On 15th July, 5,000 demonstrators blocked the traffic outside the BBC’s headquarters in Portland Place, London, protesting at its one-sided coverage of Israel’s assaults on Gaza. Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, handed in a letter to the BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, signed by 45,ooo people, calling for the BBC to reflect the reality of Gaza’s occupation in its coverage.
The next day, the BBC ran an unprecedented item on its flagship news programme, ‘Today’ (Radio 4), examining the accusation that it is biased towards Israel.
The item was presented by Mishal Husain, speaking to Greg Philo, professor of Communications and Social Change at Glasgow University, and author of More Bad News from Israel, a study of BBC and ITV coverage of the occupation.
This is an extract of the conversation:
Mishal Husain (MH): ‘Are the protesters right? Have we been biased at the BBC in favour of Israel?’
Greg Philo: ‘I think actually the protesters are doing the BBC a favour. I think they will help the journalists to give a better perspective.
‘I’ve had many senior journalists at the BBC saying they simply can’t get the Palestinian viewpoint across, that the perspective they can’t say is the Palestinian view that Israel is a brutal apartheid state.’
MH: ‘As you watch news coverage on the BBC and other broadcasters, what’s the full picture you get of the coverage of this conflict?’
GP: ‘Well, the Palestinian perspective is just not there. The Israelis are on twice as much. But the Palestinian view and the historical analysis of the events is that they were displaced from their land, they are living under military rule.
‘People don’t even understand that it’s a military occupation that Palestinians are subject to. They don’t know about the economic blockade, they don’t know about the consequences of that on Palestinian life.”
MH: ‘We have, and we do have, many reports from Gaza…reporting on the casualties, reporting from the morgues.’
GP: ‘ The issue is the roots of the conflict. The problem with the coverage is that it doesn’t refer to the history of it. That the Palestinians are a displaced people, that they were forced to flee, that they lost their homes and lands, that the occupation and the way it is conducted is illegal, that they lose their water, that they had their lives, in effect, stolen from them.
‘Even if the BBC can’t give the Palestinian view, it should at least respect international law. The BBC should be reporting the international judgements on things like the Wall.’
…’Unless there’s a proper discussion of the root causes of this, unless the politicians are made to confront the history of this and confront seriously the conditions under which are they are reduced, unless they understand and are made to confront the history of it – the displacement of a people – until the politicians face that, how can we have a proper debate?’
MH: ‘The statement that the BBC has given us is: We report widely on different aspects of this ongoing and complex conflict. Our role is to explain what is happening and we endeavour to reflect a range of voices among deeply held views.’
PSC would like to thank supporting organisations, everyone who signed the open letter to the BBC and everyone who was at the demonstration for forcing the BBC to publicly confront the flaws in its coverage. We will continue our campaigning for more accurate and honest coverage of the occupation.
If you would like to donate to PSC’s campaigning work, you can do so here: http://donate.palestinecampaign.org/
Read more about PSC’s open letter to the BBC here: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/chomsky-pilger-loach-call-bbc-reflect-reality-gazas-occupation/