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Both sides

Jerry Timmins | 14:22 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2007

Professor Frank Stewart attacked BBC Arabic in the New York Times on 15 March ("British Biased Corporation"). He says BBC Arabic is “as anti-western as anything that comes out of the Gulf if not more so.”

World Service logoI wonder in which direction Mr Stewart’s receiver is pointing. Possibly his agenda interferes with reception. Professor Stewart has written to the BBC at great length about his views. Recently he wrote a nine page critique of the BBC Arabic Service’s coverage of the conflict in Lebanon, claiming among other things that we were anti-Israeli. We were able to respond in great detail showing that his highly selective and misleading account of our coverage was unfair and showed no knowledge of the brave and comprehensive coverage that had in fact been broadcast and which included clear and impartial accounts of Israeli views and experiences during the war. Having failed to substantiate his detailed criticism he now resorts to a generalised attack in the New York Times.

It’s clear from his original letter to the BBC, that what really upsets him is that the BBC does not overtly push an American or British government line to the exclusion of other views. He seems to find it hard to understand that an institution can be committed to impartiality and mean it.

In the New York Times he says a BBC programme in Arabic only focused on views critical of the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, whereas in fact the presenter consistently put the American view and the programme had a contributor who put the US government’s argument for imprisoning combatants in this way. BBC Arabic has also interviewed the commander of the prison complex. So the American view has consistently been represented in our output.

Professor Stewart asserts that BBC Arabic is sympathetic with dictators and poor governance in the Middle East. However, BBC Arabic covered Saddam Hussein’s atrocities when others ignored them and holds leaders to account in a way rarely seen in Arab media. This week we reported the opposition arrests in Egypt and before that we were getting the Egyptian transport minister to answer criticisms of the way he handled the ferry disaster.

Recently we interviewed the deputy president of Sudan about his government’s behaviour in Darfur. Again, BBC Arabic covered Darfur long before other media houses picked up the current tragic story. So what is Professor Stewart listening to? I would suggest it is his own desire to see and hear only one side of the story and one view asserted: the one he agrees with.


  • 1.
  • At 04:50 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • keith fleming wrote:

All in much the same way, perhaps, as the fervent right-wing critics of the BBC do elsewhere, at great length, utilising the age-old technique of 'repetition and volume' as against reasoned argument or textual analysis.

Carry on with the good work, here and abroad.

  • 2.
  • At 05:34 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Sally Grenna wrote:

Whether Frank Stewart's assertions are true or not - he is only saying what many others say about general BBC news coverage of the Middle East, particularly over Israel/Palestine - namely that it is, by default, pro-Palestinian and signs up to the "Palestinian victim/Israeli aggressor" school of thought - no matter what the evidence. So none of his article particularly surprises me.. I believe in no smoke without fire. The BBC is very good at batting away any accusation of bias in this area without ever acknowledging large parts of its audience who truly believe the bias exists.

  • 3.
  • At 06:27 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Joseph, Stuttgart, Germany wrote:

Are we supposed to lay on our bellies and accept that because you say you are not anti-Israeli that you must be telling the truth?.

If you were so confident that you are not biased why not release the 'Balen Report' and prove it?.

One of your colleague 'Editors' blogs asked 'is the BBC biased', the answer by 332 - 2 comments was yes you are, and that you were biased against Israel, as for your claims of impartiality your own comments prove this is not the case.

So, Jerry, I am sorry but the case against you is proved, the case against Professor Stewart is not, I suggest that you start trying to get back in contact with the old BBC values and stop catering to the PC Guardianistas, who let's face it are about 10% of the population.

  • 4.
  • At 09:01 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Jose wrote:

As a listener of the BBC World Service, I cannot agree with your statement that you are impartial in your reporting.

I live in the Netherlands, and I often remark to my partner how biased your reporters are when it comes to the Middle East.

Your reporters seem to see no evil hear no evil when it comes to Iran, Syria or Hamas, yet when it comes to the Israelis you take everything out of context.

Your own defense on this blog is breathtaking in it's arrogance and total disregard for objectivity, I would suggest that you are so concerned to be seen as Politically Correct that you allow yourself to distort the truth.

I would appreciate if you publish my comments as recently the 'Editors' blogs seem unable too.

My response to Frank Stewart. The BBC is superior to the US Media. The US Media is biased against anything that does not agree with them including Libertarians and Greens. Frank Stewart and The New York Times are totalitarian mouthpieces of an elite that is slowly dying. BBC = FREEDOM

  • 6.
  • At 10:57 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Charlene wrote:

Mr. Stewart's comments remind me of those of the founder of Conservapedia, the allegedly conservative "alternative" to Wikipedia. One of the reasons he gives for Wikipedia's supposed "liberal" bias is the fact that Wikipedia doesn't force American spelling into its articles. As with Mr. Stewart, yet another ideologue confuses American ultra-nationalism with conservatism.

  • 7.
  • At 11:14 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • David wrote:

Interesting stuff, Jerry. It will be interesting to see how many comments this post attracts. It seems to be an issue that really stirs up the blogosphere.

  • 8.
  • At 11:24 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • simple fact wrote:

You cannot be listened to. You are a BBC employee and thus are not impartial. Try finding someone who is not a BBC employee, a left winger or a Muslim to defend you.

  • 9.
  • At 03:09 AM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Since I don't speak Arabic, I can't say but it would hardly surprise me if it were true. After all, the English language service is clearly and strongly anti western biased. BBC has skewed its reporting of the news in every way conceivable to advance an anti western anti American, anti Israeli, anti Tony Blair agenda. It has an entire array of techniques from taking stories out of context, conducting friendly interviews with those it agrees with and highly confrontational interviews with those it doesn't, focusing on and stressing stories which puts those whose views and positions it opposes in a bad light while ignoring adverse stories about those it agrees with. It is not only biased, but it at times becomes insulting and abusive to the point of being boorish. Here are a few items for you to mull over.

Your little series two years ago "America, Age of Empire" whose central thesis was that the USA is a latter day Roman Empire with all that implies, a notion so laughable and preposterously pathetic that it would otherwise be offensive. BBC traces America's rise to power to the Spanish American war and uses the opportunity to interview a Cuban historian, an employee of a totalitarian dictatorship asking him what he thinks of American foreign policy today. What do you think he would say? What do you think would happen to him and his family if he said anything other than the Cuban Communist Party line? BBC has made it clear it opposes every measure President Bush has taken to protect the US from attack since 9-11-01. It opposes GITMO, special renditions, the invasion of Iraq. It won't even use the term terrorist and refers to the efforts to stop terrorists as "What Bush refers to as the war on terror" thereby derrogating it. Your political editor Nick Robinson as a guest in the United States of America was given the privelege to attend a Presidential press conference and ask the President of the United States a question and like a boorish drunken skin head soccer hooligan, he prefaced his question with a suggestion that the President didn't know what was going on in Iraq. Mr. Timmins, for all its vast bureaucracy, if the entire BBC put everyone it had in Iraq, it couldn't gather as much information in a year as the President of the United States has collected, sorted, digested, assessed, and condensed for presentation to him in a week. If BBC is so smart about what is going on in the Middle East, where is your man Alan Johnston right now this very second? Who's got him, Hamas? Fatah? Al Aqsa? A breakaway renegade group? I'll bet the CIA has a fairly good idea this very minute who has him and where he is. But they aren't telling. Why should they? Why should they care? They've read his reports too. His own father admitted on TV which you broadcast into my home the other evening that he is "a friend of the Palestinian People." If that isn't bias, what is?

The New York Times says "All the News That''s Fit to Print." My only question to Frank Stewart is why is BBC's bias suddenly news? Where have you been?

I haven't read his letter. Not sure if I'll get to read it from the BBC. But it seems to me you are attacking the professor yourself.

  • 11.
  • At 09:28 AM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Oh please. You really are beating a dead horse here. We all know your bias we see it every day and often i agree with your view but i still resent the bias nature of your reporting.

A good very recent example would be in Ewans blog talking about the olympics. He described those against the olympics as 'whiners' so how more bias on a issue can you get than that?

Or what about your constant coverage of muslim issues and yet no similar coverage of christian or jewish issues?

How about the recent article about the iraq war? You know the one where the reporter talks of standing on a US aircraft carrier and captain described the sound of a jet taking off as the 'sound of freedom' that was an extremely bias anti american anti iraq war article.

I see bias in your reporting every day. You make blogs like this and you get dozens of replies such as mine specifically pointing out your bias and you ignore us and continue to go on about your impartiality.

It's as though you really do believe that the liberal line is so divinely right that your reporting reflecting that is 'just reporting the news'.

Open your eyes for goodness sake. If Frank Stewart couldn't shoot your claims of impartiality down in flames then i have no idea how he came to be a professor, because i'm no professor and could do it in a second.

  • 12.
  • At 09:30 AM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • richard dennett wrote:

I suspect you are right. There appears to be a policy on the part of many of Israel's most vociferous supporters to portray balanced and impartial reporting as biased. Their purpose, presumably, is to raise the bar of what counts as acceptable to the point where only active sympathy for the positions Israel takes is considered legitimate. To some extent they are succeeding. The war in Lebanon featured a deliberate campaign of bombing civilian housing and commercial targets. The BBC - along with the rest of the media - tended to 'balance' their reporting of this fact either by alluding to Hizbollah's entrenchment within its own community (the 'human shield' argument) or by holding out as equivalent Hizbollah's largely futile firing of katyusha rockets into Israeli territory. Had the indiscriminate bombing of shops, petrol stations and even Christian owned businesses far from the main theatre of operations been undertaken by any other government, these actions would have been given their proper name: war crimes.

You say that Prof Stewart has written a 9 page letter and that you were preparing a detailed rebuttal. Why not publish both - in full - on the web?

Recently he wrote a nine page critique of the BBC Arabic Service's coverage of the conflict in Lebanon, claiming among other things that we were anti-Israeli. We were able to respond in great detail showing that his highly selective and misleading account of our coverage was unfair

Is the exchange of views anywhere publicly available, or do we just have to take your word for it who won the argument? I'm sure your assessment is correct, but I'd just feel happier pointing people who complain about such bias to the actual response rather than to your account of it.

  • 14.
  • At 11:50 AM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

So, you're not biased, so release the report the Daily Mail wants. Why not?

  • 15.
  • At 11:55 AM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Nick Mallory wrote:

The BBC is a partisan left wing media organisation which, unlike the Guardian or Independent, pretends that its coverage is actually impartial. It's output as a whole takes a default position that anything the USA, Britain or Israel does is wrong and diversity in opinion is limited to discussing whether they are bad, evil or rabid Nazis.

When you are criticised in the New York Times for being too sympathetic to terrorism perhaps it's time to take stock, rather than take refuge behind these smug denials.

If the BBC really is open and unbiased regarding its middle east coverage why does the news item above this one in the editors blog reveal your continuing attempts to suppress a freedom of information request for the Balen report which slammed your partisan reporting in the Middle East?

As long as you can't bring yourselves to use the word 'terrorist' to describe killers who blow children up in cars in Iraq, or hold your own journalists hostage in Gaza, your denials of bias will sound hollow indeed.

  • 16.
  • At 03:26 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Ben Murphy wrote:

I wonder where all these rightwingers get their evidence that the BBC is biased? Someone above goes on about a show aired two years ago that to HIM appeared to be biased.

What the rightwingers don't want to understand in their simple black-and-white world is that out of literally thousands and thousands of hours of output, as well as numerous online pages, there will be words or phrases that people disagree with.

That is not evidence of bias. In fact what motivates the Right to make its tedious, if noisy complaint of bias against the BBC is this very lack of at least one killer piece of evidence to prove any bias.

Once again, the rightwingers here making the charge provide no evidence despite trying to present it as a fait accompli. One even stoops so far as to cite the responses given to an Editors blog - a thread that was almost certainly hijacked by rightwingers with a narrow agenda.

The BBC isn't biased. They should get over it.

  • 17.
  • At 03:41 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

I reject peoples critisisms on the BBC's dislike of the word terrorist simply because the word terrorist in itself is a loaded term and is purely a matter of opinion.

I find the Balen report interesting though because it was ruled by the high court that it should be released under the freedom of information act and yet the BBC are still fighting to have it kept under the carpet in an appeal despite the fact the BBC uses the freedom of information act on a regular basis to persue its own reporting. A bit of hypocrisy there i think.

Another example of bias is the recent BBC poll saying most iraqis thought it was 'acceptable' to attack coalition troops. It again was a loaded poll created in order to get a specific response the BBC intended.

And the release of the poll, which after all wasn't news at all it was a BBC creation in itself, was timed at the same time all the other news outlets are reporting some relative success in Bagdad at the moment due to the upsurge of U.S troops.

Now whilst i can agree with the notion that many insurgents are 'lying low' the fact is Baghdad is currently at this moment in time safer. So to create some news in the form of a loaded poll is extremely bias.

Its as though the BBC think 'oh no its going well in iraq we better make up some news to try and make it look bad'.

Actions such as that go further than mere bias, it is as though the BBC would like to see more people killed in iraq if it means they can say 'see we were right'.

Its truly sickening.

So come on 'editors' wheres your rebuttle? Answer my allegations? Explain yourselves? Explain to me how such actions can be considered impartial?

  • 18.
  • At 04:02 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Nellie The Elephant wrote:

Nick Mallory - does that include the American & British troops that've killed women, children & men - or just the Iraqi's?

Terrorists or freedom fighters - occupiers or liberators?

Neither terms subjective. The fact is the Iraq war was condemned by the international community, considered illegal by the UN. Those are the facts - stating them doesn't make you bias.

  • 19.
  • At 04:37 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

Mr. Timmins, I was glued to the World Service during the Israeli-Hezbollah war. You speak of "the brave and comprehensive coverage that had in fact been broadcast and which included clear and impartial accounts of Israeli views and experiences during the war."

I can't comment on BBC Arabic but I don't see how it can possibly have been any better than your disgraceful reporting in English on the World Service.

Here's some of your reporters' at times bizarre anti-Israel prose:

"....another government adviser boasted that the Israeli information campaign had been a well-oiled machine."

"Kassams are pinpricks on the ankles of the Israeli giant; Katyushas are poisoned arrows that drive him mad."

"Israeli warships lurking over the western horizon" and "Israeli missiles lurching towards Beirut."

"Israeli war crimes."

We had one of your reporters in the devastated Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona claiming he could "see four or five damaged houses." Somehow he forgot to mention the other 1,995 or 1,996 houses damaged or destroyed by Katyushas deliberately aimed at the civilian population.

But the ultimate proof of your anti-Israel agenda was the World Have Your Say programme broadcast from a cafe frequented by Glasgow Arabs. The presenter had a left wing rabbi (and member of the Israeli parliament) on the line from Israel to act as a punching bag. And punching bag he certainly became.

The presenter introduced the Glasgow Arab community to the rabbi thus:

"Rabbi, some people here would like to speak to you. Others would not like to speak to you..."

Why was it necessary to point that out?

The abuse and lack of respect was quite exraordinary:

"I don’t want to speak with a coward" [no intervention from the presenter] "who killed the children and the women. He's telling some lies..."

And so on in similar vein for the rest of the programme.

I quote these specific examples of World Service content, recorded and accurately transcribed, to give you an idea of exactly how "brave and comprehensive" your coverage was. Since when is anti-Israel propaganda brave?

As far as your alleged impartiality goes, your occasional attempts to get the Israeli perspective were swamped by your obsessive Israel-bashing and your virtually complete acceptance (there were only one or two exceptions) of Hezbollah's line.

  • 20.
  • At 05:03 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Almir Mumovic wrote:

Is it possible for the BBC to actually try a balanced approach in it's reporting on the Middle East?.

I am fed up with the BBC telling us it is imaprtial, well it is not, it is a mouthpiece for anti-West rhetoric.

Taking things out of context seems to be an art form within the BBC, I would not trust anything you report on the on-going fighting between Palastinian militants and Isreali army units.

To many times you report civilian deaths by Isreali units, yet to many times we then find out that the civilians were in fact extremists.

Your coverage of 'Jenin' is a case in point, you took the Palastinian position without explaining the full story, you accepted the total of so called 'civilian deaths' without checking, indeed, the Palastinians themselves admitted that they faked the death total, and admitted this in a conference which you Jerry attended, yet no retraction was forthcoming from you or anyone else at the BBC.

I could also take you task for the 'Balen' report, however, as you are hiding behind the FOA to stop it being published, I will just say that your hiding behind this act says it all.

Your comments defending your BBC Arabic service and the remarks made by Prof Stewart, are arrogant and condescending, I cannot understand how you think that behaving like this is going to bring people to your point of view?.

As has been mentioned by many of these comments, why bother defending yourself if you are not prepared to answer criticism of the BBC 'bias' and why you do not at least accept that to a lot of non-Muslim people your reporting seems biased?.

  • 21.
  • At 05:17 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Richard Dennett is himself basing his opinion on BBC coverage, so cannnot tell the bias. I don't understand Arabic, so can only base this on the assumption that it mirrors their obvious bias in English-language coverage. Note that when they make an internet report in Arabic English translations are not available, so only Arabic speakers can judge, not entirely unbiased as a whole.

Had Israel deliberately targeted civilians in the Lebanon then far more than 2000 would have been killed, to say otherwise massively underestimates Israel's military capability, and most of them would have been civilians. Of course the BBC said they were, because that is what Hizbollah told them. Reports not sourced from terrorists suggested that most of the "civilian" casualties were actually Hizbollah fighters, who of course don't tend to wear uniform.

The BBC complains so much about supposed US breaches of the Geneva Conventions (when the Conventions don't apply). Why did we hear nothing of the Hizbollah breaking the Geneva Conventions by fighting without uniform/recognised symbols and by deliberately firing from civilian areas? firing in some cases from within civilian homes.

There are thousands of example of BBC bias in the Middle East. They have reporters crying for the upcoming death of a terrorist, they refuse to call people who intentionally blow up women and children terrorists at all, they called Jenin a massacre on the evidence of what Palestinians said, and never made a prominent retraction.

Look through if you want more.

  • 22.
  • At 05:22 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Steve G wrote:

Please let me add my voice to the chorus of posters pointing out the fevered bias in the English Worldwide service. I can only imagine what the Arabic Service contains.

I hope that this time my complaint gets displayed as opposed to the BBC imperial policy of not posting bias complaints and not responding to emailed complaints against the bias and distortions which appear on a daily basis.

If you had taken my advice over the past couple of years to sack your ppropgandist Alan Johnston, then perhaps he'd be knocking back a few at a pub instead of being held by Palestinian terrorists.

  • 23.
  • At 09:12 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

because of you're liberal views not just in the news but question time, i know that a lot of people in the working class are serious about joining the b.n.p. the persons chosen for question time seem to be mostly if not all liberals and no working class views are being represented. you are bias against much of western society and i wonder who's side you are really on. if i join the b.n.p its because like a hell of a lot of people i know, would like to see fairness. you are heading for danger and it will be people like me who will say told you so, when its too late.

  • 24.
  • At 09:28 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • David Francis wrote:


The point at issue here is HUGE!!!

Is the BBC biased, or not, in any number of areas of its reporting???

It seems to me that this blog-site is the perfect vehicle to decide this question.

Why don't you pose this general assertion to your licence-paying public and judge by the reaction?

Make it a "Special Initiative", with Headline publicity on your main website and also include the basic details on your TV/Radio news bulletins, so that as many people as possible become aware of it.

All this effort would be entirely justified, as I cannot think of a more damming and damaging slur on the reputation of any News Organisation, than to be called partial and biased!

In essence - LET THE PUBLIC SPEAK!!!!!!

Seems so simple to me!

What do you think?

  • 25.
  • At 10:26 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • nehad ismail, camberley, england wrote:

Professor Frank Stewart is well advised to stick to FOX NEWS where he will get the news coverage and commentaries that will appeal to him.

Why, Mark, what a horrible organisation you must think the CIA is. I hope I'm not detecting anti-American bias here - you really should pay less attention to the BBC...

  • 27.
  • At 10:47 AM on 24 Mar 2007,
  • James, Maastricht, The Netherlands wrote:

Dear Jerry,

BBC denies being Biased!, shock horror, of course the BBC is biased, the BBC seems to be in thrall to all Anti-West, Anti-USA and Anti-Israeli groups on the planet.

The BBC seems to have forgotten that we now live in the age of the Internet and that we can double check the reporting that the BBC produces.

No longer can the BBC get away with taking things out of context, a good example is the 'Jenin' scandal, this proved once and for all how untrustworthy the BBC is in it's reporting.

Coming back to this specific charge of bias from Professor Stewart,you do yourself no favour by using this website to attack this man, what you have managed is to further prove his point.

So Jerry, can we expect that you will now publish the Balen report?, because as a impartial news outlet you have nothing to hide, do you?.

  • 28.
  • At 11:10 AM on 24 Mar 2007,
  • Alyssa wrote:

I could not find the BBC response to Professor Frank Stewart anywhere but in the summary in the BBC editors' blog. On the other hand, Mr. Stewart's complaint to the New York Times has been widely distributed across the web. Any chance that Mr Timmins would post the more detailed response to Mr. Stewart so that all could read it?

There are certainly many times which I think the BBC is biased. This especially concerns its 'investigative journalism'. This tends to include footage or audio edited to leave in the controvercies and leave out the context.

Take the documentary on the BNP a short while back as an example. It was full of accusations of racism within the party (yet a court found they are not racists) and never dared to show anyone who was inside the BNP who wasn't a racist and actually just wanted tighter controls on immigration and pride instilling in our country again. Surely not everyone in the party is racist? Maybe a certain few use national pride as an excuse for racism? Such a balance of arguments were not achieved and, whilst I'm not a supporter of the BNP, I think this was certainly a good example of the BBC's biased journalism.

So as concerning BBC Arabic, I can imagine it would be the same. It's true that the BBC doesn't lie, though I believe that at times it uses hyperbole and exaggeration to its advantage.

Are comments screened in a biased way? I've been trying to post a generally supportive comment for almost 24 hours.

Keep up the good work

What perhaps seems strangest about this whole affair and the comments i've read here is the truly bizzare notion that it is Possible to have impartial media. The media is not a science and it is not simply filming everything. There are linguistics, choices of what to film, what to write...and behind each choice, there is a person like you and me. I sincerly hope the BBC is the left-winging radically anti-western agency half the comments make it out to be...we desperately need an alternative to the pro-capitalist, xenophobic and imperialistic media that blinds so many eyes and dumbs so many minds - especially in America, 'Land of the Free'.

Its not about impartiality, its about ensuring all biases are balanced by opposing biases - then we can make our own choice, as rational enlightened human beings, as to what we shall believe.

I hope this editor will choose to post this as I believe it is an extremely important point that so many people fail to consider.

  • 32.
  • At 03:58 AM on 25 Mar 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:


1) can you please answer some of the comments above?

what's the point of having the comments on this blog if as when requested of you, you don't reply?

2)can you please publish the report of the professor? and your answers?

3) Can you please not ignore this and several other postings?

  • 33.
  • At 04:51 PM on 25 Mar 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

When it comes to the issue of whether the BBC is biased or not. A straw poll of bloggers, all with their own agenda, is hardly representative of the world as a whole.

  • 34.
  • At 01:05 AM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • Maureen wrote:

Why is the New York Times so afraid of opposing points of view?

It's refreshing to read news that is not "hand fed" to me as to who is right and who is wrong in the story.

I would trust the BBC reporting over the American press but would still make up my own mind on an issue.

Why is Professor Stewart so afraid of debate? Everything is not black and white.

  • 35.
  • At 04:54 AM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Well BBC, I finally found someone who agrees with you that America is an empire. It's Chalmers Johnson whose bio and philosophy can be found at;

Here's a thumbnail summary of his philosophy and views.

"Johnson believes the enforcement of American hegemony over the world constitutes a new form of global empire. Whereas traditional empires maintained control over subject peoples via colonies, since World War II the US has developed a vast system of hundreds of military bases around the world where it has strategic interests. A long-time Cold Warrior, Johnson experienced a political awakening and became a Marxist who advocates the overthrow of the US govt. after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, noting that instead of demobilizing its massive armed forces, the US accelerated its reliance on military solutions to problems both economic and political. The result of this militarism (as distinct from actual domestic defense) is more terrorism against the US and its allies, the loss of core democratic values at home, and an eventual disaster for the American economy"

A self avowed Marxist who advocates the overthrow of the US government has the same view of America as BBC expressed in its series; "America Age of Empire." Is BBC biased? I'll bet the answer would have been no had you asked the editor of Pravda or Tass back in the good old days of the USSR.

  • 36.
  • At 06:43 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • Peter Cookson wrote:

If you want a specific example of bias then contrast the coverage of Israeli artilliery shelling of a Palestinian house (film of wailing survivors, correspondent reporting at the scene, every TV news bulletin) with artillery shelling of a Sri Lankan school on the very same day (more fatalities yet the story only turned up on the South Asia news section of the website and a brief mention by the newsreader on the World Service).

  • 37.
  • At 10:13 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

I agree with Richard Dennett, it'd be enlightening to see the original correspondence published. Normally etiquette dictates that you should not do so without Prof Stewart's permission. However if he has gone on to repeat any of the original allegations you originally rebutted factually, even if in a more general form in than previously. He has arguably lost the right to such consideration by ignoring his duties to you.

If Professor Stewart is prepared to engage in the sort of open honest debate anyone who earns the title "Professor" should always engage in. I am sure he will grant permission for the publication of both his letter and your detailed response.

For the record: My personal take on the Israel / Arab conflict is that both sides are behaving like 4 year old siblings, locked in an interminable and childish spat of "He started it first!" "No I didn't! HE started it!"

Amidst such entrenched inanity the only way to avoid flack from one side is to be totally silent. Sadly that option is not available to you. But it is to me. Which is exactly why I will waste no more time on their imbecilic feud.

Hello! Anybody at home?

  • 39.
  • At 10:01 AM on 27 Mar 2007,
  • John R wrote:

Breaking news: Right-wing media claims non-right-wing media has left-wing bias. A fairly limp rebuttal is offered. Repeat ad nauseum.

  • 40.
  • At 12:00 PM on 27 Mar 2007,
  • Christine wrote:

I can sympathise with your views as doing the best you can to report a situation in an unbiased way. The problem is that this will always end up leaning one way or another and will always upset someone. Where one needs to take stock is where a subject in constantly approached in the same way. I personally have no problem with the middle east reporting, having seen so much pro Israeli reporting, it is not surprising that you are accused of being anti. However, you pay detailed attention to what is happening on the ground and that to me speaks of a desire to be accurate in the facts, which is very welcome. Of course, this doesn't mean that you are clear of bias everywhere, as seen in the admission of being biased against Christianity. Review is always a good thing and lets face it, Professor Stewart, having reached his conclusions is and taken the time to write in such detail, is unlikely to change his view whatever you say.

  • 41.
  • At 04:46 PM on 27 Mar 2007,
  • Nutan Thakur wrote:

Professor Stewart might have his own views on the BBC Arabic coverage but the matter of fact remains that the views and the presentation of BBC has always remained the most neutral and value-central of all. One of the reasons for this could be its long-time dealing with the world new3s which must have smoothened its western or biased orientations, if any. There can be no denial that BBC is the only news-service in the world which is truly global and universal in nature. It has the most balanced and wide-spread vision. It is this feature of the BBC that makes it the most popular and respected news service in so many of the third world countries. other than its stronghold over the West and the previous Red block.
I think the problem with Mr. Stewart is that he wants to see the entire Middle-East with a single eye. He, like some of his compatriots as also some Americans, thinks that they are at the center of the world and that their view is the only view possible. Just the way George W Bush said, any one not with us is against us. So does Mr. Stewart say that any outlook not synchronous with his own is misrepresentation of facts and is biased.
It is humbly suggested that such views only help in hardening the respective positions of the two sides.
Nutan Thakur,
Jan Shakti,

  • 42.
  • At 11:58 PM on 27 Mar 2007,
  • kim brownsword wrote:

If the phrase “anti-Israel” is taken to mean exposing the daily humiliation, brutality and killings of native Palestinians, the racist policies of the extremist elements in Israel, the mass killing of men, women and children, the denial of fundamental human rights and dignity to the Palestinian people, blatant disregard to international laws (including numerous UN resolutions), repeated violation of acceptable standards of conduct expected from a responsible democracy and waging aggression against its neighbours, then right thinking people must applaud and praise the BBC’s bravery in helping to expose the dark side of Israel (which many would like to conceal from public scrutiny) and allowing people to make informed decisions about Israel and how it controls and influences global media and world’s political systems. In truth, as the ex-President Jimmy Carter rightly acknowledges, Israel’s treatment of Palestinian is no different to the pre-apartheid South African government when the whole world condemned the inhuman treatment of the black. The pro-Israel elements would like us to think that it is perfectly acceptable to play football with and buy food from Israel but we cannot criticise Israel’s inhuman treatment of the Palestinian people because this is tantamount to being “anti-Israeli”.

  • 43.
  • At 02:57 AM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Ray Miles wrote:

OK so the BBC is not 100% perfect and could do better, however compared to the likes of FOX and CNN they are beacons of impartiality and accurate reporting.

Carry on the great work.

  • 44.
  • At 02:55 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Ray #41

You don't get it do you? Fox and CNN are COMMERCIAL organisations who do not dispute there right leaning tendancies.

The BBC is paid for with the license fee, i have no choice and neither do you if we want to own a television we HAVE to buy a tv license. No ifs or buts we have to.

If you don't like CNN and FOX then you don't have to watch.

As the BBC is funded in such a way its purpose can only be to educate the electorate with the facts of any given situation with no opinions or bias. In so doing they help democrasy flourish.

But as it stands the BBC has an agenda and as it can directly influence politics thats a bad thing.

You don't mind the BBC being bias? Then make it commerical and you can pay for it.

  • 45.
  • At 09:31 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Almir Mumovic wrote:

Sam #44,

You are so right, Ray is so typical of the left wing brigade who want us all to pay for their viewing pleasure but cannot understand that not everyone shares his views.

Never mind Sam,come the next election Ray and his ilk will have start geting used to other views.

  • 46.
  • At 11:36 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • David Francis wrote:

33. At 04:51 PM on 25 Mar 2007, Graham wrote:
When it comes to the issue of whether the BBC is biased or not. A straw poll of bloggers, all with their own agenda, is hardly representative of the world as a whole.

As far as I recall, the BBC is totally funded by the British (not the World) Public - (whether they want to do so or not)and I merely suggested that that same public should be able to express their view as to the BBC's impartiality (or not), using the vehicle which that same BBC has graciously provided!
It may not be an empirical, definitive, demographically balanced and totally perfect study, in this regard, but at least the people who fund this orginisation would have a genuine chance to air their views, and, given sufficient exposure on the main terrestrial TV and Radio channels, it may attract a surprisingly high number of participants!
As for bloggers having "their own agendas" - show me a thinking, rational person who doesn't - it's called "having a view/opinion"
Get it??????

  • 47.
  • At 11:36 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • David wrote:

One can but giggle at Kim Brownsword's polemic (#42). So the Israelis would like to conceal their dark side from public scrutiny, Kim? Remind us please which country has the most open press in the Middle East and in which country in the Middle East does the Beeb have its largest bureau? It wouldn't be bad ol' Israel would it?

Gerry, come on now, isn't it time for you to respond to these posts? You can't just post and run you know!

  • 48.
  • At 05:39 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Poyan Nahrvar wrote:

The BBC is anti-western?

Are you kidding?

The enthusiasm with which the BBC continued to present lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction without questioning UK or US officials can easily be compared to American propaganda centers, be they FOX, CNN, or the New York Times.

One of the underlying reasons for American propaganda outlets attempt to prove a pro-Palestinian bias in the media is the automatic assumption that there cannot therefore be an anti-Palestinian bias.

It is interesting that the fact that the New York Times has been run by the three generations of the Zionist American Sulzberger family is completely ignored by those who support this theory. The NYT's claim to subjectivity is nothing short of laughable and the proponents of their claim here should be ashamed of themselves for their gullibility.

Poyan Nahrvar (46),

Interestingly, Adolph Simon Ochs, publisher The New York Times (in 1919), was a signatory to a remarkable statement from American Jews AGAINST the Zionist aim of establishing a Jewish State in Palestine.

Just for a sense of perspective.


  • 50.
  • At 03:02 AM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Ann Oyed wrote:

To all those who insist that the BBC is biased against the Israelis:

Quit with the histrionics, already!

Quite simply, you're wrong.

An independent academic study was carried out by academics at Glasgow University's Media Centre:

The study involved analysing footage and scripts and interviewing a wide range of people.

The conclusions were that the BBC coverage *in fact* favoured the Israelis.

FACT: "There is a preponderance of official ‘Israeli perspectives’, particularly on BBC 1, where Israelis were interviewed or reported over twice as much as Palestinians. On top of this, US politicians who support Israel were very strongly featured. They appeared more than politicians from any other country and twice as much as those from Britain."

FACT: Because of a lack of background/history in news stories, most people didn't know that the Palestinians had been forced from their homes by the Israelis. Some people thought that the Palestinians were the occupiers, not realising that the Israelis are the occupiers.

In my experience of newsrooms, there's a well-organised pro-Israeli lobby who send a barrage of hostile emails saying how anti-semitic the coverage is. They do things like circulate the URLs of pages like this and also email addresses and tell people to complain about the bias contained in news reports they've never even watched.

Bias? Some of the pro-Israeli lobby are masters of the art.

What do you want? News that doesn't tell of the suffering of Palestinian people, and only tells of the suffering of Israelis?

What's happening in the Middle East is a tragedy for both sides. It's just as tragic if an Israeli child is blown up by a suicide bomber as it is if a Palestinian child is picked off by an IDF sniper. It's equally tragic if an Israeli family is killed having a meal in a restaurant in Tel Aviv, or if a picnicking Palestinian family is killed on a beach by a rocket attack from a warship.

It's a very real, and very human tragedy, so all those whining about bias, just get over yourselves and instead of spending all your time lobbying for pro-Israeli coverage start lobbying for peace, then maybe in the future you won't have to whinge about pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian coverage of the conflict. If you lobby for peace and achieve it, then you won't need to complain about any kind of bias, will you? So why don't you do something more constructive with your miserable lives.

Thanks for all your comments. I have now posted a new entry on this blog answering some of the points you've made. You can find the new entry here.

  • 52.
  • At 04:43 PM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • jeudi wrote:

All news is biased.
The only 'problem' the BBC has is in it's apparent 'bias' towards seeing freedom, equality, and justice as positive social goals. This 'bias' is perhaps objectionable to some, but if we think about it, wouldn't the majority agree on this particular form of 'bias'?

If most people are happy with the service, why change it? Your news will still be biased, it will just be biased towards a smaller group of people who would like to control information, like it is here in the US.

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