A Year in Review - The Middle East
"Audience research shows the bbc's reputation for impartiality and accuracy is something that is valued in the region."
Coverage of the Middle East is a challenge that tests all broadcasters. Events
and conflicts there engender deeply passionate views in a climate of mutual
distrust and intolerance. Every phrase in a broadcast report is under scrutiny.
In order to help audiences navigate this plethora of contradictory opinions,
BBC World Service strives to offer impartial, balanced, accurate and brave
reporting of this region's long-running conflicts. It has worked hard
to provide in-depth analysis and context alongside the daily twists and turns
of the story.
In reporting the war in 2006 between Hezbollah in Lebanon and
Israel, the BBC sent news teams to both sides of the border. Correspondents
Jim Muir and Roger Hearing were on the spot from the start, together with Kim
Ghattas from the BBC's new Beirut bureau. BBC Arabic reporters co-presented
programmes from Beirut and Haifa and covered different viewpoints, including
criticism of Hezbollah. 'We offer a range of perspectives so audiences
can make up their own minds about the issues,' says Hosam El Sokkari,
Head of BBC Arabic service. The interactive programme World
Have Your Say was
instrumental in helping people on both sides talk to each other.
in news resources, including a new production centre in Cairo, boosted the
ability to respond to breaking news across the Middle East. Extra reporters
are being recruited and many have been television trained.
to talk to ordinary Iraqis played a leading part in Iraq Week, which marked
the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion. Programmes told the stories
of a cross-section of Iraq society, such as a child psychiatrist, a baker,
a police diver and a barber. Had their lives improved, did they have more access
to water and electricity, could their children go to school safely?
things that came over were not the bombings, the killings and the dreadful
casualty toll, it was what everyday life is like,' says Phil Harding,
Director of English Networks and News. 'What sticks in your mind is the
fact that everywhere there is the hum of private generators because there is
no power, the personal stories of people who have had to move within Iraq or
have left Iraq and their reasons for doing so, the blogs of the service people
serving in Iraq - the human experience of it.
In Iraq, where
the BBC maintained its bilingual bureau, moving around the country became much
more difficult. 'We have always thought about safety but you can't
simply stop reporting places like Gaza and Iraq because they are dangerous,'
says Liliane Landor, Editor News and Current Affairs. 'The question is
how do you do it, having taken enough precautions? In Iraq you can't
stay in any one spot for more than 15 or 20 minutes because you would attract
attention and you must be surrounded by security guards.
responded by strengthening its network of contacts throughout Iraq, where there
is an audience of four million listeners. 'The last thing we would want
to do is to get a story and lose a journalist,' says Hosam El Sokkari. 'We
are finding ways round the restrictions building a stronger contact list of
people we can rely on for tips and stories. We want to give the bigger picture,
not just report how many people have been killed today.
The BBC's editorial
values are integral to its success. 'Audience
research shows the BBC's reputation for impartiality and accuracy is
something that is valued in the region and in 2007 we will be able to meet
this demand with a multimedia offer combining radio, online and television,'
says Jerry Timmins, Head of Africa and Middle East Region. 'You will
be able to get access to news and information from the BBC wherever you are
and by whatever means you want, whether that's a mobile phone or through
satellite television or FM or online. We are uniquely positioned to deliver
"We offer a range of perspectives so audiences can make up their own minds about the issues."
ONE WEEK IN IRAQ
Iraq Week brought home the reality of everyday life, four
years after the invasion. Hugh Sykes was among the BBC correspondents on the
spot talking to Iraqi people. Among them was a teacher at the linguistics department
of Baghdad University. She told him how violence and the fear of violence are
now commonplace. Rafi, an English-language lecturer, received
a warning one day not to give low marks. He ignored the warning and continued
to apply the usual standards to students' exam papers. Rafi was shot
dead getting into his car to go to work at the university. Two other lecturers
have received death threats. One found a bullet on her desk with her name written
News coverage of Iran was extensive in a year of growing international
tension over the country's nuclear programme. A week of special programmes,
Iran in Focus, took a close look at the country's place in the world
and asked Iranians for their views about life, politics and issues such as
The BBC's Tehran correspondent, Frances Harrison,
described the difficulties she faces doing her job. The presence of
the foreign media in Iran is an irritant to those abroad who want regime change,
but here we are spurned as the propaganda machinery of the enemy and, increasingly,
Iranian officials will not talk to us. We find we are treading a line between
different views of Iran in reporting this country.
Blocking of the
BBC's Persian website by the authorities in Iran proved only partially
successful. Although traffic fell, it remained among the top three BBC World
Service sites and over 50,000 people registered to get daily emails with the
latest news. Radio audiences are unaffected.
BBC - Many voices,