know what could happen but what I do know is that any aggression of such scale could ignite the whole region. And those who initiated the aggression will take a big responsibility and also take responsibility for very large-scale reactions. My estimation is that war with Israel is unlikely at this stage. The balance of deterrence is what contributes to the absence of war because they are not convinced of what the results would be if a war were to take place.”

The interview ended there with a laconic statement from co-presenter Martha Kearney.

Kearney: “And that report was by Jeremy Bowen.”

In his introduction Bowen claimed that “one good way” to try to “work out” what is going on in Iran “is talking to their friends like the organisation Hizballah”. Whether or not that was also the rationale given when approval was sought to interview a senior figure in “an organisation […] designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary” is of course unknown but obviously this interview contributed nothing at all to that supposed aim.

In fact all audiences heard was over four minutes of barely challenged propaganda from the number two in a notorious terrorist organisation: propaganda that they could just as easily have found on Hizballah’s own media channels – and without paying a licence fee.

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BBC Radio 4 discusses journalists’ impartiality

On April 26th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme titled “Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?” by Jonathan Coffey.

“Amid the anger increasingly directed at broadcast journalists from those who claim that the so-called “mainstream media” can’t be trusted, a battle is being fought over impartiality.

The big, regulated broadcasters – including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – argue that their output has to meet the test of “due impartiality”; their critics claim that too often programmes in fact evince bias.

In this documentary, Jonathan Coffey – who has worked on major stories for “Panorama” for over a decade – explores what impartiality means as our politics and national discourse have become increasingly polarised. Does it still matter as a concept for broadcasters? And how should broadcasters approach controversial issues like Brexit, immigration and transgenderism?

He considers how well impartiality is understood, the arguments advanced by the broadcasters’ critics about alleged failures of impartiality; the BBC’s track record on reflecting significant strands of thinking; the “liberal media bubble”; how far broadcasters are open-minded in avoiding biases; and if a more rigorous and radical open-minded journalistic approach is needed, especially in the coverage of deep value disputes.”

While the programme focuses primarily on domestic issues and does not relate at all to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East, it nevertheless makes for interesting listening while keeping the corporation’s track record on that topic in mind.

Notably the contributors chosen by Coffey for this programme all come from the media world and include the BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis.

2:20 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] absolutely intrinsic to what the BBC does and at its centre it’s about giving the public as much as they need to understand the story better. I think it’s about helping the audience to form their views. So for us, it’s trying to work out how best we do that and to be honest it’s a really live, ongoing discussion.”

8:10 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] really, really important to hold on to. I think it’s something that we grapple with every single night. It’s what we do and I don’t want to be working somewhere that has given up on impartiality because then we’re just opinion. We’re ranty radio or ranty TV. And there’s plenty of that in other parts of the world.”

Regular readers may recall Ms Maitlis’ own departure from those fine principles less than five years ago.

“BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis however did not need to wait until investigations had been completed in order to determine whether the UN facility was hit by an errant IDF shell, a shortfall terrorist missile, terrorist mortar fire aimed at IDF troops or any combination of the above. Interviewing Israeli spokesman Mark Regev just hours after the incident – and clearly completely misunderstanding the nature and intention of IDF warnings to evacuate because of fighting in the area – she emotionally charged Regev with the following:

“But you said you were going to hit it. You hit it. You killed them.”

Beyond Maitlis’ distinctly unprofessional demeanor throughout this interview, her repeated interruptions and her obvious urgency to promote her own version of events to audiences, one patronizing statement she makes is extremely revealing and actually captures the essence of much of the BBC’s reporting of the current hostilities in a nutshell.

“You have a very effective defence system. It’s called the Iron Dome. It stops you for the most part being hit. They [the people in Gaza] don’t and they’re paying the price with their dead children.”

Another of Coffey’s contributors was ‘The Canary’ editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza who claimed that the views of the Left are under-represented in UK broadcast media.

12:45 Mendoza: “Whose view is under-represented? It’s the Left. It’s just a fact and on issues say like climate change or Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, the guest list is often weighted towards the status quo and weighted towards the media which is hostile to any kind of politics or economics outside the bubble that it’s used to.”

Mendoza has herself been a not infrequent contributor to BBC programmes such as ‘Question Time’, ‘Newsnight’ and political shows. Regular readers may recall her inadequately challenged promotion of falsehoods designed to equate Israel with the Third Reich on BBC Radio 4 three years ago.

Nevertheless, these are some of the voices that Jonathan Coffey apparently considered would contribute to Radio 4 audiences’ understanding of “open mindedness” and “escaping bias” as impartiality is defined throughout the programme.

Related Articles:

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What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

 

 

 

Postscripts to the BBC’s coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack

As readers no doubt recall, the BBC’s report on the terror attack that took place in Jerusalem on June 16th failed to tell audiences that ISIS had claimed the attack or that Hamas had rejected that claim of responsibility, saying that one of the terrorists was its own operative and that the other two belonged to the PFLP.

“Early on Saturday morning, Hamas rejected IS’s claim of responsibility, saying the three belonged to Palestinian terrorist organizations.

“The claim by the Islamic State group is an attempt to muddy the waters,” said Sami Abou Zouhri, spokesman for the terrorist group which runs the Gaza strip.

The attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas,” he said.”

Moreover, in the final version of the BBC’s report readers found the following distorted portrayal of a statement from Israeli officials saying that there was no indication that the terrorists were connected to ISIS:

“Police said there was “no indication” of a link between the suspects and a terror group.”

As far as BBC audiences are concerned, therefore, the attack was perpetrated by three people unconnected to any organisation.

However, as MEMRI reported, one of the terrorists was claimed by Fatah on multiple social media platforms: a claim confirmed by his family.

“Bereavement notices were posted on the Fatah Deir Abu Mash’al Facebook page, one of which claimed attacker Osama Ahmad ‘Atta as one of its members: “The Fatah movement in Deir Abu Mash’al in the Ramallah and Al-Birah region mourns, with great pride, its martyr hero Osama Ahmad ‘Attah… perpetrator of the heroic operation at Bab Al-‘Amoud [Damascus Gate]…”

In addition, the Fatah Facebook page posted a notice from relatives of Osama ‘Atta saying that although the family honored all the delegations that had come to pay tribute following ‘Atta’s killing – including PFLP representatives who claimed that he was one of that group’s members – “we informed them that our martyr son Osama is a Fatah member.””

In other words, even though Fatah, Hamas and the PFLP have each clearly stated that they were linked to the terrorists that carried out the attack, not only do BBC audiences have no knowledge of that fact but the BBC report that remains on the website as “historic public record” still specifically tells readers that the perpetrators were not linked to “a terror group”.

Referring to the terrorism seen in Israel since October 2015, that same report also informed BBC audiences that:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As has been frequently noted on these pages during that time, the BBC has consistently avoided providing its audiences with the relevant information relating to incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials which would enable them to understand why “Israel says” that.

Shortly after news of the June 16th attack had broken, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Education, Sabri Saidam (Saydam) – who is also a member of the Fatah Central Committee and has for years been quoted in BBC content – took to Facebook, describing the terrorists as ‘martyrs of Jerusalem’.

The BBC will not of course produce any follow-up reporting on that or any other Palestinian Authority or Fatah glorification of terrorism. That means that when the next attack comes around, the corporation can once again tell its funding public that “Israel says” that incitement fuels terrorism while continuing to sidestep any real accurate and impartial journalism on the issue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘historical record’ compromised by absence of follow-up reporting

BBC News changes headline, deletes Tweet after anger at portrayal of terror attack in Jerusalem 

 

 

 

BBC’s ‘historical record’ compromised by absence of follow-up reporting

Anyone searching online for BBC content providing information about the September 13th 2015 rock-throwing attack which caused the death of Alexander Levlovich – regarded as having been the first incident in the surge of terrorism that began in the autumn of 2015 – will find the following vague descriptions of the incident: [all emphasis added]Alexander Levlovich

1) “The Israeli prime minister has vowed to “use all necessary means” to stop stone throwers after an Israeli man died in a car crash linked to such an attack. […]

Alexander Levlovitz died in a car accident apparently caused by a rock-throwing attack in Jerusalem. […]

Mr Levlovitz died and two passengers were reportedly injured after their car was pelted with stones on Monday. Police are investigating the incident.” (BBC News website, September 16th, 2015)

2) “On Monday an Israeli man died after his car was pelted with rocks.” (BBC News website, September 16th, 2015)

3) “An Israeli motorist died earlier in the week in an accident apparently caused by a rock-throwing attack in Jerusalem.” (BBC News website, September 19th, 2015)

The wording used in those reports clearly fails to give readers any idea of the identity of the perpetrators of the attack and their motives. Moreover, when the arrest of suspects was announced two weeks after the attack, the BBC refrained from covering the story.

Over a year later, one of the people arrested at the time has been sentenced.

“The minor involved in the murder of Alexander Levlovich, 64, whose death came to signify the beginning of last year’s wave of terror across Israel, received a prison sentence of nine years Monday morning as part of a plea bargain in which he confessed to all charges leveled against him and agreed to testify against four other accomplices. […]

The indictment against the terrorists was submitted a year ago, while the plea bargain on behalf of the minor was submitted Monday morning. As part of the latter, the charges were reduced from manslaughter to accessory to manslaughter. […]

According to the indictment, on the eve of Rosh Hashana in 2015, the accused individuals met with the intention of throwing rocks at cars driven by Jews on main roads in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem as part of acts defined as “retaliation and solidarity” in the wake of riots on the Temple Mount.

The four offenders hurled rocks at a number of vehicles before hitting that belonging to Levlovich, causing him to swerve off the road and crash into a tree. He was later pronounced dead.

The four terrorists fled the scene and later attempted to establish a consistent version of what had transpired in the event that they were arrested.”

Back in June 2014 the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards – David Jordan – described the corporation’s online content as follows:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. […]…the BBC’s online archive is a matter of historic public record…” [emphasis added]

The absence of any follow-up to the BBC’s reporting on this story (and many similar ones) means that despite suspects having been arrested, indicted and one already sentenced, as far as the BBC’s “historic public record” is concerned, Mr Levlovich’s death was still “apparently” caused by “a rock-throwing attack” and BBC audiences have no idea who carried out that attack or that it was in fact an act of terror.  

BBC to review its complaints system again

The July 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ (available here) included an item in which presenter Roger Bolton discussed the topic of BBC impartiality with the corporation’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan.BBC R4 Feedback

Towards the end of that discussion (from 11:43), the conversation turned to another subject.

RB: “David Jordan; just before you leave us can I ask you about the BBC complaints procedure because we’ve just heard that it’s being overhauled and you indeed the man who is going to overhaul it. Why?”

DJ: “I think overhaul might be over-egging the pudding but…ahm….we are having a look at our complaints system in the light of the fact that…err…under the new charter which will be introduced in the New Year, we will be regulated for the first time by OFCOM – the office of communications: an outside regulator – and they will be responsible for all the third stage appeals against our complaints that are currently handled by the BBC Trust.”

After explaining the terms first, second and third stages, Jordan went on to say:

“We’re just having a look at the first two stages in the whole process to make sure it’s as simple as possible, as transparent as possible and that we’re as accountable as possible under the new system and that’s what I’ve been asked to do.”

Whether or not members of the corporation’s funding public whom the BBC complaints procedure is supposed to serve will be consulted on the topic of the current system’s ‘simplicity’ and ‘transparency’ is unclear. At the moment, no such consultation appears on the BBC Trust’s website

BBC’s Director of Standards: it ‘aint what they say, it’s the way that they say it

h/t CST

As readers no doubt recall, on December 22nd listeners to a BBC Radio London phone-in show heard an inadequately challenged thirteen-minute antisemitic rant which later garnered both media attention and complaints from the general public, with the latter receiving dismissive responses from the BBC.BBC Radio London

In an article titled “Bigotry on the Air: Why broadcasters need to challenge hate-mongers” which appeared at the Ethical Journalism Network, some insight into the background to the BBC’s handling of those complaints emerges. Relating to that BBC Radio London show, the EJN’s Tom Law writes:

“This case raises serious ethical questions: How do people working on the edge of live news protect themselves – and their audience – from people with a hateful agenda? How can journalists ensure that they allow free speech, but maintain their ethical duty to do no harm? And what more should be done to help journalists to counter bigoted speech?

According to chair of the Ethical Journalism Network Dorothy Byrne, many of the answers are found by applying the regulations imposed by Ofcom, Britain’s independent state regulator of broadcasting, but much depends she warns on how “hate speech” is defined.

A good broadcaster, she says, would cut the person off and apologise to the listeners, depending on the content, while some programmes would challenge the speaker. She quotes a recent example when a young Muslim woman attacking gay people on the radio. “Instead of cutting her off, the presenter argued with her vociferously and you could say that was the best way to deal with that,” says Byrne.”

The article goes on to quote the BBC’s David Jordan.

“David Jordan, Director of Editorial Policy and Standards at the BBC told us that for live radio shows where members of the public phone in, presenters and producers are obliged to follow the ‘Harm and Offence’ provision of the OFCOM code, which states they must:

“…provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material.”

The code goes on to say that offensive material must only be used where it can be justified by journalistic context.

In addition, the BBC has its own editorial guidelines on live output. People spouting offensive views are normally dealt with directly, says Jordan. The decision to challenge offensive speech is left to presenters and journalists. The BBC also pre-screens telephone calls into phone-in shows. […]

The issue, says Jordan is not about people saying things that some people may find offensive whether it is in relation to immigration or race or the Holocaust. “It is about how those views are expressed. If they are expressed in clearly racist ways using racist phrases or words then you might cut the debate off,” he says.” [emphasis added]

David Jordan does not expand on how “racist phrases or words” are defined (or by whom) but apparently, just so long as such terminology is not employed, the BBC is not overly concerned about acting as a conduit for the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse – which for some reason it appears not to view as falling under the OFCOM category of “harmful and/or offensive material”.

Every time such issues arise, the responses from BBC officials make the dire lack of education and awareness about the issue of antisemitism within the corporation more and more glaringly obvious.

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Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

As we noted here the other day, the Israeli Military Attorney General (MAG) has published the findings of some of the investigations conducted into incidents which occurred in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

One of the incidents investigated was the deaths of ten civilians on July 28th at the Shati refugee camp, along with an alleged attack on Shifa hospital on the same afternoon. The findings are as follows:Tweet Shifa

“Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mission – Ed.].

Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed.”

Material relating to those incidents which is still available to the general public on the BBC News website includes:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” – originally published on July 31st 2014 and discussed here.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” July 28th 2014

“Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” originally published on July 28th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” July 29th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza” Ian Pannell, July 28th 2014Pannell report

“A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.”

All of the above are discussed here.

Clearly the BBC’s June 2014 announcement stating that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it” means that all the above reports need to have a note of clarification urgently added, informing audiences of the actual circumstances of the incident. 

BBC announces new guidance on online content

h/t MD

An interesting post by the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan, appeared on the BBC blog on June 17th. The post is titled “Should the BBC unpublish any of its online content?” and in it Mr Jordan announced the publication of new BBC Editorial Policy Guidance regarding the removal or amendment of BBC online content.

The new guidance appears to have been prompted by last month’s EU court ruling on what has been termed ‘the right to be forgotten’ and, like that case itself, the guidance relates mainly to the topic of requests for removal of content from individuals.

However, as Mr Jordan himself states in his post:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. Fundamentally it is in the public interest to retain them intact.”

That, of course, is true only so long as those “historical records” are correct. It is not, however, in the public interest to have historical records which are misleading, inaccurate or politically biased – especially from an organisation which enjoys the public’s trust – and funding.

We have previously highlighted on these pages some examples of the type of old – but available – BBC content which does not serve the public interest. One prominent example is that of the BBC’s perpetuation of the myth of a ‘Jenin massacre’ in 2002. Another is its unsatisfactory approach to content concerning the Al Dura case of 2000. Other problematic issues include the appearance of long out of date maps on the BBC website – such as the one purporting to show Israeli checkpoints – which are not labelled to inform BBC audiences that they are no longer relevant and the ongoing obstinate BBC promotion of the myth that Ariel Sharon started the second Intifada .

Some of the particularly interesting clauses appearing in the new guidance read as follows:

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

And:

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

Obviously, the BBC’s recognition of the permanence of its online material on the one hand and on the other of the fact that no matter how old the material, it can still be the subject of legitimate complaint, poses a potentially overwhelming task for the BBC’s self-regulating complaints system.

That fact makes it all the more important for newly produced content to be truly accurate and impartial but, as we have seen only recently, the “historical records” of the none-too-distant future will inform the public that the 2013/14 round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO ended solely because ‘Israel broke off the talks’ and there will be no historical record whatsoever of Palestinian celebrations of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.

Clearly, greater adherence to standards of accuracy and impartiality in contemporary content should be a cause for concern for the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, as should another issue which has been frequently written about here.

In his blog post Mr Jordan announces:

“The Guidance Note also sets out the need for transparency and that we should normally explain what changes we have made to our online content for example, why programmes are no longer available on BBC iPlayer or have been changed since original broadcast. To this end, the BBC will be launching in July a new way of signalling this information. In future if a programme has been edited since broadcast in a way that significantly changes the editorial meaning, we will tell you at point of play. Also if there is a small editorial error in a programme we can let you know the correction before you watch it.”

That welcome improvement must also be extended to the BBC News website, where the lack of a dedicated corrections page, along with a slapdash ‘sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t’ policy concerning footnotes announcing corrections, severely compromise any supposed commitment to transparency.