BBC BLOGS - The Editors
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New style guide

Simon Wilson Simon Wilson | 15:51 UK time, Friday, 13 October 2006

It may not immediately look like it, but the style guide on Israeli/Palestinian coverage which we're publishing on the website for the first time today is the fruit of hours and hours of hard work by some of the BBC's most experienced Middle East specialists.

styleguide1.jpgThe aim is not to be prescriptive, but to give colleagues who can't reasonably be expected to follow every twist and turn of the conflict some suggestions to deal with the more contentious topics.

In many cases, it’s about being careful not to adopt, even inadvertently, the language of one side or the other, which may give an impression of bias.

So, for example, we recommend using the term "West Bank Barrier" for the system of fences, walls, ditches and barbed wire which Israel is currently building. The official Israeli term is "Security Fence", the Palestinians call it an "Apartheid Wall". Each has their point - but we believe this is the clearest generic term for our audiences. Individual reporters standing in front of a particular section can, of course, still refer to a "fence" or "wall" behind them.

Sometimes good journalism requires that we take a position on an issue - even when the facts themselves are under dispute. The civilian settlements which Israel has built on land it occupied in the 1967 Arab/Israeli war are illegal under international law. That is the position of the UN Security Council, the British government and the Geneva Convention. So it is right that we make that clear in this guide. Israel disputes this and has argued the case legally - and vociferously - on numerous occasions. That's also important and we recommend that where space allows our language should reflect the Israeli objection as well.

Palestinians and their supporters sometimes take us to task for using the term "suicide bombing" to describe what they view as a "martyrdom attack". Again, we feel it's right to take a position and that clear, simple, accurate language is best. In America, some news organisations describe them as "homicide attacks", a phrase we have discussed and rejected.

Although initially a little sceptical, the more I think about it, the happier I am that we are publishing this guide to the public. BBC journalists, whether they are in Israel, the Palestinian Territories or London, put an enormous amount of thought and effort into trying to get these things right. And if this shows just a glimpse of that to the people we are reporting to, it may prove a very useful exercise.


  • 1.
  • At 04:48 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • David wrote:

It is interesting that you refer to the dictionary definition of "assassination", but not that of "terrorism".

It is also interesting that, in respect of the T-word, you have ignored entirely the recommendations of the BBC's own impartiality review panel which recommended the use of the word where circumstances so merited.

  • 2.
  • At 05:56 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Ryan wrote:

Simon, it is disgusting that you have chosen to avoid wherever possible the use of terrorist.

This is political correct nonsense.

How did you arrive at the decision that this does not aid understanding? How many license fee payers did you ask before arriving at this conclusion?

  • 3.
  • At 06:05 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Scott wrote:

For Orla Guerin's benefit and others I was disappointed to see that you have not clarified what "wiped out" means in the Middle Eastern context. As in: as in: "I haven't seen a single building that isn't damaged in some way. Many have been flattened, many have been singed. This town has really been wiped out." (BBC News, Guerin 14 Aug 06).

This phrase, like terrorism, obviously means something different to the BBC and its reporters, than all fair-minded, objective people in the world.

  • 4.
  • At 07:02 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Nik Miller wrote:

You missed a couple:


Although in general referring to maintaining a "middle of the road" stance with regards to reporting incidents in world politics, this can be misleading when referring to the Israel/Palestine situation.

With this borne in mind it shoud be understood that in this case impartiality refers to any pro-Palestinian article, specifically those which also manage to defame or malign Israel and Israeli citizens.

Quotation Marks (use of)

When referring to Israeli announcements quotation marks shall always be used in conjunction with words such as 'claims' or 'reports' in order to display that we doubt the veracity of the content of the anouncement, for example ""suicide bomber caught at West Bank barrier checkpoint" claim Israeli security forces."

This reporting style shall never be used in reference to Palestinian announcements from officials or alleged eye witness accounts which shall always be reported as factual, as in the example "eye witnesses told us that the 8 year old Palestinian boy was deliberately targetted by an Israeli sniper."

See also 'numbers of dead.'

Numbers of dead

Palestinian reports of the number of dead shall always be immediately believed and publicised in a prime location on the BBC news website front page.

This is particularly applicable to numbers of deaths following Israeli military actions, for example in headlines such as "500 plus killed in Jenin massacre."

Follow up more honest (lower) death tolls shall be reported only as part of the body of the text in future articles.

The PA or any other Palestinian organisation that declared the original bodycount shall not be accused of falsifying figures or outright lying in these cases, the matter shall just be swept under the carpet as quietly as possible.

I think that about covers the missing items.

Are you going to print this? If you can't be honest in your reporting at least be honest in reporting your reporting.

With contempt,

Nik Miller

  • 5.
  • At 07:44 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • billyquiz wrote:

You said:

Israel disputes this and has argued the case legally - and vociferously - on numerous occasions. That's also important and we recommend that where space allows our language should reflect the Israeli objection as well.

and if there isn't enough space we'll not bother!

  • 6.
  • At 08:44 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Jack Hughes wrote:

"Sometimes good journalism requires that we take a position on an issue - even when the facts themselves are under dispute."

This sentence says everything we need to know about what the BBC has become.

Why not just broadcast the facts - and let us decide ?

Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts.

Great stuff. I love how transparent you guys are. It takes a lot of balls to publish a style guide so candidly.
Might want to rethink the use of the words 'militant' and 'insurgent' too. Last I checked they were pretty much spin words used by the Republicans and Labour.

  • 8.
  • At 10:19 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

This is a highly political document, with a clear anti-Israel bias. It goes a long way toward explaining a few of the problems in your reporting.

E.g. you make statements about what "the Palestinians" want which are simply untrue.

The Palestinian government is led by HAMAS, which calls explicitly and repeatedly for the destruction of Israel and thecommission of a genocide against Israel's Jewish citizens. It very explicitly does NOT want 2 states side by side, living in peace with one another.

Your guidelines require your reporters to follow the Palestinian PR line about violent actions by Palestinians (see Intifadah), when other explanations are also very important (for example, there are professional terrorists funded by Syria, etc., and Palestinian factions are sometimes street gangs and smuggler clans coopted by one terror organization or another; in most societies these people would have been jailed long ago, but here they are simply redirected to attack Israelis). In contrast, your guidelines require your reporters to talk about international law when discussing Israeli actions (but not, of course, to talk about international law or human rights when talking about Israeli victims).

Your definition of "occupied territories" identifies the WB, Gaza and Jerusalem. You fail to note that when many Palestinians use the term, it refers to all of Israel too, and that there is a deliberate blurring of this terminology on the Pal side in order to seem moderate and victimized to Westerners, while their words have an entirely different and more sinister meaning to middle easterers. You have NO admonition to clarify what a given Palestinian means by OT (that in most cases, returning the OT is a code word for the destruction of Israel).

Similarly, you make NO admonition about the use of the term "law of return", which to many Palestinians is a code word for "return of all Palestinian Arabs to Israel proper," which given the massive population growth among Palestinian refugees since 1948, would destroy Israel. Again, you make no attempt to clarify the deliberate blurring that conceals the more sinister message in Palestinian statements and allows those statements to appear moderate to westerners, while middle easterners read the same words as a call for Israel's destruction.

There are no admonitions to make a distinction between violent Palestinian tactics/groups and non-violent Palestinian tactics/groups, which is a bit bizarre, since not all Palestinians choose to use violence to advance the Palestinian national cause. You make no distinction between terrorist groups and human rights groups (they're "activists," aren't they?), or between settlers and Israelis, or between radical and mainstream settlers.

Jolly good show. Not.

  • 9.
  • At 10:39 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • garypowell wrote:

It is sad that I have to remind the BBC of its own name but just incase you have all forgotten it is THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION it is not Muslim or Jewish, Arab or Israeli.

Therefore it matters not one jot whether you are bias as far as these people are concerned. It is however very important that you are not bias as far as the BRITISH public is concerned.

If the BBC ever took the time to find out what the average BRITISH person that PAYS for the BBC thinks, it may not be so dispised and distrusted by them, as it is now.

Finding out what the BRITISH public think is not done by reading politicaly inspired e-mails from foreign terrorist organisations which have as much interest in destroying the reputation of the BBC as they do the western democratic world.

I am posting this with tottaly no expectation that anyone that matters at the BBC will either read it or pay any attention whatsoever. To many at the BBC learned about life in the media from a colledge book, and it now shows.

Simon Wilson for example has just explained what propergander is, how it works at the BBC, and why we should all be so carefull about the damage it can and is doing. While he is tottaly unaware that he is engaged in anything dangerous and subversive at all. STUNNING.

I am grateful that you have published this.

Whether or not I agree with all of the definitions that you offer is not the issue. Transparency leads to credibility and I like knowing the 'rules of engagement' for the BBC. I feel more confident of the stories I read/hear. I am responsible for editing news in my community and believe me, teaching people to report using facual and unbiased language is not easy. If people think this list is slanted, they should try looking at the American press and be grateful that the BBC is as professional and transparent as it is.
Thanks again for the insight.

  • 11.
  • At 12:18 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Jared wrote:

At least it is a start. better than our "fair and accurate" american news. looking forward to how it goes.

  • 12.
  • At 01:29 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Al BBCzeera won't use the T word because it is the terrorist's best propagandist in the English speaking world. "Stylist Guide" implied hairdressers, interior designers, and fashion consultants until BBC redefined it to disguise what is fictitious history consistant with its anti-Israeli anti-American political agenda, exactly what a world famous so called "linguist" does to sell his anti-American, anti-Israeli views to the unsuspecting. It is so thinly veiled now you can hardly escape it.

"Sometimes good journalism requires that we take a position on an issue."

Exactly the opposite is true. Good journalism requires that you take NO position, just report the facts as completely and objectively as possible and let the audience decide for themselves. If you editorialize which you shouldn't, then it should be separate and apart and clearly identified as the opinion of the editors. Instead, you intertwine reporting of facts with opinions to the point where they are indistinguishable.

The goal is to sanitize crimes against humanity such as those committed by suicide bombers and those who send them on their mission to murder innocent civilians in the course of their everyday lives for a political end and villify those who are desparately trying to defend themselves against these heinous crimes. As a result, BBC has lost all respect as an honest reporter of the news among many in America.

  • 13.
  • At 02:10 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • David Guy wrote:

The 4th Geneva Convention does not mention Israel.

Art. 2. In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace-time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

Palestine is not one of the High Contracting Parties, i.e. Governments that have signed the Geneva Conventions, so the Geneva Conventions do not apply.

  • 14.
  • At 02:16 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Hanneke Kouwenberg, Jerusalem wrote:

"On Thursday, a day of Israeli air strikes left nine people dead, including at least four Hamas militants and two children."

Tell me: How do you qualify a "Hamas militant"? What about the other three people? What is your source for this information?

"In Friday's air strike, a local Hamas commander was among the three killed when the missile struck and ripped apart a white car in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip."

Who were the other two people? How do you verify your information?

You have a responsibility when reporting, what message you get across. Are you aware of that you mostly portray Palestinian males, alive or dead, as "militants"? And that you in general, by your way of reporting, justify Israeli intrusions and invasions in Palestinian Territories by reporting it as searches for militants?

  • 15.
  • At 03:17 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

Anyone who has an agenda on either side is not going to be happy with someone who tries to sit on the fence. Do you lot honestly think both sides could sit down and agree on the language to be used impartially? Do you think that being on one side or the other gives you an impartial viewpoint?

People on one side will see a bias to the other and vice versa.

  • 16.
  • At 04:22 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Freda Saul wrote:

Your statement claming that "The civilian settlements which Israel has built on land it occupied in the 1967 Arab/Israeli war are illegal under international law" is prejudicial--and inaccurate.

International law allows states invaded by aggressors to defend themselves and to maintain control of any land that they gain in this process. This is what occurred in 1967, when several Arab states invaded Israel--and stated openly, and often, their intention to inflict genocide on Israel and the Jewish people. Moreover, in defending itself, Israel gained territory that had never been part of a recognized or declared state.

Furthermore United Nations resolutions since the 1967 conflict required that the parties "negotiate" the borders between them, something that Arab leaders before and after 1967 have consistently refused to do in good faith.

For these, and other reasons, the territories in question are NOT "occupied." Under international law,
the land is disputed.

In short, by stating the situation as your guidelines do, you make it plain that you--ostensibly a "news" agency" paid for with public funds--have no intention of sticking to the facts, or even investigating what those facts are.

Shame on you. This is not journalism.

As a U.S. citizen, I am especially appalled, since U.S. TV and radio stations supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio often use your highly
subjective editorials, parading falsely as "news," and presumably give U.S. taxpayer-funded license fees to the BBC to do so.

I will request all U.S. Congressional and Senate representatives, and all elected state and local legislators, to oppose giving any U.S. public funds to the BBC for its highly unprofessional--indeed, unethical--content.

My complements to the BBC. Jewish and Israel supporter the new style book goes a long way to cure my complaints about the BBC's reporting.

Also think the changes will appeal to thoughtful Palestinians.

We need to build bridges. This effort by the BBC helps.

  • 18.
  • At 07:06 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Elena Cinque wrote:

It is in deed a highly valuable discussion you have started hier. The "News"-Readers have to know from what point it is reported from so he can balance the arguments and statements.
An "ACTOR" may be a "HERO" for one and a "TERRORIST" for somebody else - at same time. Not all "FACTS" ar the same for everybody! that is why...
"Sometimes good journalism requires that we take a position on an issue - even when the facts themselves are under dispute." correct for me!
Question: Who (What) was "Wilhelm Tell"?


  • 19.
  • At 10:47 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • M.A.Mardam-Bey wrote:

It is unfortunate that journalists today can only report on news stories in grey colours. The colours black and white are no longer recognized by them. They have to mix the colours to make their reports more acceptable to all sides.

"An Arab boy was killed in Palestine today by Jewish soldiers". No! NO! Not accpetable. Say "It has been reported, but not confirmed, that an Arab boy was mistakenly killed today by an Israeli soldier as he was cleaning his rifle".

The Jews calls it a Security Fence, the Palestinians call it an Apartheid Wall, and the BBC calls it a West Bank Barrier.

A West Bank Barrier! A barrier is something that the police use on a road when there is an accident, or when there is a need to cordon off an area. It is not a permanent fixture, eight meters high, made of concrete and steel and 100s of kilometers long. That is called a WALL, and a wall is a wall, a wall, a wall.

Like the Great China Wall, meant to seperate people and keep out the enemy. Like the Berlin Wall, meant to seperate people and keep out the enemy (in this case Europe, UK and US).

The Wall the Jews built seperates families, cuts people off from work, from schools, from hospitals, from their farms and in general makes life hell for the Palestinians. There is only one name for your so-called West Bank Barrier and that is "The Israeli Wall of Hell".

Furthermore and basically due to George Bush's use of the word, journalist have fallen in love with the word "Terrorists and Terrorism". Again this mixture of colours!

During WW2 the UK and European countries PROUDLY called their "terrorists", who were fighting against the Nazis by all means possible, "underground movements and freedom fighters"; they also killed soldiers, civilians, old and young. Why is it that a Palestinian fighting Israeli occupation of his country not a Freedom Fighter? Has the word freedom a different connotation in the UK, Europe and the US of today, or is freedom a luxury for these areas only.

Unfortunately, it really all comes down to one fact: the Israelis sic. the Jews control the world's media and "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee on Middle East News, please remember who pays us poor journalists our salaries". Shame on you!

  • 20.
  • At 12:23 PM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • anon wrote:

Homicide bombings is the correct term, as the intent is to murder people. Suicide bombings would suggest only one person dies.

I admire the intentions behind this guide - to avoid what I call Unspeak - and think a lot of it is good. However, I note some difficulties in my comments here.

  • 22.
  • At 05:43 PM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Nik Miller wrote:

One I forgot:

Qassam Rocket

These will always be referred to, without exception, as "crudely made" or "home made" rockets/missiles.

Despite that fact that these weapons, when fired indiscriminately into Israeli towns within the 1967 borders, regularly cause damage and injuries this nomenclature will help to further develop the understanding that there is a wide technology gap between Israeli armament and Palestinian.

As a result we will further build up the "David and Goliath" image and continue to raise sympathy for the perceived underdog and a belief in the disproportionailty of Israel's responses to these "crude" attacks.

Sorry, silly of me to forget.

Also, please explain why in a recent article about Palestinian casualties from Thursday and Friday you chose this point at which to mention Israeli casualties:

"More than 220 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed since then; two Israeli soldiers have been killed, one by "friendly" fire.

Three Israelis were wounded on Friday from crudely-made Palestinian missiles launched from Gaza at the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. "

Would it not have been more relevant to place them after the recent casualty figures? But of course, that would have failed to minimise them quite as much wouldn't it?

It should also be mentioned that this is the first mention of any attacks against Israel for over two weeks despite their regular occurrences.

Further why do you always use the term "crudely made" when speaking about these weapons? Does this make the injuries hurt less? The deaths less significant?

Why do you not just admit to your blatant leaning and agenda istead of trying to hide behind style guides?

If you were honest and unbiased in your reporting there would be no need for a style guide in the first place. Using it to display your impartiality is just a smokescreen, and one that has failed to hide the truth.

Disgusted as ever,

Nik Miller

  • 23.
  • At 10:17 PM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Simon Wilson blogs: "...In many cases, it’s about being careful not to adopt, even inadvertently, the language of one side or the other, which may give an impression of bias."

Will failure to be so careful be automatically, and publicy investigated, or will public complaints be needed?

"Sometimes good journalism requires that we take a position on an issue - even when the facts themselves are under dispute. The civilian settlements which Israel has built on land it occupied in the 1967 Arab/Israeli war are illegal under international law. That is the position of the UN Security Council, the British government and the Geneva Convention. So it is right that we make that clear in this guide. Israel disputes this and has argued the case legally - and vociferously - on numerous occasions. That's also important and we recommend that where space allows our language should reflect the Israeli objection as well."

Well, there's the first failure. Just because a perpetrator won't desist or admit guilt doesn't mean the facts are in dispute. Israel doesn't dispute it grabbed that land, it just claims religious texts say it had that right. Since religious texts quoting elleged statements by "god" aren't valid evidence in international, or property law, Israel's "dispute" is simply defiance. If the BBC is trying to be "impartial" between law and defiance then it has problems understandng its own premise.

Why do we only get "an abbreviated version of its journalists' guide to facts and terminology"?

And why, in that, whilst accurately describing the prison-like nature of the Gaza Strip, and rightly saying Israel is still the occupying power there (which means Israel is entirely responsible for the welfare of the population, while depriving them of some much that is essential to that), is there no term for that condition? The Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank are rightly described as "Occupied Territories", but Gaza is not. Was the Warsaw Ghetto not still part of "occupied" Poland? The guide seem to have bought the Israeli line on that.

As noted on my blog, this is not a new issue.

George Orwell, As I Please, 2nd June 1944:

Nearly all human beings feel that a thing becomes different if you call it by a different name. Thus when the Spanish civil war broke out the B.B.C. produced the name "Insurgents" for Franco's followers. This covered the fact that they were rebels while making the rebellion sound respectable.

  • 25.
  • At 11:12 AM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Rich Thomas wrote:

I hope the Beeb will respond to the above comments at some point.

  • 26.
  • At 11:39 AM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Stuart wrote:

Is the style guide perfect - of course not. However it is a significant step irequired to return the BBC to an authoritative than emotive news service.
If a conscious effort is made to continously improve the style guide and to remove perceived bias through the slovenly use of words - then we will all benefit
I also applaud publishing the stlye guide as inevitably it will contain 'instituitionalised' (well BBC you do use this term about other organisations!) views, which allows the licence payers who fund the BBC to comment.
At last, the start of some transparency.

  • 27.
  • At 01:35 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

I am so pleased that you have found BBC experienced Middle East specialists with no prejudices.
Much of this sort of correspondence indicates that the BBC has a credibility problem with many people, and over a wide range of subjects.
My own view is that this is inevitable as the journalists, editors and so on are a representative group only of themselves. The groups to whom they report all have their own particular prejudices.
Quite a problem.

  • 28.
  • At 08:41 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Brenda wrote:

With reference to the "new style guide" I wish to add my perceptions to the suggested terms. (I appreciate this is long for a blog reply - but in the light of Howard's reply I feel justified!) The capital lettered comment is mine. Enjoy.

BARRIER The BBC uses the terms "barrier"..Of course, a reporter standing in front of a concrete section of the barrier might choose to say "this wall" or use a more exact description in the light of what he or she is looking at.

BORDER Be careful with this word. Do you mean boundary?

ASSASSINATIONS The BBC's responsibility is to remain impartial and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments.
Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements. If we have more precise details of exactly why or how the killing took place, we should communicate that in an equally straightforward way.

It is better to avoid clichés wherever possible

GAZA STRIP All movement in and out of the Gaza Strip is controlled by Israeli authorities, except, officially, the pedestrian-only crossing between Gaza and Egypt which is meant to be controlled by Palestinians and Egyptians with the presence of EU monitors.

GREEN LINE To that end, we can call the Green Line "the generally recognised boundary between Israel and the West Bank."

INTIFADA … it is preferable to say that "Sharon's visit and Palestinian frustration at the failure of the peace process sparked the (second) intifada or uprising" rather than it "led" to it or "started" it.

JEWISH Be careful over whether you mean "Israeli" or "Jewish": the latter might imply that the story is about race or religion, rather than the actions of the state or its citizens

It is preferable, where time and space allow, to provide..

It is advisable to avoid trying to find another formula, (FROM THE WORDS OCCUPIED, OCCUPATION, TERRITORIES , WEST AND BANK) although the phrase "occupied West Bank" can also be used.

We must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly. The word "terrorist" itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution.

See Barrier.

Keep up the "good" (check dictionary) work BBC!

  • 29.
  • At 10:13 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Balance, what balance wrote:

Can you explain why you have rejected the term "homicide attacks"?

After all if the bombers did not wish to kill or injure innocent people when they committed suicide then they would not blow themselves up on crowded busses, trains or crash airplanes full of innocent people into buildings.

The fact that the bombers do all they can to take as many INNOCENT lives with them when they were die makes this murder not just suicide.

  • 30.
  • At 10:27 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • saeed vahid wrote:

When it comes to cover Palestine/Israel conflict whatever cautious steps you take to remain impartial, it doesn't matter for the pro-Israeli side: they want you to become like CNN/Fox/Sky. Otherwise you are (in the US) unAmerican, (and everywhere) anti-semite.
By far BBC (and to lesser extent PBS) are the only impartial western news sources.
Keep up the good job !

  • 31.
  • At 01:23 AM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • Greg wrote:

If you follow UN when it comes to land disputes between Israel and Arabs, then why you call Shebba Farms “disputed territory” just because Hezbollah wants to make claim to it? UN ruled that it’s NOT Lebanese territory. Where is T-word when women and children are being targeted by Palestinians? Is it about time BBC check the dictionary about what T-word means and used it according to its own committee recommendation?

The vocabulary choice is of course important but what quantity of coverage? BBC daily has reports on Gaza, what about Sderot, Northern Israel during Hizbullah- Israeli conflict? Your editorials are ALWAYS one sided and very bias.

You make claim whatever you want, but anyone who has above average intelligence knows that you are mouth piece of Arab propaganda in English.

  • 32.
  • At 01:51 AM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • Ethan Larson wrote:

Good one. The BBC remains the best place to get world news. I started watching BBC while we were living in the UK from 2001-2004. Don't let them take away your TV License fees. If the BBC went commercial, you'd end up with CNN or Fox News. Sensationalism is very annoying.

  • 33.
  • At 09:08 AM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • John O'Donnell wrote:

While I understand what the BBC is trying to do it can be compared to reporting on apartheid South Africa in the 1950s or Fascist regimes in the 1930s.

In the long run any attempt at impartiality between the oppressors and the oppressed will be detrimental to the BBC's reputation.

  • 34.
  • At 09:20 AM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • J.G. wrote:

Wouldn't it be good style to stop wasting tax-payers money and release the internal report on BBC anti-Israel bais.

"The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers' money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage.

The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.

The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming."

  • 35.
  • At 12:07 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • James Shiell wrote:

By definition, all news is biased. Therefore it can only be a good thing when organisations publish their style guidelines and hence reveal the bias within their editorial process.

In any case, an unbiased view of the whole Israeli/Palestinian conflict appears to differ significantly depending in which which country you are based, as the comments above nicely illustrate...

  • 36.
  • At 01:39 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

I have yet to see BBC investigate why so many Arab civilians are killed in the course of an armed conflict with Palestinian militants or recently in Lebanon. I have yet to hear a BBC reporter ask a Palestinian militant why they surround themselves with women and children when they know the danger they put innocent people in. I have yet to hear BBC talk about crimes against humanity committed by those who indiscriminately fire rockets at purely civilian targets such as Israeli residential communities with the sole objective of killing as many non combatants as possible and no conceivable military objective at the same time. I have yet to hear BBC ask Islamic militants why they attack civilian targets almost completely to the exclusion of military targets. I have yet to see BBC discuss the widespread Islamic militants' practice of using civilians as human shields as a deterrent and if that fails, of creating martyrs of them when they are wounded or killed. We see it everywhere. Iraq's anti aircraft guns emplaced on the roofs of high rise apartment houses. Hezbollah missiles stored in private homes. Who can forget the images of Saddam Hussein with a small British boy asking him "have you had your milk today Stuart" just prior to the war in 1991? When will BBCzeera expose these monsters for what they really are, criminals and terrorists? I think not until the current crop of those running it for their pro Islaminc anti Israeli anti American agenda are removed and replaced with real journalists, not the "so called" journalists staffing and managing it now.

  • 37.
  • At 04:39 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • S Atkinson wrote:

Congratulations on publishing your style guide, regardless of the near universal abuse that you must have known it would generate.

Of course it's not perfect. The parties could only agree on language if they agreed on at least some of the issues and we're clearly nowhere near that.

This does, however, enable people to see the 'rules' that the BBC is using to position its reporting, and allows them to form a slightly more informed view of the accuracy of that reporting.

  • 38.
  • At 05:24 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • Theodore Berra wrote:

I don't find a barrier at all to understanding the word 'terrorist'. For me, it differs greatly from 'freedom fighters' or 'militants', as first these imply that all diplomatic avenues to achieve their ends have been exhausted. Likewise, I can understand the difference between the word gangster, somebody who uses crime to further their lifestyle,and the person who steals to feed their family after being laid off from their job with no other lawful means available.

In the case of terrorists, these are beings who use terror as part of a greater strategy to achieve their ends. Since they know their ends will never be accepted by a lawful society, they seek to undermine and bring down that society.

Apparently the BBC worries about being seen to represent a lawful society for fear it will ostracize those who want to bring it down. If I didn't see their immoral and heinous purpose for doing so I might think they were over liberalised, instead of just using liberalism as their vehicle.

  • 39.
  • At 06:10 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • B. Schultz wrote:

I don't understand why you would draw the conclusion (incorrectly, I might add) that the settlements are "all illegal" but then utterly ignore that the deliberate targeting of civilians by Palestinian militants is not only "illegal" under international law, but also morally outrageous and repugnant. Disputed land can be negotiated, walls moved, borders redrawn. But human life cannot be replaced. Why would you place -- in your moral spectrum of things that "good journalism requires" you to take a position on -- the alleged legality of Palestinian claims to land above the clearly illegal, immoral and irreversable mayhem brought to bear by the Palenstinians upon civilians and children (including their own)? Your journalistic priorities are questionable.

  • 40.
  • At 07:55 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • M wrote:


I have yet to see you describe in detail what the centre ground is.
All you're really doing is lobbying on behalf of Americans/Israelis.
Can you provide links to your critical postings about Fox news etc, examples of unreasonable pro-American and pro-Israeli bias?

  • 41.
  • At 09:20 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • Cathy wrote:

Thank you - this was informative and interesting. The style guide shows a careful use of language with clear and open reasoning. You remind me (again) why I'm glad to fund the BBC. I'd like the BBC's home reporting to be as sound - my impression is that it's no longer as hard hitting ...

  • 42.
  • At 12:40 AM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

It may shock you to learn that many supporters of Israel do, in fact, value the honest criticism of Israel that appears at times in BBC news reports, and that many supporters of Israel do not, in fact, mind seeing stories that show Palestinians in a good or rational light.

Most friends of Israel realize that Israelis and Palestinians are individuals, and as individual people make mistakes, commit crimes and act stupidly, so do groups of people. Similarly, both Israelis and Palestinians do many, many praiseworthy things that never make the news here (why not?).

Furthermore, most of your listeners are mature enough to realize that it's impossible to keep all trace of emotional language or one-way focus out of news stories that cover conflicts.

The problem is not that there is occasional bias toward one side or another. What presents a problem is that in BBC coverage, an intense bias consistently flows in one direction.

It is critically important that you do not use your reporting to whitewash the intent and behavior of one group while focusing on the intent and behavior of another.

  • 43.
  • At 04:08 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

M (40)
There is no center ground between good and evil. Between suicide bombers killing civilians to achieve a political end and trying to find the perpetrators and their accomplices before they strike and killing them first. Between despotic demagogues trying to destroy a nation in war after war and finding strategies to thwart them. Of mass murderers sneaking into a country attacking people and building a wall to keep them out. You want references? Read any of the thousands of books on morality. Start with the Bible. Pay particular attention to the story about Cain and Abel. There's your answer.

  • 44.
  • At 08:03 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • M wrote:

I have yet to see you describe in detail what the centre ground is.
All you're really doing is lobbying on behalf of Americans/Israelis.
Can you provide links to your critical postings about Fox news etc, examples of unreasonable pro-American and pro-Israeli bias?


You haven't really answered my questions.

What is your center ground? In criticising a news website or report for political bias, your criticism has little credibility unless you can clearly describe your centre ground in detail, one that can act as an ideal political middle guide for reporting events.
If you don't have anything explicit then you just appear to be lobbying on behalf of Americans and Israelis - the good.

The references I was referring to were links to your critical web postings about Fox news etc, examples pointing out unreasonable pro-American and pro-Israeli bias.
If you haven't posted any then it is easy to conclude that you are not really interested in the unbiased nature of news reporting, but are again just lobbying on behalf of Americans and Israelis.

  • 45.
  • At 11:05 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • navit wrote:

The BBC have been a large contributor to the anti-semitism rising in Britain today. The national broadcaster has a responsibility not to take one side over another and yet, even when they attempt to do so, they fail. Let me ask you, when the London bombing occured not long ago, was that 'terrorism' or 'insurgency'? What do you call it when innocent civilians are deliberately targeted and murdered in the name of a deity? Why does the BBC not recognise that there never was a sovereign and independent state of 'Palestine' and that Britian in fact was the controller of that land before it was divided into the kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel? These historical facts should be reflected in the words used to show that land lost by Jordan in war is not 'occupied' and was not taken from Palestinians. You shirk your responsibility and expose your bias time after time. Shame on you yet again BBC

  • 46.
  • At 12:03 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

I am pleased to see that there are roughly equal numbers of people complaining that you are anti-Israel. as there are complaining that you are anti-Palestinian. To me, this demonstrates that you are managing to walk this tightrope with a degree of success.

  • 47.
  • At 12:20 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Robert Wood wrote:

You reference Jewish, but not muslim.

No mention of suicide. Are we to assume that these "bombers" inadvertantly killed themselves during the "bombing"?

  • 48.
  • At 10:22 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Ben Hazell wrote:

My reaction to the term 'homicide attacks' is this; it fails to mention the defining aspect of these attacks... the death of the attacker in the attack.
Surely the word 'bombing' itself covers the fact that homicide is being attempted? Also, these attacks do not always result in homicide, nor is homicide the total result of a bombing as the term ignores the fate of the wounded and the damage to infrastructure.

Regardless of content, I'm very glad the BBC has chosen to publish its guidelines, but I have one question.
Do these guidelines apply only to the licence fee funded BBC news, or to the Home Office funded World Service as well?
What are the gaps between the BBC's role as public service broadcaster, and British foreign policy tool?

  • 49.
  • At 05:25 PM on 25 Oct 2006,
  • Turtlecurls wrote:

You reference making choices to be unbias, & needing to have a point of view in the same breath. Clearly you do not know the meaning of unbias reporting.

The term "West Bank Barrier" is an inflamatory term, decidedly not neutral. Try again. It refers to limitations it imposes on the PA without reference to security against boomers.

BBC has shown it's true colors & I am horrified.

  • 50.
  • At 06:37 AM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Turtlecurls wrote:

To other posters there is a VERY REVEALING article about BBC's financial setup at the link below. It explains their motivation for their bias!

(Article is: "LGF Exclusive: How Much Does It Cost to Buy Global TV News?")

To the poster who noted an around equal number of pro-pal & pro-israel comments, that is NOT the count I get. There are several neutrally thanking BBC for posting the terms, & most of the rest are complaints about anti-Israel bias.

Again to BBC I say you can not as you claim in your description of terms...have a political goal & also be unbias. An unbias political goal is an oxymoron.

  • 51.
  • At 09:01 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • JD Walker wrote:

Very interesting dialogue prompted by an attempt to improve transparency. In reality, it provides a platform for genuine debate of differing points of view on Israel/Palestine - something almost never seen/heard on the BBC.

Question - what difference does any of this make? What possible impact will any rational argument - in any direction - genuinely have on Simon Wilson, Jeremy Bowen or any others at the BBC? Will they change their personal views and therefore their reporting style? Will those 'on high' at the BBC - or its Governors - demand any changes? We know the answer. Still, debate is good even if futile as in this case.


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