Thursday, May 04, 2006

The problem with the BBC

The BBC just completed a third-party study on how impartial its coverage is of the Israeli/Palestinian Arab conflict.

There seems some disagreement as to what the conclusions are (the Times claimed the study concluded that BBC coverage favored Israel, which does not seem to be quite true.) There was one welcome recommendation that the BBC use the word "terrorism" when appropriate.

From reading the report itself, it is obvious that the authors tried very hard to ensure that the BBC's coverage was "balanced." In fact, that was one of the purposes of the report:
...[T]he BBC [is] committed, as our terms of reference make clear, to fairness, impartiality and balance. (While fairness and impartiality are legal requirements, balance is a concept adopted by the BBC in seeking to give effect to them.)

And much of the report details suggestions on how exactly to get balanced reporting out of an asymmetrical conflict.

The problem is that the premise is wrong.

Israel's legitimacy is not a valid topic for a balanced debate any more than that of Great Britain. Terrorism's legitimacy is similarly not a valid topic for debate. Any sensible person makes reasonable assumptions that the fundamental moral basis of the reporter is somewhat similar to the reader. These moral absolutes make "impartiality" in itself immoral.

To give a specific example, the report mentions that BBC coverage favors multiple Israeli deaths in terror attacks compared to multiple Palestinian Arabs killed in Israeli attacks (in terms of time given and percentage of incidents reported). The point is that this imbalance needs to be addressed.

That is absurd. There is a huge difference in motive for the killings, and that difference is the difference between morality and immorality. If motive is not important, one would expect the BBC to cover every auto accident in England with as much airtime as an assassination of a Prime Minister. Nobody but the far Left and Arab terror apologists claim that Israel targets civilians, while the Arabs themselves celebrate the murder of Israeli and Western civilians. The very idea that the coverage of both events deserve the same sympathy is in itself immoral.

Nobody is saying that the BBC should not provide in-depth analysis of the conflict, nor that it shouldn't cover anything from the Palestinian Arab viewpoint. But "balance" is immoral.

A more basic premise that is wrong in this report is that the conflict is between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. If the conflict is framed in such terms, it is easy to make Israel look like the big bully with the huge advantage in strength. This idea is so ingrained in the world psyche that even the BBC, striving for impartiality (and it truly appears to be trying) cannot see the forest for the trees.

It is not a conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israel. It is a conflict between the entire Arab world and Israel. (One can plausibly argue that it is a single battle in the conflict between Islam and the West as well.)

The Palestinian Arab people are not in great shape, but the idea that they have been pawns in the geopolitical and military power play between the entire Arab world and Israel is not addressed by most news outlets. The basic question of whether the Arabs want independence for their Palestinian brethren, or the destruction of Israel, is not addressed. When framed this way, the "conflict" can be seen in an entirely new, and more accurate, light.

But the world has been brainwashed into accepting the idea of a Palestine-centric conflict, and this fundamentally affects how the news is reported. If the BBC and other news outlets truly want to be fair, accurate and balanced, they need to look beyond the incorrect framing that is implicit in the BBC report itself.

If you cannot define the issues correctly to begin with, you cannot dream to cover them accurately.