Sunday 20 May 2018

Questions of language and balance

Talking of complaints from both sides...

This week's edition of Newswatch (only on the BBC News Channel last night due to today's Royal Wedding coverage) featured complaints about the BBC's coverage of the violence on the Gaza-Israel border. 

Samira Ahmed said that "hundreds" had complained that the BBC's reporting had been pro-Israel, and the programme then featured two examples of such complaints. Both focused on BBC headlines. The first said the BBC headline calling it a "clash" was a disgrace and that it was a "massacre" of "unarmed protestors, some of whom were children". The second objected to the headline use of the word 'defending' (as in 'Israel was defending itself') and say that in using it the BBC was "playing [its] part in this atrocity and supporting future atrocities".

Then Samira said that "hundreds" had also complained that the BBC's reporting had been anti-Israel, again featuring two examples of those kinds of complaints. The first complained about the BBC using the word 'protest' to describe the Palestinians' "war-like actions at the Gaza border" and saying it should have been called a 'riot'. The second said the BBC's coverage was "unrelievedly from the Palestinian point of view" and that Israel faced "a massed invasion" that, if successful, "could easily have resulted in the murder of many Jews".

Complaints from both sides then, and it's interesting that it was the BBC's choice of language that was the main thorn of contention from both sides.

Next came a BBC statement. As you won't be surprised to hear, it didn't admit to any failings on the BBC's part: 
Perceptions of what happened are split and fiercely held, as reflected by weighted terms such as massacre, invasion, riot and murder. The role of BBC News is to explain to audiences with sensitivity and impartiality what is happening in this complex conflict and why, whilst hearing from a range of different voices. We are committed to continuing to report and analyse the ongoing events in an accurate, fair and balanced way.
As so often with such 'complaints from both sides' questions, the big question is - as both sides can't be right - is neither side right and the BBC, thus, justified in its self-regard? Or is one side right and the other wrong and the BBC, thus,  not justified in its self-regard?

Sue and I - impartially or otherwise - have previously had our say on some of the BBC's latest coverage and we both think BBC anti-Israel bias seeped through strongly, especially in the contributions of Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East editor, and we've laid out our case over various threads.

I'd just add to my earlier transcription posts, that none of the BBC One main bulletins (One, Six or Ten) included what for those pro-Israel people who originally felt disturbed and even disgusted by Israel's security response proved a game-changer: Hamas's claim that over 80% of the Palestinians killed that day were Hamas members. (As you know Hamas is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the US, the UK and the EU and many others). Wasn't this an engineered-by-Hamas 'mass martyrdom' stunt which sucked in all the Jeremy Bowens of this world? BBC One News viewers were unlikely to consider that given that the BBC circus quickly moved on. 


  1. Complaints from both sides is a very convenient ‘get out of jail’ card for the BBC and they play it all the time to prove impartiality.

    I think an easier way to judge the BBC and their bias is to look at the report and the use of words.

    As a general rule it is easy to spot who the BBC think is right or wrong and who is in the dock so to speak.

    There are so many topics where the ‘right or wrong’ narrative is used by the BBC and it’s very transparent to the reader/listener/viewer.

  2. 50 years ago support for Israel was the consensus. Let's stop playing the BBC's game and focus on preventing the destabilisation of our culture and country through largely unregulated mass immigration.


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