In the last couple of days I have posted once, twice about the use of language in BBC reporting of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I also linked to a BBC newseditorsblog that happened to be dealing with exactly the same questions that were troubling me.
Fear not – this is my last post on this theme for now, cos I know it’s getting boring. However, the comments section of that BBC blog post has grown like mad since I looked yesterday, and if this subject interests you at all then it’s well worth a read: all points of view seem to be represented and a fair number of the comments were genuinely intelligent.
Also worth a read (tipped off to this by some of the commenters, especially number 43) are some previous reviews of BBC coverage of the conflict, carried out specifically to identify whether and to what extent the apparently unending accusations of bias are true.
A 2004 (external) report found that there was some pro-Israel bias, albeit certainly an unconscious bias. Israelis and pro-Israeli points of view were given significantly more coverage; the context was rarely well-explained (e.g. that Israel has been occupying Palestinian territory for decades) so that the impression that “the Palestinians started it” was often given even where this was inappropriate; there was more coverage when Israelis were killed than when Palestinians were killed; and the use of language displayed bias, such as where in similar contexts Palestinians would be called terrorists while Israelis would be calledat worst extremists or vigilantes.
A 2006 (independent, but commissioned by the BBC) report found that things had improved a lot. (Click here for the report itself, PDF.) However, there was still some over-representation of the Israeli point of view and still some under-representation of Palestinian suffering, with continued under-reporting of casualties as well as a lack of attention to the daily reality of life under occupation. The report recommended some action points, but was on the whole rather positive about the impartiality, fairness and balance of BBC reporting.
I have learned stuff, and also feel slightly gratified to find that my initial disinterested impression of a certain limited, but nevertheless real, element of pro-Israel bias was probably more or less right.
OK that’s it, you’ll be relieved to know – end of subject!
(For now, anyway… I’m feeling quite a bit better now, so I’ve finally got out of bed, switched off the radio and will have some other stuff to talk about before long.)