ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE DEBATE
We consider that the duty of due impartiality requires the BBC to
give expression to both sides of the conflict when covering regular
news stories. During the period under review the BBC generally alloted
approximately equal time to the expression of views which were pro
Palestinian and those which were pro Israeli. This was effected
both through editorial comment and through selection of interviewees
or quotations from sources.
note that the BBC failed to include the views of one side. All the
examples which we have found during the period monitored have been
instances where the Israeli view has been omitted. In none of the
examples was there an attempt to explain the failure to obtain an
Israeli commentator. Examples include the following:
a) 30 May
2002 BBC Online, Israel detains suspects in Hebron
The BBC quotes
a statement by the Palestinian Leadership which is highly
critical of Israeli actions during incursions into West Bank towns
alleging, inter alia, that Israelis were killing and wounding
many civilians. The statement remains unchallenged by the
journalist. No Israeli source is quoted in response, either to deny
or to explain the alleged actions.
b) 6 June
death of 17 Israelis at the hand of a suicide bomber near Megiddo
on 5 June 2002, Israel raided Arafats headquarters in Ramallah.
Saeb Erekat, a leading Palestinian Authority source, was interviewed.
He made some far-reaching allegations. No Israeli source was
interviewed or quoted.
9 July 2002
In early July
2002, the UK Labour Government was criticised for selling weapons
parts to America which were to be placed in planes destined for
Israel. This was a lead story covered by World at One, PM, Ten O
clock News, Newsnight and News Online.
An intense debate
took place. Eight pages of text, containing three separate stories
on the topic, were posted on BBC Online. A further ten pages were
required to transcribe the coverage on the other programmes listed.
Two principle issues were debated. One was whether the sale of the
arms parts was consistent with guidelines recently published by
the Defence Secretary. The other was the morality of Israels
behaviour with regard to the Palestinians.
Israel was accused,
principally by the interviewees, of terrorising Palestinians,
and of internal oppression. It was alleged that Ariel
Sharon doesnt want to make peace, and Sharon was accused
of refus[ing] to stop the occupation, to seriously discuss
peace. It was said it is completely immoral supporting
Israel. It was said that sale of the weapons parts undermines
Of nine people
interviewed, three had known pro-Palestinian views. None of
those interviewed had pro-Israeli affiliations that we have been
able to discover. In the resulting debate we counted 33 statements
which were critical of Israel and only 3 which put an argument in
defence of Israel. This disparity was a foreseeable result of the
choice of interviewees.
it a breach of the duty of impartiality to fail to provide a balance
of views for such news stories. We are concerned where repeated
breaches of duty all favour the same side of the debate.