BBC News drops Associated Press, expands links with AFP

Ever since its establishment the BBC has relied on news agencies as part of its newsgathering process.

“A wide variety of sources is used in the preparation of material – including BBC News, BBC World Service and a large number of internationally recognised news agencies. They include the Press Association, Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.”

However, unlike many other media outlets that use agency produced material, the BBC does not usually inform its audiences at the top of an article that the content was provided by an agency. Audiences hence have no way of knowing whether the information they receive does in fact come from the ‘trusted‘ BBC or from agencies which do not necessarily adhere to the corporation’s editorial guidelines.

Recently the BBC decided to end its contract with Associated Press.

“The BBC will end its association with international news agency Associated Press (AP) this week because of “financial pressures”, City A.M. has learned.

News staff have been informed that they will no longer be permitted to use AP video, pictures and wire copy from later this week.

Fran Unsworth, head of the World Service, today told staff in an email that the BBC was instead starting a “new relationship” with Agence France Presse. […]

On the AFP arrangement, Unsworth added:

From midnight on Friday we will subscribe to the full AFP newsroom video services for unrestricted use on BBC output – all platforms and any language. We already receive text wires from AFP and AFP stills via our contract with Getty Images, and we therefore know the high quality of their products. We also hope to work closely with AFP on other initiatives. The many other agency and partner broadcaster relationships we have around the world remain in place.”

Although AFP (Agence France Presse) is officially a commercial business independent of the French government, three of its fifteen board members are appointed by government ministers and two more come from government-owned media outlets.

As readers may recall, one of AFP’s local employees in the Middle East is also chairman of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate – which has instigated restrictions on foreign journalists and related boycotts. Late last year that same AFP employee, Nasser Abu Baker, unsuccessfully ran for a seat on Fatah’s revolutionary council.

One can only hope that the BBC’s new subscription to “full AFP services” does not ultimately mean that its funding public will be getting news from such an obviously compromised source.

Related Articles:

‘Rigorous Neutrality’?: Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate’s Nasser Abu Baker Moonlights For AFP  (CAMERA)

Corrupt State of Affairs at the International Federation of Journalists?  (Tamar Sternthal)

Agence France-Presse (CAMERA)

Reuters  (CAMERA)   

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Weekend long read

1) BBC Watch has often documented the fact that when reporting on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the BBC fails to inform its audiences what that campaign aims to achieve. In August 2015, we also learned that the BBC considers the provision of that obviously crucial context “not our role“. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has produced an essay and a very useful video explaining what lies beneath the BDS campaign.

2) We have in the past noted on these pages that the BBC’s standard portrayal of the 2013/14 talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – “came to an end amid acrimony in April 2014” – fails to provide its audience with an accurate and adequate view of events at the time and indeed impairs understanding. At ‘The American Interest’, one of those who took part in that round of negotiations, Michael Herzog, gives his account of what happened.Weekend Read

“But today feels somewhat different. To break the logjam, Israel suggests transferring to the PA the responsibility for planning and zoning in Palestinian-populated parts of Area C in the West Bank that are adjacent to Palestinian cities. The new proposal seems to capture the Palestinian negotiator’s attention. “We may be in business,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat signals, careful as always to remain non-committal. As we are about to adjourn, he asks to meet tomorrow to continue our discussions. The clock is ticking. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (whom we all refer to by his familiar moniker, Abu Mazen) has already called for a formal leadership meeting in Ramallah that coming Saturday to decide the fate of negotiations. Yet, for the first time in weeks, we feel a sense of cautious optimism—a feeling shared by our American counterparts.

The events of the next day would shatter these nascent hopes. Gathering at the Prime Minister’s office to prepare for the crucial meeting with our counterparts, we (and separately, our American colleagues) are surprised to watch the signing ceremony of a reconciliation deal between Abu Mazen’s Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas in Gaza. On the Israeli side, there is a volley of questions. Abu Mazen is well aware of Israeli and U.S. sensitivities regarding Hamas—which is strongly opposed to peace and the recognition of Israel, and designated by the U.S. government and the European Union as a terror organization—so why did he not at least alert us to the imminent deal? Why would he sign it the day after he seemed to promise a meeting with us and just a few days ahead of the nine-month deadline? Is he no longer interested in extending negotiations?”

3) Back in 2013 we noted that restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate (PJS) had not been reported by the BBC. Last year we noted the introduction of further restrictions and the fact that one of the instigators – the chair of the PJS, Nasser Abu Baker – concurrently works for AFP. Abu Baker was recently in the news again and CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal has the whole story.abu-baker  

“Following an exclusive exposé by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) in early December about the inherent conflict of interest posed by Abu Baker’s participation in the Seventh Fatah Congress and his failed election bid to join the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the influential Agence France-Presse last month slapped him with a week’s suspension and withheld his salary. Participation by journalists in political events, especially those they are covering, is a serious violation of Agence France-Presse’s commitment to “rigorous neutrality” and its pledge that it “is independent of the French government and all other economic or political interests.”

Enter the International Federation of Journalists, which suspended its stated commitments to truth and opposition to discrimination with its Febrary 2 statement about Agence France-Presse’s sanctions against Abu Baker.”

The UK’s National Union of Journalists is a member of the International Federation of Journalists. The NUJ is the second largest union within the BBC with around 4,000 members.