Thursday 16 January 2014

The BBC replies...

You may recall a couple of recent posts complaining about a recent episode of 'Newsnight'. I'll quote from Sue's post about the incident here:
I forgot to mention Paxo’s interview with Dieudonne’s holocaust denying, far-right political ally Alain Soral on Newsnight. I missed the intro, but I hear  he was introduced as ‘French writer and film-maker”.  This is a good example of the BBC breaching its guidelines on impartiality.
The BBC should tell the audience exactly whose opinion they’re hearing, and not mask, where relevant, the extreme political/ideological affiliations of a guest by using vague misleading terms in the introduction.  
I then submitted a complaint about this to the BBC:
I am writing to complaint about your interview with antisemitic far-Right-winger Alain Soral.
Why did 'Newsnight' merely introduce him as a 'French writer and film-maker' and friend of Dieudonne?  
Why weren't 'Newsnight' viewers told in advance anything about Soral's far-Right links or his obscene views on the Holocaust?
Why interview such an inflammatory figure in the first place? 
Why was there no opposing guest? 
Why wasn't his antisemitism strongly challenged during the interview? 
Why wasn't Soral even questioned about his own use of the quenelle at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin - a sick provocation if ever they was one?
Why was the discussion framed as being an issue of 'free speech' rather than one of antisemitism?
You've reached a new low with this interview. 
This is the reply I received from the BBC Complaints Department [with a few asides from me]. The BBC guy must have spent quite some time on it, yet - grateful as I am for his time and effort -  I can't say I'm overly impressed with this reply. Please see what you make of it.
Thanks for contacting us regarding the BBC Two programme Newsnight broadcast on 07 January 2014.
I understand you believe Jeremy Paxman shouldn’t have introduced Alain Soral as a French writer and film-maker when interviewing him, but should’ve stated various connections he may have to the far right along with anti-Semitic views shared in the past. [A bit of a 'straw man' recasting of my complaint there. I didn't say "shouldn't have", I said "merely"].
Having reviewed the broadcast, it was reporting on the move to raise awareness in France that performances by Diuedonne can be banned by local authorities. In this opening segment the report never tried to hide the reasons of the ban and reported in depth the concerns raised by Diuedonne’s shows. [The misspelling of Dieudonne's name continues throughout].
It featured a quote from President Hollande in which he stated “In the threat to racism and anti-Semitism, of the human lesions caused by discrimination, I ask the public authorities to be vigilant and flexible.” This was in relation to a circular that was sent to local authorities reminding them they have the power to ban Diuedonne's shows on the grounds of a danger to public order. [Note that much of this BBC reply concentrates on the 'Newsnight' report which preceded the interview. I didn't complain about the report. I complained about the interview.]
The report also featured the views of Roger Cukinerman, President of the Jewish Council who stated Diuedonne denies the holocaust and that he makes extreme and open anti-Semitic comments that can’t really be denied. [Roger Cukierman's name is misspelled throughout too].
While Jeremy Paxman opens his interview with Alain Soral as Alain being a 'French writer and film-maker', he also stated that he’s a close friend to Diuedonne [as I wrote in my complaint]. Bear in mind that the report was also not a focus on Alain, but Diuedonne, his shows and the reaction of the government due to concerns of anti-Semitism within them [yes, but the interview with Alain Soral which followed the report was an interview with....Alain Soral!]
Asking what the quenelle gesture was, Alain [a continued use of his first name only] explained that it was a gesture about the system and not about anti-Semitism. However the opening report revealed people who took pictures of themselves making the gesture at sensitive Jewish sites. Jeremy then put the question forward that Alain doesn’t deny that Diuedonne is anti-Semitic, and that this can be seen when Diuedonne says he’s neutral between Nazi’s and Jews.
Given the reaction to the French government’s action by Diuedonne supporters, who state they support freespeech, discussing this with Alain Soral will give viewers the opportunity to make up their own minds. [...and yet those viewers had to make up their own minds about what Alain Soral said without knowing anything about his own antisemitism and provocative use of the quenelle, precisely the point of my complaint.]
As stated, this report was not focused on Alain, but on Diuedonne, and with the report’s scenes showing the quenelle gesture being taken in sensitive Jewish areas, questions put forward that illuminate the concerns of anti-Semitism in Diuedonne’s shows, the views of Roger Cukinerman, President of the Jewish Council being shared and the quote from President Hollande informing local authorities that they can ban Diuedonne’s shows, I can’t agree that this report failed to challenge concerns of anti-Semitism or fail to provide a balance. [To repeat, I didn't complain about the report!]
I appreciate that you may continue to hold a different view and I'd like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our Audience Log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to all BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
The Audience Logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions on future BBC programmes and content.
Once again, thank you for contacting us. 
Kind Regards
****** *****

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