Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Cameron 'keen to rekindle Middle East peace process': BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit's finding

A final exchange with the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, following previous correspondence.

British Broadcasting Corporation White City, 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TQ

Telephone: 020 8743 8000 Email:

Editorial Complaints Unit

Mr J Hilley
Ref: CT/1400241
8 July 2014

Dear Mr Hilley

News (6.00pm), BBC 1, 13 March 2014
I am writing to let you know the provisional finding of the Editorial Complaints Unit’s investigation into your complaint about a news item on the above bulletin. I do not believe there are grounds to uphold your complaint but I hope I can explain the reasons why I have reached this decision.

As you will no doubt recall, the phrase which prompted your complaint came at the end of a brief report, as follows:

David Cameron has urged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to be partners for peace. On the second day of his visit to the Middle East the Prime Minister held talks with the Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas. Mr Cameron also met the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is a peace envoy in the region. Mr Cameron is keen to rekindle the Middle East peace process.
You have asked what evidence there was to support the assertion that

"Mr Cameron is keen to rekindle the Middle East peace process". I have to say that it seems to me to be a reasonable interpretation based on Mr Cameron’s words and actions. As you will recall, he visited the Middle East and held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his joint press conference with Mr Abbas [1], the Prime Minister said:

We have had good discussions today and I want to focus on three issues. First the peace process and the leadership that both you and Prime Minister Netanyahu show by entering these negotiations. As I said in the Knesset I believe you are a partner for peace. I know that achieving lasting peace means difficult decisions and real determination to keep going. Britain has faced its own experiences on this front and we will do everything we can to help you.
Our position is clear and has not changed; we want to see a two state solution. A sovereign, viable and independent Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps, alongside a secure Israel. And Jerusalem, a sacred city to three great world religions, must be the shared capital for both sides, with Gaza a fundamental part of the Palestinian state…

… Over the last two days I have been encouraged from my discussions with both yourself, Mr President, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the will is there, so I urge both sides to seize this window of opportunity.
The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on Impartiality [2] allow journalists to "provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence" (Section 4.4.13). I think the extract I have quoted above provides sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that Mr Cameron was keen to rekindle a Middle East peace process and did not require the kind of caveat or attribution you have suggested.

On the third of your numbered points, I think the use of the phrase "peace process" was reasonable; whether or not a settlement can be reached is open to question but there is undoubtedly a process
(backed by various international governments) to try to find such a settlement.

On your fourth point, I have explained that it was acceptable for the presenter, Sophie Raworth, to provide a professional judgement based on evidence. I do not believe, therefore, that there was breach of the Impartiality guidelines.

On your final point, the Editorial Guidelines on Impartiality include particular requirements relevant to long-running or continuous output (Section 4.4.26). These make it clear that

"due impartiality may be achieved over time by the consistent application of editorial judgement in relevant subject areas. For instance, it is not usually required for an appearance by a politician, or other contributor with partial views, to be balanced on each occasion by those taking a contrary view, although it may sometimes be necessary to offer a right of reply". I think that makes it clear that there was no requirement in this context to provide a counter view to Mr Cameron’s.

In conclusion, therefore, I don’t have grounds to uphold your complaint but, as my letter of 16 June explained, this is a provisional finding. If you’d like to make any comments on it before I finalise it I’ll be happy to consider them, providing you let me have them by 23 July.

Yours sincerely

Colin Tregear
Complaints Director



9 July 2014
Dear Colin Tregear
You say:
"Mr Cameron is keen to rekindle the Middle East peace process". I have to say that it seems to me to be a reasonable interpretation based on Mr Cameron’s words and actions.
Indeed. And it would have been truly amazing had Mr Cameron's words not seemed anything other to you.

You simply repeat Cameron's speech and cite this as a ''reasonable interpretation" of events. How very 'considered'. How very BBC.

This and the rest of your 'reasonable' ruling is entirely predictable. As ever, the point of such complaints is not to expect acknowledgement or seek redress, but to help expose such routinely biased output and the multiple levels of BBC officialdom, including the ECU, serving to defend it. 

So, I have no further comments regarding the complaint other than to hope that readers of this exchange are able to see what's deemed 'impartial' coverage by the BBC, and the kind of dutiful establishment-speak that passes for 'independent adjudication'.   

It's rather fitting that your letter comes as Gaza is being brutally bombed once more, with the BBC again engaged in its own assault of 'Israel responds' news and comment.

No doubt Mr Cameron and Western others deeply complicit in allowing that suffering to continue, through their enduring support for Israel, will declare themselves 'keen' to see an end to the killing. And no doubt the BBC will continue to amplify those hollow sentiments through their own slavish reporting of such words.

Yours sincerely
John Hilley


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Shame is the only weapon we have. A shame it doesn't work on those who refuse to feel it.

Nonetheless, good on you for keeping after them.

John Hilley said...

Nicely said. Thanks for your words.