Friday, August 25, 2006

Complaint to Beeb and Reply

The complaint relates to a breakfast time transmission from BBC breakfast. This had to be one of the most blatantly biased reports from the BBC that I have ever seen (and I have seen a fair few). What is even more staggering is the reply.

{Programme Name:} Breakfast News
{Transmission Date:}14 - 07 - 06

I would like to complain about the deliberate bias in the reporting of the current crisis between Israel and Lebanon. This is evidenced by the content of this specific news report (Breakfast News 14/07/2006). Your news report was completely one-sided in the following ways:

1. Footage was shown of injured Israeli civilians being placed into an ambulance and the correspondent reported that two Israeli civilians had been killed and several injured. In contrast there were no pictures of Arab civilian casualties (reported elsewhere as upwards of 50) resulting from bombing raids and shelling by Israel. The correspondent said " of course there have been casualties on the other side too" by way of acknowledging these casualties. There was no other mention. This is a disgraceful dismissal of Arab casualties in an offhand and passing manner. Why was insufficient and unequal coverage given to Arab casualties?
2. In an earlier part of the report, two identical repeated clips were shown of Hizbollah guerillas marching carrying flags. There was no purpose to repeating this clip except to emphasise in the mind of the viewer that these were fundamentalist fanatics. No comparative clips were shown of Israeli forces training.

3. The correspondent also said "this is not a helpless foe, the Israeli's are fighting. They are a well-armed militia with Katyusha rockets at their disposal." This is not my definition of well-armed, especially when you are facing the latest missiles, stealth bombers, apache gunships, armour piercing artillery shells and thermobaric weapons deployed by Israel. Not a word was said about the comparative strength of Israel or the weapons it is deploying.

In summary, my complaint specifically relates to unequal reporting of casualties in the crisis. Also it relates to footage that creates an image of suffering on the Israeli side whilst ignoring the far greater death and destruction on the Arab side. Thirdly, the depiction of the Arab side as well-armed and fanatical, without putting into context the strength and fanaticism on the Israeli side. I would like you to address each specific point in your reply. Thankyou for addressing this complaint.

The reply:
Dear [Kebz],

Thank you for your email of 14 July concerning 'Breakfast' on BBC ONE. I would like to apologise for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response, and it is a matter of regret to us that you have had to wait on this occasion.
I was sorry to learn that you felt the 14 July edition of the programme was unbalanced in its reporting of the casualties of the current Middle East crisis. I believe you felt footage of injured Israelis indicated a pro-Israeli bias, one which was supported by the report's treatment of Hezbollah.

Whilst I appreciate the strength of your views, I would assure you that, throughout our interviews and reports on the current conflict, we have tried to explain how the situation started and developed, and have given airtime to representatives from across the political spectrum.

However, I am sure you will appreciate that equal representation is not always possible or practical within individual programmes, and account also needs to be taken of the way a subject is covered over a period of time. Individual reports may give more time to one particular incident, but we regularly report the actions of - and consequences for - both sides. Although not every television or radio piece covers all aspects of the conflict, this does not constitute bias. We have covered the situation very extensively on our television, radio and online output, and for the full range of reports, I would advise that you visit the following sites:

We have also posted a 'facts and figures' article which details the number of casualties and extent of damage suffered by both sides:

In addition, the following articles are examples of our reports on Lebanese casualties:

Nevertheless, I appreciate you have strong views on this matter. Please be assured your concerns have been registered on our daily audience log, an internal document available to BBC management and News teams. This enables us to monitor audience reaction and develop future programming and policy.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact the BBC.

[BBC robot]
BBC Information
Note the standard evasion that their coverage may be unequal in specific programmes but is balanced by other pieces elsewhere. The tone of this specific programme was very much pro-Israeli and the report beggared belief. The footage and the comments were specifically biased in a way that could in no way have been balanced by anything elsewhere. Nowhere in the links given is there anything that resembles a report that would favour the Lebanese in the same way.


Blogger Philip said...

Please be assured your concerns have been registered on our daily audience log, an internal document available to BBC management and News teams. This enables us to monitor audience reaction and develop future programming and policy.

Please be assured that we will set your concerns against the 500 calls a day from Melanie Phillips fans ranting about anti-Semitism. This will enable us to develop future programming and policy in exact accordance with the reactions of the correct section of the audience.

10:46 AM  

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