BBC criticised for biased Israeli-Palestinian coverage
The BBC should not be afraid to use the word ‘terrorism’ in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an independent report commissioned by the corporation said this week.
The report, which was ordered by the BBC governors from a panel of five independent figures last October to assess the contentious issue, found there was no evidence of “systematic” bias within the corporation.
But the report criticised “the elusiveness of editorial planning, grip and oversight” of its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said the BBC did not “consistently give a full and fair account”.
The panel made four main recommendations regarding areas for improvement – including the use of language. The report recommended that the BBC should provide a “guiding hand” to give reporters proper direction in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for the appointment of “a senior figure, with the clout to provide direction and resources, to give more secure editorial planning”.
The panel also urged BBC reporters to “provide more consistently a full and fair account, and to fill in the gaps, most obviously in respect of context and history” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It said that the corporation’s television news “should look for the important stories and not be dazzled by striking, and available, pictures”. And it recommended: “We want the BBC to be more proactive in explaining the complexities of the conflict. Much can be done through directly linking broadcast programmes to related background available online.”
But the report noted stronger evidence of pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian coverage by the BBC, while concluding there was no overall, systematic bias one way or the other.
There were many more spokespeople available to comment on the Israeli side while there were fewer Palestinians, many of whom were not able or allowed to speak out, the independent panel noted. It added that the victims of Palestinian terrorism received more coverage because the images were often more striking.
The report did note that a “significant number” of emails and letters sent to the review originated from the pro-Israeli lobby in the US and Israel.
“Pressure group activity could be seen in the number of identical letters or parts of letters,” the report said. “A large number of pro-Israel supporters emailed from the United States, often with the same complaint, on the same date and/or from the same state.” BBC sources expressed surprise that the report accused the corporation of demonstrating bias towards Israel, contrary to the perception that the BBC is pro-Palestinian.
Though the corporation’s news division welcomed the report’s conclusion that there was no systematic bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it said: “We are confident we have the right editorial structures and processes in place to provide high quality, impartial journalism and to ensure we continue to make progress in developing the authority and comprehensiveness of our output.”