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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Honest Reporting looks at BBC bias

Honest Reporting published an exhaustive look at BBC bias for just the first three months of the year. Here's the executive summary:

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the largest broadcasting organization in the world. It is funded principally by an annual television license fee charged to all United Kingdom households, companies and organizations using equipment capable of receiving television broadcasts. Based on its influence and dependency on public funding, one would expect extremely high standards in terms of objectivity from the BBC. However, our in-depth analysis of articles published on the BBC website during the first quarter of 2010 shows that the BBC's coverage is filled with an anti-Israel bias that is reflected in both the style and substance of its daily reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This research demonstrates:

• Daily coverage tends to focus on Israeli actions deemed as undermining the peace process while Palestinian actions violating peace agreements are either ignored or downplayed. The issue of Israeli housing construction in Jerusalem gets wide coverage by the BBC while constant and ongoing Palestinian glorification of terror, a major breach of every agreement, is almost ignored.

• Articles often lead with the Palestinian perspective or bring in partisan, agenda-driven Israeli organizations that take a position critical of the Israeli government for “balance,” representing a small number of Israelis.

• Complex historical issues are often presented without proper context. To say that Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 without referencing the 3,000 year Jewish history of the city misleads more than it informs.

• Inaccurate terms are often used for fear of passing judgment on the people and events being described. The BBC refers to Hamas terrorists as “militants” or “fighters.” Ironically, that is in itself a judgment. Another example is that the term "right wing" is used frequently when referring to the Israeli governing coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu. By using this term (which we have never seen applied by the BBC to even the most extreme Palestinian political parties,) isn't the BBC passing its own judgment?

Especially considering the fact that "right wing" is usually used as a pejorative rather than simply descriptive label, it has no place in objective journalism.

This report is part of our continuing series that examines the daily coverage of influential media organizations. A single story that is based on a gross distortion of an event may be easier to identify as biased. Yet it is the soft but no less corrosive bias that pervades day to day coverage that has a greater impact on the way Israel is perceived by the general public.