Monday, June 27 2016

ENGAGE responds to the BBC's reply on news coverage of Gaza

 In response to a letter sent by ENGAGE to the BBC's Head of News, Peter Horrocks, we have received this by way of reply (see below). ENGAGE's response to Horrocks' letter can be read here.

Dear Mr Inayat Bunglawala,
Thank you for your letter, emailed to me on the 13th of January.  I've read it carefully, and hope to address the points you raise here.

BBC editors are obviously required to make sure each programme's coverage is impartial and to give appropriate airtime to each side of a current controversy.  We have worked extremely hard over the past few weeks, covering these events in and around Gaza, to try to maintain that commitment.  Our presenters, reporters, producers and camera staff on the ground are doing their utmost to provide accurate journalism in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances, and our journalists back in London are fixing guests to interview who represent and hold a range of different views. 

You can read about the BBC's commitment to impartiality and balance in the published BBC's editorial guidelines:

Here are some extracts:

"We seek to provide a properly balanced service consisting of a wide range of subject matter and views broadcast over an appropriate time scale across all our output.  We take particular care when dealing with political or industrial controversy or major matters relating to current public policy.  We strive to reflect a wide range of opinion and explore a range and conflict of views so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under represented."

But, and this is a big but:

"Impartiality is described in the Agreement as 'due impartiality.'  It requires us to be fair and open minded when examining the evidence and weighing all the material facts, as well as being objective and even handed in our approach to a subject.  It does not require the representation of every argument or facet of every argument on every occasion or an equal division of time for each view."

This means that there will have been occasions on the BBC News channel (BBC News 24 as it used to be known) when more Palestinians were interviewed than Israelis, as well as more Israelis than Palestinians.  So, we are not required to make sure that each and every interview is balanced immediately with an interview with someone from the other side in the conflict.  But when we look at the voices and opinions heard across each news day and across our output, we present the broadest range of interviewees (politicians, experts/academics, eyewitnesses etc) to our audience, and that includes reflecting the Palestinian view point fairly.  And similarly, the Israeli position.  This allows the audience to make informed judgements about what is happening in the world for themselves.

Separately, on your question about monitoring, the BBC does monitor its overall coverage.  This is a matter of public record - as outlined in the management response to the Independent Panel Impartiality Report of April 2006 (the Thomas report) commissioned by the then BBC Governors, to which the Muslim Council of Great Britain - among others - gave evidence:

Here is an extract from this report:

"We will review our coverage with greater frequency in order to monitor the above changes.  The BBC’s coverage of the Middle East is presently reviewed twice a year by the Journalism Board led by the Deputy Director-General and the News Editorial Board led by the Director of News. 

In future, we are proposing that the coverage is reviewed by the News Editorial Board on a quarterly basis.  At each meeting, the Director of News will hear reports from the Middle East Editor, the Head of the Middle East Bureaux and the Senior Editorial Adviser on coverage."

These reviews are intended for internal journalistic purposes only, to help ensure we maintain our editorial standards and are following our own guidelines.  Finally, as our broadcasts (on radio and television) and our written reports on the website are - by definition - public, it is, of course, open to any outside organisation to monitor the coverage for itself and count appearances in the way you suggest.

Thank you again for taking the trouble to watch and to write in with your concerns.  I hope I have addressed them to your satisfation.

Yours sincerely,
Peter Horrocks, Head of BBC Newsroom. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 18:46


0 #7 Is BBC making enough efforts?James 2009-01-24 15:21
BBC owns an explanation to say it took all necessary measures not to overrely on spokespersons and Public Relations personnel and spin
masters from one side.

BBC didn't gauge the opposition among Israeli citizens, human right watchers, civil liberty advocates and
ex-servicemen calling for end to civilian killings.
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0 #6 Did BBCJames 2009-01-24 11:21
An analytical piece in notes that just as in past Mideast conflicts, both the media story line and political commentary in the U.S. and elsewhere has closely followed Israel's talking points on the war in Gaza. Here's are the seven measures that where heavily used to shape opinions about events in Gaza: 1) Define the terms of debate, and you win the debate. Since most Americans do not closely follow the conflict and are inclined to believe, as the line goes, "what they hear over and over again," this tactic of preemptive definition and repetition succeeds.
2) Recognize that stereotypes work. And so, it was not surprising that, despite the disproportionate suffering of the Palestinians, media coverage attempted to "balance" the story, giving an extensive treatment, with photos, of anguished and fearful Israelis and the impact the war was having on them. 3) Anticipate and count on your opponent's blunders. From the outset, Israel could count on the fact that Hamas would launch rockets and issue the kind of threats that Israel could then parley into sympathy in the West. Knowing that these would most certainly come, and could be exploited, was an advantage in their propaganda war.
4) Be everywhere, and say the same thing -- and make sure your opponents remain as invisible as possible by denying media access to Gaza, Israel sought the opportunity to shape every aspect of the story while removing the possibility of independent verification of the horror unfolding in Gaza. 5) Give no ground. 6) Deny, deny, deny. When events and reality break through, contradicting the Israeli-established narrative, creating stories and/or concoct a counter-narrative that shifts the blame ("We didn't do it, they made us"). 7) The last refuge.... point to a few examples of outrageous anti-Semitism, generalize them, suggesting that that is what motivates critics to silence or put critics on the defensive.
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0 #5 disastrous decision by the BBCprairie 2009-01-23 21:03
Looks like the long arm of the Zionists has reached the BBC. In America if you want news you have to buy a computer. Our newspapers are so pro Israel that the only thing they're good for is to line the bottom of a bird's cage.
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0 #4 compare the BBC with ITVusman 2009-01-20 19:11
ITV have shown more responsibilty during this Israeli "offensive" (civillian massacre).

Still the BBC refuses to question the real motives behind it.

"Let us praise what is good, and condemn what is bad"
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0 #3 usman 2009-01-20 18:32
Don't let this matter drop!!

Keep on going Br Inayat!!

Keep on writing everybody!!

If we don't follow this matter up, the BBC will think the same old reference to "procedures" will serve as an acceptable response.

We need SPECIFIC answers.

...Make them think twice before their next word for word repition of govt statements, without any evaluation.
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0 #2 Real newsMike 2009-01-20 16:42
Why not publish some details about how Hamas are killing their own people for not falling in line with Hamas views?
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0 #1 BBC bullFurqan 2009-01-19 23:39
What an evasive response from the BBC. The BBC's news editors were taken apart on their own official blog by viewers outraged by their one-sided coverage in favour of Israel:

Do keep us updated about what the BBC says. We pay the bloody licence fee and they should not be able to fob us off with crap responses like the one above.
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