Monday, October 16, 2006

When it comes to the coverage of Middle East conflicts involving Israel, we witnessed the distortions, exaggerated numbers, doctoring of pictures, staging scenes, propagation of false atrocities (such as in "Jenin Massacre" that never was), the mythification of incidents based on false or cleverly- manufactured reportage (the "Al-Dura" case). Someday I'll compile the long list of "liberal" media series of blood libels and other slanderous narratives, whether explicit or implicit, against Israel. Right now I'm too overwhelmed with this latest news from and about the august BBC, working to withhold a lengthy report from the public which it purposts to serve ethically and truthfully.

And suppose the report is released and its message is a clear and incisive analysis of BBC's anti-Israel bias cleverly worked into its "news" reportage, will it cause people to pause, reflect, re-adjust their thinking and convictions when it comes to the way they view Israel? I doubt it. The BBC would not have gone the way it did if it weren't for knowledge that this bias would be eminently welcome and digestible among its viewers. Just as the BBC as a media outlet is responsible for putting out truthful reports, cleansed of biase or emotionas, so is the viewership responsible for implicitly and tacitly accepting these type of reporting, uncritically, willingly, maybe even gladly.

In other words, the BBC's anti-Israel bias would not have been as sustainable as it has been without an anticipation of the favourable reception of its biased narratives.

Like all public bodies, the BBC is obliged to release information about itself under the Act. However, along with Channel 4, Britain's other public service broadcaster, it is allowed to hold back material that deals with the production of its art, entertainment and journalism.
The High Court action is the latest stage of a lengthy and expensive battle by Steven Sugar, a lawyer, to get access to the document, which was compiled by Malcolm Balen, a senior editorial adviser, in 2004.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, who is responsible for the workings of the Act, agreed with the BBC that the document, which examines hundreds of hours of its radio and television broadcasts, could be held back. However, Mr Sugar appealed and, after a two-day hearing at which the BBC was represented by two barristers, the Information Tribunal found in his favour.

Mr Sugar said: "This is a serious report about a serious issue and has been compiled with public money. I lodged the request because I was concerned that the BBC's reporting of the second intifada was seriously unbalanced against Israel, but I think there are other issues at stake now in the light of the BBC's reaction."

The BBC's coverage of the Middle East has been frequently condemned for a perceived anti-Israeli bias.

In 2004, for example, Barbara Plett, a Middle East correspondent, was criticised for revealing in an episode of Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent that she had been moved to tears by the plight of the dying Yasser Arafat. MPs said it proved that the corporation was incapable of presenting a balanced account of issues in the Middle East.

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