Thursday, June 14, 2007

BBC website reflects skewed coverage of refugees

A BBC listener was shocked to discover that the BBC website contained only two references to Jewish refugees from Arab lands - neither of them emanating from BBC programmes. On the other hand, the deluge of information on Arab refugees - some would call it propaganda - has peaked with the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

Terry M did a search of the BBC website, but the only 'Jewish refugees' discussed by the BBC were Holocaust survivors.

Terry had originally complained about a radio programme in the World Stories series called 'A house in Jerusalem', which will go out on the BBC World Service on June 15. The programme talks of a Palestinian family displaced from a house now occupied by Israelis. In response to Terry's suggestion that the BBC should do a follow-up programme about Jews displaced from their home in Baghdad, Alexandria or Tripoli (where up to a third of the population were once Jews), the programme's producer argued that the Israeli point of view would be put across in a second programme by a Ukrainian woman married to an Israeli.

In turn, Terry sent the following response:


"I understand that you cannot cover "every side of every issue" in the ten programmes a year allotted to the "World Stories" series. I also accept that you strive for balance over the longer period. Of course this is also part of the remit of the BBC, to strive for balance in its coverage. This was why I suggested a programme that would highlight the plight of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

Although the BBC states a commitment to balanced coverage it seems to have an unusual interpretation of balance when covering the "Palestinian refugees" and "Jewish refugees", displaced in roughly similar numbers. Your email prompted me to conduct a little 'rough and ready' research using the BBC's own website; the site has been live for some time it is fair to assume that its contents form a reasonable microcosm of the BBC output.

"I searched for the two terms "Palestinian refugees" and "Jewish refugees", putting the terms in quotation marks for more precise searching. There were 65 pages on "Palestinian refugees" and 14 pages with the term "Jewish refugees". There are 10 entries on each page. Then I browsed each entry and was shocked to discover that every entry on "Jewish refugees" was a discussion on the Second World War and Jews escaping the Holocaust. There were only two entries specifically mentioning Jewish refugees from Arab lands – and both were comments by members of the public on the Have Your Say site! Surely the BBC should be able to do better than to cover Palestinian refugees 650 times and not find space to cover the Jewish refugees from Arab lands just once?

I will certainly listen to both programmes, as you suggest. You commend the second programme as "very much from the Israeli point of view", but it was not the Israelis but the forgotten refugees from Arab lands that have no voice."


Terry is still waiting for a further reply from the BBC.

1 comment:

Johannes said...

Fair play. I'm sick and tired of the chirade of BBC "impartiality". I just want the facts puhlease!