Et tu, BBC?

October 22, 2023 • 11:45 am

This morning reader Mike called our attention to the article below from the BBC.  It’s a live-reporting feed about the war and the situation about the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, the likely victim of a misfired terrorist missile.  But I scanned the whole thread, and although it dwells thoroughly on the dead Gazans, there’s not a mention I could find about the mounting evidence that Islamic Jihad caused the carnage. If you can find some in this piece, let me know. My own impression is that the BBC follows the NYT in leaning its sympathetic coverage towards Palestine and away from Israel.

Here’s the summary of the article. It looks to be all about Palestine, except for some accusations regarding Israel:

Now two days ago the BBC did analyze the conflicting claims about the explostion, and concluded that, well, we just don’t know:

Amid the claim and counterclaim, getting to the truth is harder than ever.

BBC Verify is trying to unravel what is and isn’t known – looking at video footage, still imagery and other evidence, including eyewitness accounts. In addition, a BBC journalist has been to the blast site, where there is limited access.

New information is emerging all the time, so we will continue to update this article as we learn more and talk to experts about the evidence.

It is also important to note that as well as the physical fighting, this conflict is playing out as an information war. This is not the first time authorities in Israel and Gaza have given completely different accounts of an explosion. We are also looking at their various claims and statements.

Since then I haven’t been able to find any updates, though all other independent analyses of the blast point to a terrorist rocket, and none point to Israel.  What I did find was this article in Variety published last Thursday (click to read):

An excerpt:

The BBC has admitted it made a mistake over its reporting of a rocket attack on a Gaza hospital.

BBC correspondent Jon Donnison was reporting live on air about claims that a hospital in the region, which borders both Egypt and Israel, had been struck by a bomb or missile.

Donnision, who has worked for the corporation for 25 years, told viewers the Israeli military had been contacted for comment adding: “But it’s hard to see what else this could be really given the size of the explosion other than an Israeli air strike or several air strikes.”

In other words, the BBC pulled a New York Times stunt, but this time not by reporting what Hamas said, but reporting on a (possibly biased) reporter’s intuition.

Earlier today the BBC issued a correction over the story, admitting it had been “wrong” for Donnison to speculate as to which side had struck the hospital.

“We accept that even in this fast-moving situation it was wrong to speculate in this way, although he [Donnision] did not at any point report that it was an Israeli strike,” the corporation wrote on its “Corrections and Clarifications” page. ” This doesn’t represent the entirety of the BBC’s output and anyone watching, listening to or reading our coverage can see we have set out both sides’ competing claims about the explosion, clearly showing who is saying them, and what we do or don’t know.”

Yep, it’s that fast-moving news again!  And, of course, until Friday the BBC still refused to use the word “terrorist” to refer to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. They preferred “militants”:

The BBC’s mea culpa comes days after protesters gathered outside the broadcaster’s London headquarters to condemn its refusal to describe Hamas as a terrorist group. They have been designated a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and U.K. since 2021. The BBC continues to refer to them instead as “militants,” which has sparked criticism from both viewers and politicians, including foreign secretary James Cleverly and culture secretary Lucy Frazer.

Did that reflect some kind of anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian bias in the BBC? For any rational person knows that yes, Hamas and similar organizations comprise TERRORISTS.  “Militant” can have very different meanings. Remember “militant atheists”?

Now, however, the Financial Times reports that the BBC has given in as of Friday:

The BBC has shifted its position on using the word “militant” to describe Hamas in the wake of criticism in recent weeks over how the UK public broadcaster has reported on the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, a Jewish communal organisation, said that in a meeting with BBC director-general Tim Davie on Friday he had confirmed it was no longer BBC practice to refer to Hamas as militants.

He said the broadcaster would instead continue to describe the group as a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK government and others, or simply as Hamas.

That’s one small step for journalism-kind.

7 thoughts on “Et tu, BBC?

  1. Oh no! Can’t we even trust the BBC anymore? That is devastating.
    I always thought the BBC was a highly reliable source.

    1. On topics where there is a liberal/progressive view (Israel/Palestine, of course, but also, for example, the sex/gender issue) the BBC have been disappointingly one-sided. This sometimes manifests itself through the decision not to cover a story at all. Even when their coverage is good (e.g. the Nolan Investigates series), it is often tucked away and hard to find.


    Several British publications have questioned whether the move was truly a result of a change of heart or if it was driven by the review of BBC funding which is coming up in the next week. It’s speculated that British government ministers are planning to cap the license fee (the source of BBC funding) to the lowest possible rate of inflation. The new fee is expected to be announced in April 2024.

  3. Among a variety of news sources, I consult the reports of Amanpour & Company on PBS. However, I often hear comments on that program that seem to highlight “the war on Palestine” or “the war on Hamas” … rather than “the war on Israel by Hamas.”

    What do people here think of that PBS program, or of Amanpour’s reporting in general? (Especially now.)

  4. I read the long BBC piece that you cite. I thought they included a lot of detail, which was good. But the end was still equivocal. I couldn’t help but think that the BBC was embarking on a slow walk toward correcting what they had written before (blaming Israel for the hospital explosion) but that they were inching slowly toward the truth day by day so as to not have egg on their faces.

    I have not seen any new outlet simply say that they blew the coverage by running with Hamas’s lies. (Good to see the BBC mea culpa appear.) I may be reading the wrong media, but the big guns seem to be so automatically inclined to think that Israel is an aggressor they are susceptible to these sorts of errors. That is, of course, if they are errors and not deliberate distortions. Sometimes it’s hard to know, so I read as much as I can.

    It’s important to remember that these false reports were in part responsible for massive anti-Israel and anti-USA demonstrations. Their carelessness (or worse) have lit the Middle East on fire.

    1. The BBC almost never comes down off the fence in its reporting. It’s a publicly funded organisation and they are paranoid about taking sides, at least as far as their news reporting is concerned.

      1. But when what Hamas want is for their people to be called “fighters” or “gunmen” and then you use those terms you are taking sides, surely? The BBC briefly (and correctly) called the man who shot two Swedes dead in Brussels last week a “terrorist”, but quickly back-pedalled when the disparity with their position on Hamas was highlighted.

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