BBC Campaign Update

ISRAEL BRITAIN ALLIANCE – BBC CAMPAIGN OVERVIEW

If you took part in the Israel Britain Alliance campaign about BBC bias – thank you.

More than 11,000 people wrote to their MPs across all 650 parliamentary constituencies.

From the Shetland Islands in the north, to St. Ives in the south, and all points east and west, IBA supporters and the supporters of our campaign partners contacted every MP in every parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom.

Our strategy was simple – to expose the BBC’s bias against Israel.

The BBC is a monolithic institution that is revered by (a significant part of) its audience.

It is that reverence that allows it to flout its Royal Charter objective of impartiality.

Its internal and external complaints mechanisms are designed to drive people into silos and deflect criticism.

That’s why the IBA chose to ignore those mechanisms and asked supporters to write to their MPs direct,  requesting that they forward their complaints about the BBC’s content on Israel, to the BBC board chairman.

The letters were also copied to the BBC and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, in order that a tally would be retained on the number of complaints.

There are many examples of BBC Israel bias but we chose, for reasons of conciseness and to minimise the opportunity for the BBC to generalise, to focus on just one, the rocket attacks on Israel’s southern border

Many MPs immediately fulfilled their constituents’ requests and wrote to the BBC, but predictably, with such a large volume of campaign letters, some took what they thought was the easier route and used the stock response issued by their political parties.

The IBA rebuttal service made short work of these.

Conservative MPs said: ‘the government can’t intervene on matters concerning the BBC’, fine we said, the campaign letter asked MPs to write to the BBC, not the government.

Labour MPs waffled but were reminded that the letter merely asked them to pass their constituents concerns to the BBC.

SNP MPs focused on their policy for a separate Scottish broadcasting network, but they were reminded that that had nothing to do with their constituent’s request.

Once those arguments were swatted away MPs did write to the BBC.

The BBC responded, predictably attempting to side step the issues raised, but a further rebuttal service offered by the IBA asked them to justify their position.

This led to an extraordinary – see below in red – attempt by the BBC to defy gravity.

The spectacularly unreasonable elements are highlighted in green.

The BBC campaign will end on Monday, 29 October.

However, the rebuttal service will still be live. If you have received a poor response from the BBC, or your MP, we can help you with a response. Send them to michael@israelbritain.org.uk.

With your steadfast support this campaign has relentlessly focused attention on the BBC’s failure to deliver its public duty to produce and deliver impartial news.

The BBC has been forced to offer its rationale for the way it reports news on Israel and, as the response below highlights, it has come up short on the standards that are set out in its Royal Charter.

To summarise, BBC editors decide what constitutes news and how it should be reported, not the facts.

The facts must lead news.

Our campaign has dragged the issue of bias against Israel from the BBC’s preferred method of public accountability – its own rigged complaints mechanism – the first two stages of which involve outsourcing each complaint to a private company, CAPITA plc, to the disinfectant of accountability through our parliamentary democracy.

The Catch 22 of a BBC complaints procedure that allows the corporation to measure its own record on delivering impartial news, supported by a façade of external scrutiny offered by a weak and toothless OFCOM, is not fit for purpose.

Your voices have drawn a line in the sand.

NEXT STEPS

  • The IBA will write to the BBC Board chairman, Sir David Clementi, with a roundup of the campaign.
  • The IBA will work with UK MEDIA WATCH & BBC WATCH to ensure that the BBC is held to account through our country’s democratic processes.

 

Dear Mr

Thank you for your email and I am sorry your constituent was not happy with the previous reply.

I do not think, however, that any logical conclusion can be reached by investigating seven different reports in the manner that is suggested.

Let me explain why by dealing with the point in the generality.

Editors in the BBC decide for themselves what the main point of any news item might be. At any given time, however, a news item is updated to take into account of the latest information. This is, after all, the nature of news. Equally, the size of any given development may dictate that it attracts greater prominence than another.

There is therefore no objectively ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ chronological order of events as you constituent suggests. If, for example, a rocket attack provoked an Israeli response that killed a large number of Palestinians, the audience would rightly expect these facts to be reported. But it would not necessarily be the case, as your constituent might wish, that the initial rocket attack is the first point in the story: clearly events would have moved on.

We do not report each and every attack against Israel; nor do we report each and every Palestinian death. I do not think we are under an obligation to do so or that it is reasonable to expect it.

We do, however, aim to reflect the general trend of events in our reporting. For example, in July we reported that more than 200 rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel.

In summary, the BBC does not adopt any side’s narrative as its own and while it is right that we should be accountable we will continue to report what is undoubtedly a complex issue independently and impartially.

I hope this answers your constituent’s concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Fran Unsworth

The Israel- Britain Alliance (IBA) is a UK based organisation that celebrates Britain's relationship with the State of Israel.