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August 8, 2006

BBC Radio's Hugh Sykes Exposes His Own Bias

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

Drinking From Home points out a "couple of snippets" from the BBC radio's Hugh Sykes, reporting from Beirut on Radio 4's PM yesterday evening:

"There are already countless children here in Beirut traumatised by repeatedly hearing this..." - a recording of an explosion is then played, after which Skyes continues - "...rather more violent than a Katyusha." (Clip - mp3, 15 secs)
Given, his report is from Beirut and on the Lebanese end of the conflict, but notably, nothing is said of the people killed, injured and made homeless in Israel by Katyushas. As DFH noted, Israelis have children too.

Also via DFH, Sykes then linked to James Reynolds in Israel who reported that the onslaught of Katyushas has not weakened Israeli support for the current military campaign. There was no pause to play sound effects during this segment. Reynolds then handed back to Sykes, who seemed to have taken his colleague's report personally. He'd already made his point comparing Katyushas and Israeli attacks but now felt compelled to repeat it:

"Here of course the view is very different from that. People here in Lebanon think the Katyusha rockets have a minor effect compared with the HUGE [his emphasis] devastating Israeli bombardment of the south of Lebanon and of parts of this city very frequently, and they feel that quite often there is an imbalance in the reporting of this conflict [my emphasis] and that not enough attention is paid to the fact that approximately ONE THOUSAND [his emphasis] Lebanese lives have been lost compared with a few dozen Israelis [my emphasis]." (Clip mp3, 31 secs)
Worthy of note are the words Sykes stresses for emotional impact.

So, is the BBC biased against Israel (and also against America)? Tim Mongomerie tells in The Buseness why he's convinced that the BBC is biased against both and how it can be made to change:

While the BBC is programmed to avoid partisan bias - carefully ensuring that Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat perspectives are fairly represented - its deeper biases are left unchecked.

On the international front the first fundamental bias is against Israel. The most famous example of this came when a BBC reporter explained how she wept at Yasser Arafat's death. The fact that Arafat was a terrorist hardly featured in a report that contained little objectivity and a great deal of the emotionalism made famous by the BBC's Fergal Keane.

Anti-Americanism is bias number two. The BBC's coverage of the New Orleans flood was widely condemned in America. No attempts were made to explain the US system of state government to viewers. All blame was put on to Bush's shoulders. The BBC headlined with stories of rape and mass looting at the time but never corrected these stories when they were shown up to be grossly exaggerated. The land which is richer and more scientifically advanced than the countries of Europe is routinely presented as unsophisticated by the BBC.

The BBC hardly hides its disdain for the Bush-Blair war on terror. British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are known to be unhappy at the ways in which their efforts at reconstruction hardly receive any attention. The situation in places like Baghdad and Kandahar is grim but the nation's public service broadcaster fails to balance stories of existing difficulties with an analysis of the consequences of failure.

Defenders of the BBC cite the corporation's criticism of Tony Blair's stewardship of the war as proof that it is not politically biased. But the criticisms invariably come from a left-wing, anti-war perspective. BBC reporters struggle to ask what might be called "right wing questions". Soon after David Cameron had abandoned traditional Tory support for lower taxation and public service reform he was subjected to a very tough interview on the Today programme. Can voters be sure you have changed? Isn't this new policy inconsistent with what you were proposing at the last election? Those questions were the questions of the establishment. Missing was an attack from the right. "Doesn't Britain need lower taxes to compete with the world's tiger economies?" "Isn't school and hospital choice an essential way of forcing public service workers to improve their performance?"

The representation of Christians in BBC soap operas. The desire to break taboos in the drama output. The telephone number salary that is paid for Jonathan Ross to shock and awe. The ways in which the BBC crowds out start-up businesses by pricing independent competitors out of the market. The lists of BBC faults is a long one but the chances of reform are small as long as the corporation continues to enjoy the confidence of the public.

The BBC is unlikely to be brought down by political reform. America's conservative politicians - like their British counterparts - were too afraid to take on the privileged position of the mainstream broadcasters. CBS, NBC and ABC were brought low by the bloggers and by the Fox phenomenon. Bloggers and Fox trailblazed new ways of presenting the news. Technology will do the same to the BBC. Britons will increasingly enjoy alternative sources of news and they will consume those alternatives in huge numbers.

More on BBC bias here...

Posted by Richard at August 8, 2006 12:38 PM

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