CAMERA Responds to BBC in Spectator

In an essay published in the Spectator, a British news magazine, CAMERA critiques the latest disingenuous attempt by the BBC to defend its one-sided documentary about Jerusalem.

“A Walk in the Park,” a documentary originally broadcast in January 2010 on BBC One’s Panorama news show, was riddled with misinformation that defamed Israel. It repeatedly violated BBC’s Editorial Guidelines requiring accuracy and impartiality by delivering a one-sided and inaccurate account of Israel’s policies in Jerusalem.

Since then, CAMERA has sought to set the record straight, with the BBC at every stage defending its program with irrelevant or illogical argumentation. CAMERA began by filing a formal complaint with the producers of the program, followed by multiple appeals to the BBC bodies tasked with enforcing its guidelines. After the BBC’s highest editorial body rejected the complaint, CAMERA went public with a video highlighting the problems in the program and demonstrating the BBC’s unwillingness to enforce its own guidelines.

The video received much public attention. It was covered in a Jerusalem Post article,  and prompted British journalist Melanie Phillips to pen an open letter to the British minister of culture, published on the Spectator’s website, calling on him to watch CAMERA’s video and “take urgent steps to ensure that the BBC finally confronts the prejudice and inertia which are combining to turn its reporting on Israel into crude pro-Arab propaganda, and thus risk destroying the integrity of an institution which was once one of Britain’s greatest creations.” And to keep the issue in the public eye, advertisements, linked to the video, were placed on the popular Drudge Report website asking visitors whether they trust the BBC.

Confronted with all this negative attention, Panorama editor Tom Giles defensively responded to Phillips’ open letter with an entry on the Spectator’s blog attacking CAMERA’s exposé. Giles insisted that CAMERA “edit[ed] together commentary, pictures and interviews to give a very different impression of the film than that broadcast.”

CAMERA’s essay in the Spectator rebutted Giles’s blog item, noting it was another example of the illogic with which the BBC has consistently approached reasoned arguments about the biased documentary:

Mr. Giles’s complaint relies in part on his assertion, with ominous undertones, that CAMERA’s brief video “re-edited” the Panorama documentary and shows only excerpts from the programme.

Of course, it’s obvious that a 15-minute video meant to draw attention to journalistic malpractice in a 30-minute documentary, and to highlight the BBC’s inadequate defence of its programme, by necessity must rely on excerpts and montages. Indeed, the video also selectively excerpts examples from CAMERA’s complaint, omitting, for the sake of brevity, other instances of the documentary’s violation of the Editorial Guidelines.

Readers should take note that, importantly, Mr. Giles does not directly refute even one of the points we made in the video, evidently seeking instead to distract readers with incoherent and incongruous commentary. He says nothing about BBC’s out-of-context statistics. There is not a word of explanation for why the BBC twice relayed unsubstantiated and false accusations that Jerusalem is being ethnically cleansed of Arabs when, in fact, the city’s Arab population is growing faster than its Jewish population. Nor does he attempt to explain why the BBC does not refer to acts of Palestinian terrorism even while it charges Jews with acts of violence.

By keeping the spotlight on the BBC’s bias and departure from its code of journalistic ethics, CAMERA made it clear to the BBC that it cannot go on using its Editorial Guidelines as a fig leaf by invoking them to create a pretense of oversight and responsibility when in fact there is absolutely no effort made to enforce them. As long as this happens, CAMERA will continue to publicly embarrass the BBC by raising awareness of its shoddy and dishonest journalism on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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