Thursday, 16 April 2009

Bowen's censure

The BBC Trust has charged BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen with violating the BBC's codes of impartiality.
"Bowen was censured for a piece which he wrote for the BBC website last June under the headline "Six days that changed the Middle East", attempting to give context to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by analysing the events of the 1967 Six Day War. The Middle East editor referred to "Zionism's innate instinct to push out the frontier". He wrote that Israel showed a "defiance of everyone's interpretation of international law except its own" and that its generals felt that they were dealing with "unfinished business", left over from the 1948 War of Independence."
It's another landmark example of the BBC's institutional bias and the Trust bowing to the usual Zionist forces.

The BBC's own reporting of the censure comes with all the standard denials of BBC bias, including this remarkable spin:

The BBC also stated that an independent inquiry in 2006 had found little to suggest deliberate or systematic bias in BBC reporting of Israel and the Palestinians and that there was evidence of a commitment to be fair, accurate and impartial."
This, of course, belies the actual findings of the inquiry's quantitative report (by Loughborough University, 2006) which recorded multiple instances of BBC disparities in favour of Israel.

So far, we've seen little critical reaction from Bowen himself. The Israeli lobby regard him as an irritation - like Orla Guerin, whom they managed to remove - one of the more 'troublesome' BBC journalists. Yet, it's worth rewinding to the recent massacre of Gaza, during which Bowen made numerous comments defending the BBC's rigid 'impartiality' and 'objectivity'. As an insightful Media Lens piece on Bowen and the myth of BBC even-handedness shows, those comments reflect the kind of ultimate toe-the-line conformity of even the 'braver' BBC journalist.

This is the real test for 'serious journalists' like Bowen. Are they prepared to criticise the institutional hand that feeds? Does his proclaimed commitment to 'impartiality' preclude him from criticising the Trust's own obvious partiality?

The default line
from some BBC staff in response to Bowen's censure is that the Trust 'has it in for us'. So comments a 'senior BBC journalist' for the Independent:

"There's no love lost between staff and the BBC Trust – we see them as a hostile body and they seem to be in competition with [broadcasting regulator] Ofcom to see who can kick us the hardest," said a senior BBC journalist.

"The trust is in a position where it has to be seen to be critical and tough because of the dual regulatory system we have been saddled with, which doesn't work. It doesn't waste any opportunities to kick us if it can do."

If only such senior journalists were as observant of the BBC's persistent biases, establishment contortions and their own delusions of journalistic grandeur.

If so, they might risk some critical investigation of the push and purge agenda of
CAMERA and the Zionist lobby who brought this formal complaint to the BBC Trust.

Aside from the lobby's power and the BBC's/Trust's succumbing to it, this judgement explodes the respectable notion that any kind of reporting can be objective and impartial. In the power-serving world of corporate and establishment media, a journalist writes what his or her employers broadly expect of them. The journalist's own judgement of what is permissible is based on a conditioned understanding of, and unstated adherence to, the subjective codes and leanings of the employing organisation itself - in this case, the BBC.

In faithful defence of such, the Trust's judgement in upholding this complaint from CAMERA and its Zionist accomplice is a subjective conclusion influenced by its own conservative views, which includes open, partial support and deference towards Israel.

None of this, of course, will be up for discussion by the BBC - or Jeremy Bowen.


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