The BBC has upheld complaints that an interview with Israel’s ‘defence’ minister on Radio 4 was biased in favour of Israel.
Moshe Ya’alon was allowed to tell lie after lie on the Today programme on 19th March by BBC presenter, Sarah Montague, who remained completely silent for minutes on end as he spoke.
Among the lies told by Ya’alon, and broadcast unchallenged by the BBC, was his claim that: “The Palestinians enjoy already political independence…and we are happy with it.”
Palestine Solidarity Campaign took action and, in May, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit ruled that the interview had breached the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.
In a letter to complainants, the BBC’s head of editorial standards, Fraser Steel, wrote: “Mr Ya’alon was allowed to make several controversial statements on those matters without any meaningful challenge and the programme makers have accepted that the interviewer ought to have interrupted him and questioned him on his assertions.”
Steel added: “…the output fell below the BBC’s standards off impartiality”.
The BBC’s ruling was covered by the Guardian newspaper, which quoted Sarah Colborne, PSC’s Director, as saying:
“Today presenters are known for their ferocious questioning of government ministers, their constant interruptions, their sharp challenges and refusal to brook any nonsense. However, Sarah Montague afforded Moshe Ya’alon the unprecedented privilege of absolute silence to set out the Israeli stall and meekly accepted everything he said.
“It is inexplicable why she put aside Today’s normal standards of interviewing when faced with an Israeli government minister, and we hope the Editorial Complaints Unit’s finding – that her interview breached the BBC’s impartiality guidelines – will ensure that she is never so accommodating to an Israeli spokesperson again.”
PSC’s transcript and analysis of the Moshe Ya’alon interview can be read here.
PSC’s work led to another BBC victory in February. In this, the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) agreed with complainants that an online BBC article about Gaza’s tunnels had breached the organisation’s accuracy guidelines by presenting its pro-Israel author, Eado Hecht, as an ‘independent’ defence analyst.
Far from being independent, Hecht is in the pay of the Israeli army. His article, published on BBC Online during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, was an attempt to justify the destruction being wreaked on the Palestinians.
BBC Online’s description of Hecht as independent was judged by the ECU to have breached the following editorial guideline on accuracy. “We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”
The ECU’s ruling was published by BBC Online in February.