Ninth BBC report on ME TV reality shows in sixteen days

Having already been treated to Yolande Knell’s filmed report on the subject of the Palestinian reality TV show entitled ‘The President’, BBC audiences could also read the written version, which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

virtual president hp

'The President' show written

Knell fails to add any significant context to her written version of the report, making use of sound bites such as:

“In real life the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has to contend with a financial crisis, internal political divisions and stalled peace talks with Israel.

Twenty years after the Oslo peace accords were signed there is still not an independent Palestinian state.”

Once again Knell mentions the fact that the Palestinian people have not been able to properly exercise their democratic right to vote for their leaders, but her focus on the seven year-old Hamas/PA rift as an explanation for that fails to give audiences the whole picture, neglecting to note that no elections were held between January 1996 and January 2005 either.

“In 20 years of limited self-rule, Palestinians have had just two presidential polls. The current president Mahmoud Abbas is 78 and remains in office several years after his term expired.

While the Arab uprisings have removed many long-time regional leaders, the Palestinians are stuck in a political limbo.

The rift between the main political factions: Fatah which rules parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza, has prevented new elections.”

Neither does Knell bother to inform her audience of the real significance of the fact that the PA’s most senior official holds no legitimate elected mandate on the lives of the Palestinian people, as well as issue of the “stalled peace talks”. 

“President Abbas has become the president of everything related to the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause, complained Sufyan Abu Zayda, a senior representative of Abbas’s Fatah faction. He is the head of the PLO, President of Palestine, President of the Palestinian Authority, head of Fatah, and commander of the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Moreover, in the absence of a functioning Palestinian parliament, Abbas has taken it upon himself to issue his own laws.”

“The growing resentment about Abbas’s autocratic regime and refusal to share powers and plans with other Palestinians cast doubt on his ability to win the support of a majority of Palestinians for resuming peace talks, let alone signing a peace treaty with Israel.”

Knell could have used this opportunity to write an in-depth article about the lack of democracy within the Palestinian Authority (and its Western donors’ long-standing casual indifference towards the repeated suspension of the democratic rights of the Palestinian people) which would actually have contributed to her audiences’ knowledge of the region and hence merited inclusion under the title ‘Features & Analysis’.

Instead, consumers of BBC news have to make do once again with a tabloid-style piece about a Middle East TV reality show – the ninth such item produced by Yolande Knell and the BBC in sixteen days.

More BBC coverage of Middle East reality TV

Whether they know it or not, it seems that BBC audiences are currently undergoing a crash course on the subject of Middle East reality TV.

Hot on the heels of her very extensive coverage of the ‘Arab Idol’ talent show, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell now brings audiences news about The President.

No – this is not an in-depth profile of Mahmoud Abbas, but a filmed report broadcast on BBC television news (and also featured on the Middle East page of the BBC News website) about a Palestinian reality show of that name.

Reality show Knell

Knell’s report features sound-bites such as:

“There are stalled peace talks with Israel and there’s still not an internationally recognised Palestinian state.”

The contest’s winner is showcased saying:

“I want to send a message to all the world. The people of Palestine need to live in the Palestinian state independence [sic] like the other countries and stop the occupation in this land.”

And whilst Knell mentions that “in twenty years, Palestinians have only ever had two presidential polls”, she does not bother to inform her audiences why that is the case.  

Such trite subject matter, especially when used as a vehicle for the promotion of dumbed-down context-free slogans, cannot be said to contribute to the meeting the BBC’s self-defined public purpose of enhancing ‘global outlook’.