Coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict by the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) favors the Israeli side, a study for the BBC Governors has concluded.
Deaths of Israelis received greater coverage than Palestinian fatalities, and Israelis received more airtime on news and current affairs programmes. The references to “identifiable shortcomings” surprised BBC News executives, who are more used to accusations that their coverage is routinely anti-Israel. The accusations of anti-Israel bias, however, are rarely founded on facts.
Only “a small percentage of Palestinian fatalities were reported by BBC News”, the analysis, published yesterday, noted, while “the killing of more than one Israeli by Palestinians either by gun or bomb was reported on national broadcast programmes”.
At the same time, there was “little reporting of the difficulties faced by the Palestinians in their daily lives” and a “failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other side lives under occupation”.
Led by Sir Quentin Thomas, the president of the British Board of Film Classification, the Governors’ study group analysed a period between August 2005 and January this year in which 98 Palestinians were killed and there were up to 23 Israeli fatalities.
The study did not go so far to say that there was a systematic bias in news coverage, noting that in their findings, there was "little to suggest deliberate or systematic bias", instead finding a number of "identifiable shortcomings".
The study showed that the BBC failed to consistently "constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture".
The Council for Arab-British Understanding said "the panel quite correctly highlighted that there was little reporting of the difficulties faced by Palestinians in their daily lives".
But some media analysts claim that the critique did not go far enough. Daniel Shek, of the British Israel Communications & Research Centre, said: "The report argues that the Israelis and Palestinians are not on equal terms, since the Israelis possess a fully functioning state and the Palestinians do not. It then implies that an imbalance in BBC coverage could be acceptable. If such an argument absolves the BBC from offering balanced reporting then it is a slippery slope towards biased coverage."
This is not the first time the BBC has been accused of anti-Palestinian bias in its reporting. Muslim groups in the United Kingdom challenged the "Guide to the Middle East Conflict" lesson plan on the Children’s BBC Newsround website, which provides ready to use "lesson plans" to help teachers use news in the classroom. The groups were concerned that the ‘lesson plans’, designed for use by 11 – 14 year olds, were biased toward Israel because of use of the word ‘Arab’ instead of Palestinian, the absence of a mention of the Israeli occupation, justification of the Israeli apartheid Wall, and no mention of the hundreds of United Nations Resolutions condemning Israeli human rights abuses.
Due to the outcry, the ‘lesson plan’ has been significantly changed, but some still point out pro-Israel biases. One section of the ‘lesson plan’, for example, is a ‘diary’ from a BBC reporter interviewing children in Israel and the West Bank, but the crew does not go to the Gaza Strip, home to nearly 500,000 Palestinian children, giving as a reason, "We’re looking for children’s opinions – not battlegrounds!" — despite the fact that many children do live in the ‘battleground’ of the Gaza Strip.