BBC Trust consultation on local radio and news in England

The BBC Trust is currently running a public consultation on the topic of BBC local radio and local news and current affairs in England.

“The purpose of this consultation is to review BBC Local Radio and BBC local and news and current affairs in England. It covers: BBC Local Radio in England; BBC regional news and current affairs in England on TV; and BBC local news online.”

However, this particular review does not include:

“The BBC’s national news and current affairs output, i.e. news made available to, or targeted at, UK wide audiences. This was considered in our review of Network News and Current Affairs published in April 2014

BBC news and current affairs output made for and broadcast in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This will be considered in a separate review, due to start later this year

Editorial standards and impartiality. Service reviews do not consider editorial standards or give an assessment of accuracy and impartiality. However, as high editorial standards are a key component of high-quality speech and news services, we will consider any issues around compliance with editorial standards through this review.”

The consultation runs until September 28th 2015 and the online survey, together with more details, can be found here.

On a related note, readers may be interested to know that despite the BBC Trust having partially upheld a complaint concerning the wording used in articles about comments made by the former MP David Ward over two years ago and an amendment having subsequently been made to an article appearing on the UK Politics page of the BBC News website, another article on the same subject still available in the ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ local news section of the website continues to exhibit the same inaccurate language which was the subject of the complaint upheld by the BBC Trust. Clearly then the issues of communication and continuity might be among those raised in this consultation. 

screenshot taken 2/9/15

screenshot taken 2/9/15

Related Articles:

BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part one

Dumbest interview question ever on BBC Radio Leeds

BBC still airbrushing David Ward’s remarks

 

 

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BBC’s Ward article amended

h/t @Lsorang

Just over two weeks ago we reported here on the partial upholding by the BBC Trust of a complaint made with regard to the wording of one of the BBC’s articles concerning the offensive remarks made by David Ward MP back in January.

At the time we noted:

“Despite the complaint made by @Lsorang having been partially upheld by the BBC Trust, sadly, at the time of writing, no amendment has been made to the still available online article to reflect that fact.”

Well, better late than never – as they say. We are pleased to be able to report that the headline of the article concerned (which previously read “David Ward MP ‘sorry’ over Israel criticism”) now reads as follows:

Ward after correction

The article now has the following footnote which includes a link to the Trust decision: 

footnote Ward article

Tenacity brings results in complaint about BBC Ward article

Readers no doubt remember that in January of this year the BBC published two articles on consecutive days on the UK Politics page of its website relating to remarks made by David Ward MP. The second article, dated January 27th, was headlined “David Ward MP ‘sorry’ over Israel criticism” and its opening paragraph read:

“A Liberal Democrat MP who accused “the Jews” in Israel of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians… on a daily basis” has apologised for the “unintended offence”.”

Reader @Lsorang submitted a complaint to the BBC News website regarding the inaccuracy of the language used in that article, but that complaint was dismissed. The reader then took his complaint to the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) which also refused to uphold it on the grounds that: 

“It would, we felt, be a stretch of the imagination to assume that he [Ward] was suggesting that Jews in other parts of the world had the capacity to inflict atrocities on the Palestinians “in the new State of Israel”. That being the case, we didn’t consider that in paraphrasing the comment in the way it did, the website article materially altered the intended meaning of Mr Ward’s words.”

The complainant next took the issue to the BBC Trust, and was recently informed that it has partially upheld his complaint, accepting that there was a breach of BBC guidelines on accuracy, but not on impartiality. 

One interesting part of the Trust’s response – which will be published here on July 30th at 11 a.m. GMT (see page 31 in the document titled “June”) – is the following.

“The Committee agreed with the ECU and BBC News that David Ward’s words might not necessarily be interpreted to mean what the complainant said they meant, i.e. that it was a collective criticism of Jews worldwide. The Committee concluded, however, that this was not a relevant consideration in this context. It noted the purpose of the article was to report the ongoing row over David Ward’s comments and the fact that they had been interpreted in some quarters as criticism of Jews as a whole rather than confined to Jews living in Israel.

The Committee therefore agreed with the complainant that an accurate conveyance of what the MP actually said, and the nature of the row his comments had provoked, was required in order for the article to achieve due accuracy, as required by the Editorial Guidelines. In the Committee’s view the formulation in the headline and opening sentence of the article did not do this.”

Another particularly notable observation by the BBC Trust is that:

“The Committee noted the requirements for due accuracy set out in the Editorial Guidelines. The Committee noted too that due accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right. Given the sensitivities, the Committee considered the article concerned a controversial issue and it was incumbent on the BBC to consider all relevant facts, information and opinions to achieve due accuracy. Whilst the Committee acknowledged there are constraints in writing a headline, it considered that in this instance the headline had summarised the nature of the apology incorrectly and the inaccuracy was reinforced by the inaccurate paraphrasing of what Mr Ward said in the opening sentence of the article itself. The Committee agreed with the complainant that it would have been straightforward to correct the errors when they were first brought to the BBC’s attention, and that this could have been done without necessarily increasing the length of the headline. The Committee agreed the effect of the inaccuracy in the headline and opening sentence would have been to mislead the audience on the nature of the row the MP’s comments had provoked. While the Committee accepted that the precise wording of Mr Ward’s website posting and his apology were reported verbatim later in the article, this was not in the Committee’s view sufficient to mitigate the inaccuracies in the headline and opening sentence.” [emphasis added]

Despite the complaint made by @Lsorang having been partially upheld by the BBC Trust, sadly, at the time of writing, no amendment has been made to the still available online article to reflect that fact. 

David Ward saga: BBC still prevaricating on antisemitism

The July 18th BBC article entitled “MP David Ward has Lib Dem whip withdrawn over Israel comment” which currently appears on the UK Politics page of the BBC News website was originally published under a different title – “MP David Ward has Lib Dem whip withdrawn over ‘Jews’ comment”. That change and the many others to the body of the report can be seen here

Ward whip

Significantly, in its latest report on this subject the BBC yet again refrains from clarifying to audiences the antisemitic nature of the statements made by Ward which began the saga. In fact the only use in the article of the word antisemitic is when Ward’s own words are paraphrased.  

“He also insisted that neither he nor his comments had been anti-Semitic.”

That was also the case in this March 2013 article and in this February 2013 article on the subject of Ward. So whilst the BBC seems to be keen to offer Ward a platform from which to repeatedly deny the racist nature of hisremarks (as he also did in a BBC Radio Leeds interview in late January), it appears to be considerably less enthusiastic about providing its audiences with the information which will allow them to appreciate exactly why Ward’s remarks are offensive and abusive

As previously noted here on February 1st:

“One of the most remarkable – and worrying – aspects of the BBC’s coverage of this affair has been its superficiality. An almost pantomime quality of “Oh yes he did. Oh no he didn’t” has dominated its reports, which have consistently tried to play down Ward’s statements rather than explaining to audiences precisely why those criticising them find them so problematic. 

One increasingly plausible explanation for that could be that the BBC itself does not properly understand the gravity of the issue and therefore is unable to provide those clarifications to its audiences. For an organisation committed to diversity, that is obviously a problem. “

That issue has obviously not been resolved during the six months in which the BBC has been covering this story.

Video: Lesley Klaff discusses Holocaust Inversion and the Livingstone Formulation

In the video below Lesley Klaff – senior lecturer in law at Sheffield Hallam University – discusses Holocaust Inversion and the Livingstone Formulation, using the statements made by David Ward MP earlier this year as one of her examples. 

With the BBC having repeatedly misrepresented Ward’s remarks and Nazi analogies appearing on BBC discussion boards, Ms Klaff’s paper is especially timely. 

Light bulb moment at the BBC

Eureka! At long last the BBC finally seems to have got the message on the subject of its to date inaccurate presentation of the remarks made by David Ward MP last month. 

In its latest article on the subject from February 13th, the BBC correctly reports that:

“Lib Dem MP David Ward has been summoned to a meeting with Nick Clegg following a series of controversial comments he has made about Jews.”

In numerous previous reports on the subject, the BBC had inaccurately presented Ward’s remarks as having referred to “the Jews in Israel”.

Ward article 13 2

Better late than never. 

Meanwhile, this entry on the CST blog regarding Ward’s latest digging escapade is well worth a read. 

BBC does yet another makeover on Ward remarks

The Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, David Ward, is fast moving into a league of his own as far as digging himself even deeper into a hole is concerned. 

Here, here and here is a short recap of the saga’s earlier stages. Then came this Tweet and a car crash of an interview in The Guardian in which Ward said:

“There is a huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism. And that comes into play very, very quickly and focuses intensely on anyone who’s seen to criticise the state of Israel. And so I end up looking at what happened to me, whether I should use this word, whether I should use that word – and that is winning, for them. Because what I want to talk about is the fundamental question of how can they do this, and how can they be allowed to do this.”

Next, when asked by the Jewish News why his original offending statement had not yet been removed from his website, Ward suggested to the paper that it “ask the Board of Deputies” if he should “replace the words ‘the Jews’ with ‘the Jewish community’ “.

Jewish News

It now seems that the Lib Dem Chief Whip will be having yet another little chat with Mr Ward. 

Since the beginning of the entire affair, the BBC in its various reports has – for some inexplicable reason – insisted upon reporting that Ward’s original statement was directed towards “the Jews in Israel”. Its report and Tweet on the story’s recent development are no better.

BBC politics tweet Ward

Ward article 8 2

Obviously, the BBC just does not ‘get it’ – despite the subject having been addressed by numerous commentators in recent weeks. This is at least the fourth occasion upon which the BBC has tried to distort Ward’s original statement by claiming that he was referring to “the Jews in Israel”. 

As we are well aware, Ward’s original phrasing was:

“Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.” 

According to the EUMC working definition of antisemitism, one of its manifestations is:

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

An additional manifestation of antisemitism is:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Apparently, not only does the BBC fail to understand that Ward’s statement falls into both those categories, but it also does not comprehend that its own attempts to carry out a ‘make-over’ on Ward’s remarks by claiming that his remarks pertained to ” the Jews  in Israel” are actually no less offensive.

David Ward may be plumbing new depths in the field of hole-digging, but the BBC is rapidly catching up with him.

 

Dumbest interview question ever on BBC Radio Leeds

On January 28th, prior to his meeting with the Lib Dem Chief Whip, the MP for Bradford East David Ward was interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds on the subject of his remarks about “the Jews” not having learned the lessons of the Holocaust. For reasons best known to himself,  he has since seen fit to upload that interview to Youtube. 

When asked by the interviewer Liz Green if he regretted the timing of his remarks, given their proximity to Holocaust Memorial Day, Ward replies:

“Well, one better. Which particular day of the year would the State of Israel prefer that I criticise them? There will never be a good day for them.”

Once again, it seems that Mr Ward is unable to distinguish between Jews (and non-Jews who have criticised his remarks) and Israel. 

At 2:13 the interviewer poses what must be one of the most pointless questions ever asked on radio:

“OK. Are you antisemitic?”

But of course that just gives Ward the opportunity to distort his original statement even further. 

One of the most remarkable – and worrying – aspects of the BBC’s coverage of this affair has been its superficiality. An almost pantomime quality of “Oh yes he did. Oh no he didn’t” has dominated its reports, which have consistently tried to play down Ward’s statements rather than explaining to audiences precisely why those criticising them find them so problematic. 

One increasingly plausible explanation for that could be that the BBC itself does not properly understand the gravity of the issue and therefore is unable to provide those clarifications to its audiences. For an organisation committed to diversity, that is obviously a problem. 

BBC still airbrushing David Ward’s remarks

In a story which bears more resemblance to an episode of Fawlty Towers by the day, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip has formally censured the MP for Bradford East, David Ward, with a “don’t mention the Jews” clause included in his letter

The BBC’s report on this latest development has been relegated from the UK Politics and Middle East pages of its BBC News website to the regional ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ page. However, the BBC is still trying to pretend that Ward’s remarks pertained to Israeli Jews – as it did in its two previous reports on the incident.

“A Lib-Dem MP who accused “the Jews” in Israel of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians” has received a letter of censure by the party.”

[emphasis added]

Ward censure art

Even the tepid reaction of the Lib Dem Chief Whip (which, notably, does nothing to address the subject of Ward’s use of an antisemitic Nazi analogy) indicates that the BBC’s repeated attempts to suggest that Ward was referring to Israeli Jews – rather than “the Jews” as a collective – are futile and mistaken.

So why is the BBC still flogging this dead horse?

BBC tones down British MP’s comments on Jews and the Holocaust

As readers may have heard, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East – David Ward – made a reprehensible comparison between the Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli conflict just days before Holocaust Memorial Day is marked in his country and others on January 27th

The Commentator, which first broke the story, has the details:

“British Member of Parliament David Ward has issued a statement to the ‘Asian Image’ magazine, juxtaposing the Middle East Conflict with the Holocaust.

As Holocaust Memorial Day is to be observed on Sunday, the Liberal Democrat MP, upon signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, stated:

“Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.” “

Ward later gave a statement to the Commentator in which he said:

“The Holocaust was one of the worst examples in history man’s inhumanity to man. When faced with examples of atrocious behaviour, we must learn from them. It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”

The situation worsened as Ward gave an interview to Sky News and another interview with him emerged from last November – during Operation Pillar of Cloud – on BBC Radio Leeds, in which he said:

“If all the illegal settlements were vacated and the land given back there wouldn’t be any rocket attacks.”

For more details of, and commentary on, the incident see the Telegraph, the Commentator, Paul David Evans, the Jewish Chronicle, the Independent, Harry’s Place and the Guido Fawkes blog

So how did the BBC relate to the story? Well, it interviewed Ward on Radio 5 live (which can be heard via the link below) – although with nowhere near the tenacity of the Sky News interviewer. It also published an article about the incident on the UK Politics page of the BBC News website. There, it stated that: [emphasis added]

“He accused “the Jews” in Israel of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians… on a daily basis”.

Ward 2

Except he didn’t. Ward referred to “the Jews” in general. 

So why did the BBC think it appropriate to try to tone down and ‘contextualise’ Ward’s abhorrent remarks? 

Update: read Chas Newkey Burden’s commentary on the subject here.

Update 2: David Ward has now issued an apology. The BBC has published another article on the subject in which it repeats the use of the same phrasing employed in its first report.  

Ward 3

Likewise, the BBC News Twitter account also phrased Tweets promoting its latest report in a manner which clearly suggests that Ward’s remarks related to Israelis instead of “the Jews” as a collective.  

BBC News tweets 26 1

Once again, one must ask why the BBC appears to be trying so hard to blur the antisemitic nature of Ward’s remarks and why in doing so, it seems to be unaware that “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is also defined as antisemitism under the EUMC working definition