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Tuesday, December 13 2005

BBC 'totally fair'

DykeFormer BBC director-general Greg Dyke (pictured) overreacted to rumors that correspondent Orla Guerin was forced out of Israel. Writing in The Independent, Dyke ably debunked the rumors, then went on to defend the network's reporting from the Mideast, completely omitting the fact that the BBC's own board of governors arranged for an independent panel of inquiry to investigate coverage from there:

We investigated many of the complaints and most of the time found our reporting had been totally fair. Of course the pro-Israeli lobby didn't accept that but then they had a different agenda.

HonestReporting’s own evidence (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) contradicts Dyke’s claims of impartiality. And we’ve found that relying on the BBC to investigate itself is no better than asking Syria to investigate the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Despite the independent panel's ongoing work and the Hutton Report, Dyke isn’t easily letting go of his rose-colored glasses.

UPDATE 12/18: Britain's Chief Rabbi disagrees with Dyke's assessment of their meeting.



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Professional managers in the media are constitutionally incapable of admitting to prejudice, unfairness and subjectivity in their news coverage.

In the BBC's case, making even the smallest concession to their critics - and certainly to their energetic, informed and noisy critics in pro-Israel circles - would mean the complete unravelling of their preposterous claim of being above the conflict.

The BBC's owner (HM Government) is thoroughly involved in the Arab/Israel conflict, with serious strategic interests to protect. Its reporting and production staff here in the region and back in the UK has the full range of interests, ranging from personal fear of injury at the hands of un-muzzled terrorists through to ideological identification with the 'weak', the 'dispossessed' and the 'occupied'.

I have met many of the BBC's Jerusalem people over the past 4 years. There's not one of them silly enough to openly disclose a prejudice one way or the other. And while it's impossible to read their minds, it is perfectly possible to see the ever-present spin that ensures every piece of reporting from here fits with those 'interests'.

Rather than call the BBC to account and demand they live up to their self-promotional claims of objectivity, friends of Israel are better off accepting the BBC people for what they plainly are: an interested party, with interests to protect, and in this sense pretty much like Al-Jazeera, CNN and everyone else.

It's when we go along with the BBC's self-serving nonsense of being 'above it all' that we get ourselves into pointless you-said-he-said slanging matches. The BBC has never earned the right to be treated as a disinterested observer. That might be a problem for self-important BBC management types but it shouldn't be a problem for us consumers of their products. As with other forms of consumption - caveat emptor.

Arnold is correct to point out that the BBC is not a disinterested observer on the ME conflict, although I think it has less to do with the views and interests of the British government (which the BBC often opposes) and more to do with the British media's passion for left-wing causes and "victimization" narratives.

Not many are aware of this, but the BBC has actually advised the Palestinians on how to advance their narrative in the media (google for Lyse Doucet and Passia). For me, this goes beyond the usual bias and qualfies the BBC as a partisan in the conflict.

Have you noticed the BBC now calls the the Syrian hold of Lebanon as "occupation" rather than "presence" as it use to refer it neutrally until now?.

Surely if the BBC were fair and balance as it claims, by calling it "occupation" rather than "presence" would do much help for the diplomatic pressure and forging negative public opinion to end it.The politically-loaded term "occupied territories" or "occupation" seems to apply only to Israel and is hardly ever used when other territorial disputes are discussed, especially by interested third parties.

"Occupation" as an Accusation / The Terminology of Other Territorial Disputes

Dore Gold

The Terminology of Other Territorial Disputes

The politically-loaded term "occupied territories" or "occupation" seems to apply only to Israel and is hardly ever used when other territorial disputes are discussed, especially by interested third parties. For example, the U.S. Department of State refers to Kashmir as "disputed areas." Similarly in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the State Department describes the patch of Azerbaijan claimed as an independent republic by indigenous Armenian separatists as "the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh."

Despite the 1975 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice establishing that Western Sahara was not under Moroccan territorial sovereignty, it is not commonly accepted to describe the Moroccan military incursion in the former Spanish colony as an act of "occupation." In a more recent decision of the International Court of Justice from March 2001, the Persian Gulf island of Zubarah, claimed by both Qatar and Bahrain, was described by the Court as "disputed territory," until it was finally allocated to Qatar.

Of course each situation has its own unique history, but in a variety of other territorial disputes from northern Cyprus, to the Kurile Islands, to Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf -- which have involved some degree of armed conflict -- the term "occupied territories" is not commonly used in international discourse.

Thus, the case of the West Bank and Gaza Strip appears to be a special exception in recent history, for in many other territorial disputes since the Second World War, in which the land in question was under the previous sovereignty of another state, the term "occupied territory" has not been applied to the territory that had come under one side's military control as a result of armed conflict.

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