We reviewed six days of BBC TV news coverage (October 3-9) from the Middle East, to test for tendentiousness in three categories:
- Was the reporter airing a personal opinion in the news report?
- Were views from both sides presented?
- Were key words used that could be termed pejorative, prejudicial or one-sided?
BBC News, October 3-9, 2000
Several clear patterns emerge from an analysis of BBC news coverage of the second week of anti-Israel violence.
1) There is a general lack of balance in almost every report from the region. Israeli representatives are rarely interviewed or quoted. Reporters are almost never seen on the Israeli side of the battle line. They are almost always filmed just behind the stone throwers, or in towns under PA control.
During the entire week, only one report is filed from an Israeli town or village under fire–in this case, Psagot.
2) The language used by reporters in the field, news anchors and on screen graphics is often inaccurate and inflammatory. Yasser Arafat is routinely referred to as President Arafat. The violent riots are almost always labeled “demonstrations”, while Israeli retaliation is described in the most inflammatory terms–as a “pogrom” and a “massacre”.
3) Reporters frequently voice their own opinions in segments which are presented as news coverage, not labeled as analysis. Paul Adams does this on several occasions.
4) Facts are reported which are not substantiated or checked. Instead of quoting these as Arab claims, they are reported as facts.
1 p.m. News: Reporter Paul Adams injects his own opinions as he speaks about the status of the violence. Adams labels the riots as an uneven contest between Israelis and Palestinians.
6 p.m. Adams editorializes again by stating that the conflict was started by a calculated provocation by Sharon.Adams also states that Israel’s assertion that the violence was started by an order from Arafat is ân exaggeration.
No Israeli opinion is cited in either of these broadcasts.
9 p.m. Ben Brown justifies the violence by citing years of pent-up frustrations of Palestinians. He uses the word “massacre” to describe the killing of Palestinian youth.
In the same broadcast Adams misstates the facts by stating Palestinians “didn’t start this”.
BBC 2 Newsnight
Only Arab casualties are pictured. There is no sense that Israelis are being attacked, fired upon. Arafat is referred to as President Arafat.
7-9 a.m. Clive Myrie reporting. The violence is described as demonstrations,and hostilities, leaving the impression that the rioters are only demonstrating their feelings and that both sides are equally responsible for the situation.
Myrie cites Arik Sharon’s visit to the Al Aksa compound–an important holy site in Islam,omitting the fact that Al Aksa sits on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
October 4, 2000
1 p.m. Paul Adams reports from Nablus. Standing just behind Arabs throwing rocks Adams speaks of the ongoing violence, but without the context of the Israeli side, it appears that the youths are defending themselves from the IDF. At the conclusion of his report, Adams points to Israeli snipers. Once again, because of the omission of any reporting from the Israeli side the impression is left that the Israelis are shooting indiscriminately at Arab youth.
6 p.m. Adams reports from Hebron. No mention of Israeli casualties.
9 p.m. Ben Brown reports from a Ramallah hospital. Again, no reports from Israel, no Israeli representative responding. Brown reports that “the uprising goes on”,and describes the rioters simply as “protesters”.
October 5, 2000
1 p.m. Paul Adams reports from Ramallah. Again, no Israeli perspective. Calls the rioters “protesters”.
9 p.m. Ben Brown says that in Netzarim children die. No context given — without being given the information that the PA encourages children to take to the streets, the viewer is led to believe that the IDF targets young children.
Brown does go to Psagot for a report of the community under siege. This is the only report from a Jewish community during the entire week.
October 6, 2000
A map depicting the region shows the Golan Heights but the caption reads occupied territory.The word Golan does not appear.
Paul Adams again describes the rioters as stone throwing protesters.
Describing Joseph’s Tomb Adams accepts disinformation that claims saying it was never a religious site claimed by Jews.
October 9, 2000
7 a.m. Jeremy Bowen editorializes in his news report. Bowen says Israel threatens appropriate measures, as they call it….
Hilary Anderson from the Galilee in conversation with Bowen in Jerusalem. Anderson alleges that Israelis are attacking Arabs in their homes, without providing specifics, attribution or footage. In the next sentence she uses inflammatory language again without citing any facts: they’re carrying out pogroms, Anderson says.
Bowen calls rioters young men on the streets, and claims that a 14 year old was killed by settlers. Unsubstantiated, no specifics, no Israeli response requested.
Judy Lash Balint,
Author, Special Media Investigations Report on behalf of Israel Resource News Agency