Friday, January 11, 2008

January 10 Media Critique: “One Year Analysis: The BBC in 2007”

New year, same old shit.

HonestReporting have decided to extend the pretence of serious media critique by subjecting us to an extension of their 6 month “study” of BBC coverage.

The last one was a scream. My favourite part was the penetrating analysis of headlines. HR was claiming that BBC stories on Palestinian violence used “softer” language in the headlines. One of the examples they gave was this headline, “Fresh Violence hits the Gaza strip”, but the violence in the story was that Israel had killed 8 Palestinians in a bombing! HR, in their earnest pursuit of accuracy, claimed this as an example of the BBCs bias against Israel.

So what can we expect from the year long study? More of the same………..rubbish, that is. And they don’t disappoint.


It’s always wrong, of course. But it is a great demonstration of HRs disdain for accuracy.

Did you know that, “the IDF recorded almost 1,500 separate rocket and mortar attacks for the year”?

Separate attacks?? Or did they mean 1500 individual rocket and mortars? 1500 attacks sounds much more ominous though. The attacks actually often consist of several, sometimes many, rockets/mortars falling in a single “attack”. The IDF, where HR got the stats, is a bit more accurate in its description of the situation,

During the year there were almost 1500 impacts of Qassam rockets and mortars

Yet there were only 6 BBC stories about Qassams. HR can smell the bias in the water,

It would be reasonable to expect that more than 0.4% of the rocket attacks and resulting damage would receive the BBC's attention.

We could apply similar logic to the attacks on Palestinians, except that while the number of rocket attacks on Israel are relatively low enough that they can be counted, we have no idea of the number of projectiles fired by Israel into Palestinian areas. I’d suggest it would be in the tens of thousands, but the IDF, who so carefully count and publish the Qassam figures, aren’t telling. And remember, every single Israeli tank shell/mortar/bomb is, according to HR, a separate….attack”. If it's around 14,000 do you think HR will 'expect that more than 0.4% of attacks.....would recieve the BBCs attention'?

So we’ll go with the other figure we have. We know that 2 Israelis were killed by Qassams in 2007. So that’s 3 BBC stories for every dead Israeli. 373 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, and HR tell us that 56 BBC stories covered these operations. That is 0.15 stories for each dead Palestinian. Or put it another way, it takes 20 dead Palestinians to elicit as much BBC coverage as one dead Israeli. Let’s call it the BBC Pro-Israel Bias Factor – and it’s 20. Not 20%, or 20 items, but a factor of 20, ie. the BBC is 20x more sensitive to Israeli deaths than Palestinian deaths

Yeah, I know , all this moral calculus is crude bullshit, but it just goes to show what a pile of crap HR is.

Headline Style

They stuffed this up last time, so I have great faith that they will again.

Same argument as last time – Palestinians not named in the headlines as the agents of attacks.

And what a mess they make if it, again. This headline, “West Bank clash leaves three dead” is one of the examples,

This one was extremely egregious since it was describing the ambush and murder of Israeli hikers by Palestinian terrorists. Since terrorist groups took responsibility for the attacks, why weren't they named in the headline?

Why indeed? Perhaps because the only thing “extremely egregarious” about this is HRs mis-representation of the story.

The two “Israeli hikers” were actually 2 off-duty IDF soldiers in the occupied West Bank who went for a walk, HR strangely leave this bit out, with their IDF-issue assault rifles. Armed soldiers, albeit off-duty, were attacked by armed Palestinians. The BBC could have called them terrorists in the headline, but it would have been entirely false to do so .

Again, this is the kind of thing that HR presents as ‘proof’ (an "extreme" case, no less) of the BBCs “anti-Israel bias” – that the BBC won’t lie in its headlines!

Tell me, are they utterly and comprehensively dishonest, or just totally imcompetent?