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

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. 

 

BBC responds to a complaint about inaccuracy with more inaccuracy

Readers may recall that back in February, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s culture show ‘Front Row’ were inaccurately informed that:Front Row 22 2

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

That was not the first – or last – time that BBC audiences had been given inaccurate information concerning that book (see related articles below) and so BBC Watch submitted a complaint on the topic.

The initial response received failed to address the points raised.

“Samira asked AB Yehoshua to comment on his own statement that was reported widely in the media when he referred to a ban of the book by Dorit Rabinyan called Gader Haya, (Borderlife in English). He expressed the opinion that politics and culture need to be separated and that attention needed to be paid to human experiences. He further highlights this is why he made the lead character in his new novel ‘The Extra’ a woman who did not have children, but that his work is always related to politics by others. The focus was on the impact of politics on literature.

That said, we appreciate you feel that more detail could have been given to give context to the comments made by AB Yehoshu [sic] in realtion [sic] to the book.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch therefore submitted a follow-up complaint which received the following no less unsatisfactory reply.

“Thank you for contacting us again regarding Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ on 22nd February.

We’re sorry to hear you feel our previous response didn’t address your concerns over the availability of the book ‘Border Life’.

We forwarded your concerns to the production team who explained the following:

“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 syllabus. The 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]

To recap the facts:

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”.

This second-stage response clearly shows that neither BBC Complaints nor the production team of the programme concerned is familiar with the facts behind this story and it is therefore little wonder than the fiction the BBC began promoting at the end of December 2015 has taken on a life of its own.

BBC Watch is of course pursing the matter further.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’

BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’

How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom

At the end of December 2015 the BBC World Service radio programme ran an item about what it inaccurately portrayed as a “book ban” in Israel. As was noted here at the time:

“Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ was published in Israel six months ago and subsequently won a literary prize. The book has not been “banned” as she also later claims in this interview and no-one – including high school students – is ‘barred’ from reading it. Rabinyan’s freedom of speech and artistic freedom have clearly neither been “harmed” nor “threatened” by the fact that a pedagogic committee of the kind also found in other countries decided that – like countless other books and for assorted reasons with which one can agree or not – hers would not be included in the curriculum.”

Nevertheless, two subsequent BBC World Service programmes about the same topic similarly inaccurately described Dorit Rabinyan’s book as having been banned or barred. [emphasis added]

“Israel bars an Arab-Jewish love story written by Dorit Rabinyan from schools”

“A banned book and a Facebook video highlight the taboo of love between Jews and Arabs in Israel.”

Nearly two months on, that malaise has now spread to BBC Radio 4.

The February 22nd edition of that station’s culture show ‘Front Row‘ included an interview (from 19:51 here) with the Israeli author AB Yehoshua about his book ‘The Extra’ which has been translated into English.Front Row 22 2

During the discussion of the book listeners heard several debatable claims and conjectures but towards its end (from around 27:03) presenter Samira Ahmed steered the conversation in a clearly political direction.

“You said before we started this interview that you didn’t want to get sucked into talking about politics [laughs] but inevitably, partly because of your status now – you know, you’re a very great figure in Israeli culture and in literature in particular – you’ve spoken out against the fact that recently the culture minister banned a novel about a mixed Israeli-Palestinian relationship…ahm…Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Border Life’. And of course you’d written a book – ‘The Lover’ – which had such a relationship. Are you concerned about the way politics is trying to shape culture in Israel now?” [emphasis added]

As we see, the BBC’s failure to correct the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book had been ‘banned’ when it first arose has not only resulted in its transformation into “the fact” in the mind of Samira Ahmed but – in true Chinese whispers fashion – the lie has now been embroidered to include Israel’s “culture minister” who actually had nothing to do with the story whatsoever.

This is just one small example of how the BBC’s failure to live up to the standards of accuracy laid down in its constitutional documents leads to false information about Israel becoming conventional wisdom in the minds of BBC journalists and members of the British public alike.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’

Resources:

‘Front Row’ contact details

BBC Radio 4 contact details

 

The two faces of BBC’s Sunday Morning Live

A BBC 1 programme called Sunday Morning Live  – which advertises itself as conducting ‘ethical debates -‘ initiated a poll on the question “Are Israeli military actions justified?” ahead of its November 18th broadcast. 

Rather swiftly, the vote was closed and a message appeared on the website to the effect that its results would not be made public at this time.

A look at the poll’s terms and conditions shows that clause 4 reads:

“The BBC reserves the right to disqualify entries or suspend voting if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that fraudulent voting has occurred or if it considers there has been any attempt to rig the voting. The BBC has the right to substitute an alternative selection method at its absolute discretion.”

Could it be that the BBC got wind of this?

However, over on the programme’s Twitter feed, we discover not only that the vote results were made public, but that one of its guests was none other than Abdel Bari Atwan – which at least seems to answer this question

And as if one pro- Hamas propagandist is not more than enough on any programme: 

What value the BBC perceives in this kind of straw poll is – I must admit – beyond me. However, I really did want to congratulate BBC 1 on taking a responsible and robust stance against the vote’s manipulation for political ends… until I saw the programme’s Facebook wall.

There – unhindered and apparently unchecked – lies and libels such as the examples below are – by their very appearance on at official BBC account –  also lent the BBC stamp of respectability.

And that, folks, is apparently the BBC’s idea of “ethical debate”.