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To BBC: unreporting of the West Bank

 
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johnwhilley



Joined: 03 Oct 2004
Posts: 724
Location: Glasgow

Post Post subject: To BBC: unreporting of the West Bank Reply with quote

Dear

Helen Boaden, Director BBC news
helenboaden.complaints@bbc.co.uk

Steve Herrmann, Editor, News Online
steve.herrmann@bbc.co.uk

Peter Horrocks, Head of BBC TV News
peter.horrocks@bbc.co.uk

Richard Sambrook, Director of World Service and Global News
richard.sambrook@bbc.co.uk

I've just returned from the West Bank, witnessing, yet again, the scale and severity of Israel's oppressive containments and brutal activities. And, once again, I've come to see the appalling failure of BBC reports from all parts of the West Bank.

Here's a few examples:

On 10 September 2008, the IDF invaded Nablus (the day after we left the city) shooting dead a Palestinian man, rounding-up others and causing general terror. BBC coverage: nothing.
http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=31852

On 11 September 2008, near Ramallah, Israeli soldiers arrested three Palestinian minors, using one as a human shield against other Palestinians. BBC coverage: nothing.
http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=31856

On 12 September 2008, at the brutal Huwarra checkpoint, a pregnant woman lost her baby, after the soldier refused to let her through the security point to reach hospital. A terrible, terrifying tragedy for her and her family. BBC coverage: nothing.
http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=31899

On 13 September 2008, the Israeli army invaded a Bethlehem neighbourhood and killed a 16 year old child with a bullet to the chest. BBC coverage: nothing.
http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=31914

These are but a few incidents over just three days, none of them in the least unusual for suffering Palestinians, yet we find not a word in any BBC news outlets. Why not?

Can you, at least, see how so many people remain blithely unaware of what is really happening in this part of the world? And why that failure to inform is allowing this inhumanity to continue?

Before leaving for Palestine, I had a look at what was on offer at BBC News Online. Among the scattered features was a 'flyover' tour of the 'disputed region' from Paul Wood. Besides the privileged nature of the BBC's mode of reportage, it told us precisely nothing about what's happening on the ground. It was a top-down view of 'the conflict' loaded with 'Israel says'-type language and the strong suggestive message that 'Israel is just defending itself'.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7110000/newsid_7114100/7114144.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm&as

Much more usefully, as suggested by the above links, one can click on Ma'an News Agency http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php a concentrated Palestinian-run outfit offering almost hourly stories from every key locale in the West Bank: Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, Tulkarem, Qalqilia, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho -as well as the Gaza Strip. Dismally, the BBC's 'localised' output is of cursory comparison.

You will, no doubt, offer the standard excuses of limited personnel and other logistical restrictions. Yet, besides the consistently biased language and impressions given in favour of Israel, the actual absence of daily news detailing such atrocities belies any BBC claim of an all-covering news agency.

Why would I, as an interested viewer, bother to consult the BBC when I can read accurate and, yes, unbiased daily reports from sources like Ma'an?

Likewise, the BBC may send an occasional report from currently 'high-profile' places like Ni'lin. But the content and truth are a pale shadow of this kind of qualitative output from Al-Jazeera's Jackie Rowland:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/09/20089913272733490.html

Palestinians are being killed with rubber-coated steel bullets. Yet these and other routine daily atrocities receive practically zero coverage. It's a disgraceful and shameful abrogation.

The BBC would actually offer a better service in citing Ma'an and other such reports as 'sourced news' . Or, better still, having local 'feeder' journalists based in these places. Alas, one suspects, this would not quite fit with the BBC's grand ethos of 'independent' news gathering - or, more likely, the establishment etiquette of keeping within safe and 'respectable' reporting boundaries.

Palestinians are dying and suffering in virtual anonymity. I'd be pleased to hear your thoughts on what the BBC can do to improve its 'localised' coverage of death and misery in the West Bank.

Regards,

John Hilley
Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:01 am
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johnwhilley



Joined: 03 Oct 2004
Posts: 724
Location: Glasgow

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Due apology:

The story about the woman at Huwarra checkpoint was, in fact, reported by the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7612887.stm

However, one may usefully note the absence of any kind of personalised detail of the family's pain and anguish in the BBC version, as compared here in the Ma'an piece:

Quote:
Mu’yed described his feelings during the experience as mixed with pain, oppression, hope and wonder. The child was declared officially dead when paramedics arrived at the checkpoint one hour after his birth.

When the ambulance arrived medical workers assisted Nahil with the rest of her delivery, ensuring the afterbirth was removed and her own health stable. After paramedics operated on the woman, she, the dead child, and her husband, were permitted through the checkpoint for care in the Nablus hospital.

“On the next day,” said Mu’yed “we carried our child in a cardboard box from the hospital to bury him in the graveyard of the village. On our way home through the checkpoint , the soldiers started to laugh telling each other “ Do you want to see a dead child, come over here. He is there inside the box.”



John
Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:01 pm
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David Sketchley



Joined: 09 Jun 2005
Posts: 85

Post Post subject: Great letter John. Reply with quote

Great letter John.
Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:28 pm
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johnwhilley



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Thanks David.

The Eds usefully suggested also putting these points to Jeremy Bowen:


Dear Jeremy,

I hope things are well with you.

I've just returned, again, from the West Bank, disturbed not only by the multiple oppressions there, but the very obvious lack of BBC coverage.

As one of the more responsive journalists in the region, please could you look at the following letter I've sent to your BBC colleagues and tell me whether you think the BBC is really serving to inform and educate the viewer on the daily severity of the Occupation?:

http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2845

I'd also welcome your thoughts on whether you believe the BBC is matching the qualitative output of news agencies like Ma'an and Al Jazeera.

Best wishes,
John Hilley
Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:50 pm
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johnwhilley



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Post Post subject: Reply with quote

The moving testimony of
Naheel Awni Abd al-Rahim Abu Rideh.

Quote:
Testimony: Woman delivers stillborn child at checkpoint
Report, B'Tselem, 17 September 2008


Naheel Awni Abd al-Rahim Abu Rideh, 21, married with one child, is a homemaker and a resident of Qusra in Nablus district. Her testimony was given to Salma a-Deba'i on 8 September 2008 at the witness's home:

I married Muaiad Abu Rideh two years ago, and had a baby girl, Shadah, a year ago. She was born in my seventh month of pregnancy but is fine now.

Seven months ago, I became pregnant again. Last Thursday [4 September], I had sharp stomach pains and I started to bleed badly. Around 7pm I went to Dr. Fathi Odeh in Jawarish, because our village doesn't have any specialist physicians. He gave me medication and told me I'd be all right, but I didn't feel any improvement and the pains even got worse.

Around midnight, I couldn't bear the pain any more. I woke my husband and asked him to take me to the hospital. When he saw how much I was suffering, he called to get his brother Udai, who lives in the center of the village, to drive us in his car. Udai arrived, with my mother-in-law, in a couple of minutes. My husband picked me up and carried me to the car. I was in so much pain, I couldn't walk.

We started on our way to the hospital in Nablus at about 12:50am. At the Zatara checkpoint, we told the soldiers I was pregnant and had to get to the hospital, and they let us cross without a problem. When we got to the Huwwara checkpoint, the soldiers didn't let us pass. They said we didn't have a permit to cross by car. We told them my brother has a permit to cross the Maale Efraim checkpoint because he works at settlements in the Jordan Valley, but that didn't help.

The pain got worse. I felt as if I was going to give birth any moment. Now and then, the soldiers came over to the car and looked at me lying in the back seat. I was really worried about the fetus, and couldn't stop thinking that I'd have to give birth in the car while the soldiers watched.

I kept screaming and crying and calling for help. I don't know how much time passed, but suddenly I felt the fetus coming out. I shouted to my mother-in-law and to Udai, who were outside the car: "I think he's coming out!" I took off my clothes. I was afraid they'd see me naked and that something would happen to the fetus. My mother-in-law shouted: "Yes, here's his head, he's coming out." I asked her to pull him, and she said, "Breathe! Push!" I felt as the baby moved, as if he was calling for help and asking us to help him come out. My mother-in-law covered me with my clothes. I shouted to my husband, "The baby is out!" He shouted to the soldiers something in Hebrew that I didn't understand.

I don't remember exactly what happened then, but when the medics arrived, they picked me up with the car seat and put me in the ambulance. I didn't feel the baby moving any more and realized he was dead. The medics took away the dead baby and took me to the hospital. My husband and mother-in-law came with me in the ambulance. At the hospital, the doctors operated on me to clean my uterus. They discharged me the next day.

It hurts me a lot when I remember how the baby moved inside me and what happened to him. What did he do wrong? I also gave birth to my daughter in my seventh month, and now she is healthy. This poor baby died because there wasn't anybody to help me deliver him.


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9835.shtml


John
Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:55 am
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johnwhilley



Joined: 03 Oct 2004
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Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Mr Hilley,

Thank you for your email of September 15th, asking for Jeremy Bowen's thoughts about what you describe as "the very obvious lack of BBC coverage" of the situation in the West bank, from where you had just returned.

Your original email was addressed to several different people within the BBC and so all the correspondence has been passed to me for a response.

In fact, contrary to your suggestion otherwise, we have indeed been covering the sort of issues you have highlighted. There are too many examples to include all of them, but here are a few pointers:-

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7451691.stm

Our correspondents in the region have also covered such issues as the Hebron orphanages threatened by IDF raids; the problems of rebuilding Hebron's threatened economy (through a tourism venture) and rights group B'Tselem's report into Special Security Areas more than doubling the area of land seized for settlements east of the separation barrier.  Among other stories covered in the last couple of months, Newsnight carried a report on Israel's control of West Bank water - 80% consumed by Israelis; Radio 4's Today programme reported on the issue of Israeli settlements; the news website reported that Israel had placed a border policeman under house arrest over his alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of a Palestinian boy in the West Bank; it reported that Palestinian medical workers said a teenager shot by Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Nilin had died of his wounds; it described how Yossi Hazut had moved from place to place across Israel and the Palestinian Territories for the last three years; there's a story about how Israeli security officials are reported to have raised concerns about an increase in violence by Jewish settlers in the West Bank and the website has also reported on the West Bank struggle for water. 

Please be assured that the BBC strives to be impartial in its coverage,
reporting as many aspects and perspectives as possible.

Yours sincerely

Stewart McCullough
Complaints Coordinator
BBC Complaints

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

----------------

Dear Stewart,

I wish I had a chocolate bar for every such BBC response. Yes, you can list this and that report - what else are the BBC supposed to be doing there, anyway? - but it still offers a token and timid view of the real situation on the ground. Where, for example, are the regular BBC accounts of Israeli invasions into refugee camps and nightly miltary violations around places like Nablus? Where are the consistent reports on house demolitions and quiet Israeli encroachments around East Jerusalem? Where are the in-depth pieces on places like Balata refugee camp, where people live in anonymous deprivation while their sons and fathers lie dead or languishing in Israeli jails?

The citing of the settler attack film as 'evidence' of BBC engagement is particularly deplorable. You basically ran a piece of secondary reportage based on a film handed to you by local people much more ready than the BBC to go out and actually capture such reality.

Moreover, as noted ad nauseam in my communications with various BBC spokespersons, it's not only about the quantity of reports but the quality and context. As stated in my letter – seemingly unfit for Jeremy Bowen's and others' direct consideration – BBC reportage doesn't begin to match, for regularity, detail and critical analysis outlets like Al-jazeera or Ma'an.

There's also a yawning gulf between the kind of high-profile coverage afforded Israeli loss/injury and that of Palestinians. Media Lens Editor David Cromwell recently asked the BBC to explain the notable coverage given to injured soldiers after a car attack in Jerusalem while the IDF murder of a Palestinian grandmother in nearby Abu Dis was ignored. http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=9836#9836

It's a template example of how BBC news is prioritised, packaged and, as in the case of this Palestinian woman, Mariam Ayyad, not deemed fit for public interest.

I help run a Palestinian human rights campaign and have the opportunity to speak at our weekly stall with an interested public about the situation. One of the most frequently stated comments involves a version of “We didn't know all that was going on. That's really shocking. Why aren't the media telling us about all this?” That's a serious indictment of the BBC.

Many are also disturbed to realise that the Occupation is illegal, as is the Wall, and that the US/UK/EU are helping to enforce the siege and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Again, the effective omission of that main information is a gross abrogation of the BBC's 'charter to inform'.

Yes, we can have some online stories and the occasional 'special' TV report from the West Bank/Gaza. But where, beyond the 'two sides narrative', is the all-important contextual message, as well as detail, explaining the daily oppression being carried out by Israel and its army of occupation?

Many Muslim/Middle Eastern/Asian people we speak with are also depressingly familiar with the BBC's loaded language inferring that Palestinians are “militants” and “terrorists”, while the IDF go about their 'lawful' business of state-directed murder and intimidation.

My own personal observations of West Bank life and occupation are light years from what comes across on BBC news. Of course, you might think those observations lacking in impartiality. And you'd be right. But, at least I consider them to be subjectively honest, based on rational, empirical evidence. The view offered by the BBC, on the other hand, is one of deceitful 'impartiality', also subjectively made, but loaded in ways that cast Israel in a still-favourable light.

Would that the same kind of headline message reserved for Zimbabwe was extended to Israel. Would that the BBC castigated Olmert and his peers like they demonise Mugabe. Why not express the same kind of denunciations of state-inflicted suffering?

The reason are manifest: BBC establishment 'values', editorial parameters and journalistic understandings of what's permitted.

Here's a useful suggestion. Please read and disseminate to your journalists - Jeremy Bowen included - this recent studied account from Jonathan Cook on the actual daily practices of media control, many directly pertinent to how news and information on Palestine-Israel is culled, filtered and presented by the BBC.

http://medialens.org/alerts/08/081007_intellectual_cleansing_part2.php

Like your effective dismissal of the points raised in my letter, I don't expect any serious acknowledgment of Cook's qualitative insights. But it helps to know that you know about them, just as, I suspect, you know about the BBC's biased coverage of Palestine and how to deny it.

Regards,

John Hilley
Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:19 pm
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johnwhilley



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Post Post subject: Reply with quote

A further exchange with Stewart McCullough.

Dear Mr Hilley,

Thank you for your further email. I agree entirely that our reports should provide context and that our main focus should be on quality, as opposed to quantity. I think the examples I highlighted to you in my earlier response are illustrative of that - but clearly you have not been convinced and I am sorry that you remain dissatisfied with my reply.

I have to take issue with your specific point about the settler attack filming you describe as 'secondary.' This was unusually powerful, unmediated footage that had been given exclusively to colleagues in our
Middle East bureau as a result of a large amount of background legwork over a number of months. The power of the footage allowed BBC News to give it a prominence across TV, radio and the internet which it otherwise would not have had. The story was then followed up by newspapers and TV across the world.

I should stress, too, that we did not just rely on the footage, but that we also filmed and spoke to several of the protagonists.

Additionally, we extrapolated from this incident to look at violence and policing across this area of the West Bank.

Please be assured that in responding to your criticism there is no sense of complacency. We know that our challenge is tough and we constantly strive to achieve impartial, fair and balanced coverage of the competing narratives in this long-running, complex and highly charged conflict. We are serious in our commitment to cover the territories. Our colleague, Aleem Maqbool, lives and works in Ramallah; Jeremy Bowen is a regular visitor and often reports from the West Bank.

We appreciate the feedback and the time you have taken to get in touch - all your comments have been passed to our Middle East bureau and to Jeremy Bowen.

Yours sincerely,

Stewart McCullough
Complaints Coordinator
BBC Complaints

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

...................

Dear Stewart,

Thanks for responding.

I think you'll find that I and others have cited multiple examples of BBC coverage quite obviously loaded with 'Israel says' comment and context. Still, your insistence to the contrary is not unexpected.

Here's another current example – leading with the template 'Israel says' commentary on “militants”, while the gathering food catastrophe in Gaza gets bottom-page relevance:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7724418.stm

Please contrast with the Al-Jazeera report on the blockade:

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/11/200811128534353370.html

The blockade is given 'top-billing' in this later piece:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7726943.stm

But, it's Israel's own reason that's stated for the blocked aid. Indeed, what's disgracefully worse here is that it's the BBC's own same assumption of that blame which appears in the headline:

Quote:
“The Israeli military has sent back a convoy carrying basic humanitarian supplies to Gaza after continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants.”


Nothing, of course, to do with Israel's ongoing siege agenda and collective punishment of the people in Gaza.

So much for objective context.

I remain humbly intrigued as to the nature of your bureau's “legwork” in the settler-attack film. Suffice to say, there's more of this kind of footage at Youtube and other online formats than ever appears on the BBC. Aleem Maqbool's residency in Ramallah or Jeremy Bowen's visits won't make up for that yawning gulf any time soon. Quite simply, your journalists and crews don't get around enough and into vital places like Nilin, Bilin or the refugee camps like Balata where the daily oppressions are happening. Even Jeremy Bowen's latest piece from Hebron, capturing the very obvious restrictions on Palestinians, seemed like one of the BBC's occasional forays into a 'flashpoint' situation.

Your journalists' “legwork” also appears disturbingly lacklustre when it comes to visiting scenes of Palestinian victimisation in East Jerusalem. Just this week, Tim Franks's coverage of Jerusalem's "quaint" municipal elections somehow managed to miss the eviction of the Al Kurd family, an internationally-reported story which not only reveals Israel's brutal ethnic cleansing in that part of the city, but, as the contrasting Al-Jazeera piece shows, was closely tied to the election issue:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7719493.stm

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/11/2008119134219170544.html

Even in a further BBC report on Jerusalem's victorious new mayor, Nir Barkat - noting his “hopes to build more Jewish homes in Palestinian and Israeli-Arab areas in the east of the city” - we find no “legwork” examples of how this vicious policy is being enacted through such evictions and the bulldozing of Palestinian homes.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7724696.stm

Wouldn't it have helped make the point more forcefully, and factually, if the BBC had 'used its legs' to go and report on the Al Kurds' plight, a punishment condemned even by the US State Department?

The issue here is not just the BBC's failure to cover particular stories and events in the region, crucial as that is, but how its bureau and staff don't even appear able or willing to see and illustrate these connections.

As Jonathan Cook has shown, the assimilation of most correspondents into Israeli, rather than Palestinian, life suggests a distinct “legwork” deficiency within the BBC's mainly Jerusalem-based operations.

http://medialens.org/alerts/06/060630_kidnapped_by_israel.php

I look forward to your reply.

As noted by the cc, I'd also be interested in the thoughts of Bill Hayton, from World Service, on these problems of poor reporting.


Best wishes,
John Hilley
Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:18 pm
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johnwhilley



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The BBC finally got around to visiting the al-Kurd family. Their online piece appeared on 14 November (updated on the 15th), the day after the above letter of complaint was sent.

Heather Sharp's report, of course, gives ample 'balance' to Israeli claims:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7729487.stm

Might we expect a little more "legwork" to come on this and other ethnic purges? Perhaps even a little more critical context, as in this latest dispatch from Jonathan Cook:

http://thenational.ae/article/20081117/FOREIGN/258586645

John
Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:56 pm
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johnwhilley



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In the wake of this family's persecution and latest tragedy, one is bound to ask why their case and its critical implications have only now been deemed reportable by the BBC.

My sincere condolences to the Al-Kurd family.

John

ISM report:

Quote:
Abu Kamel of the Al-Kurd family, evicted by Israel from their home in Occupied East Jerusalem on the 9th November, has died after suffering from a severe heart-attack.

This comes two weeks after he was taken immediately to hospital following the night-time invasion and forcible eviction from his home of 52 years by Israeli forces.

The funeral will be held at 11am, 23rd November in Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem.

Suffering from dangerously high blood pressure, in the aftermath of his family’s eviction from the emblematic house in Sheikh Jarrah and consequently being left homeless, 61 year-old Abu Kamel suffered from a deterioration with his long-term health problems and was re-admitted to hospital at around 10pm, Saturday 22nd November. It was soon announced that he had suffered from a heart-attack and died.


Full report here:
http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2008/11/23/abu-kamel-of-the-al-kurd-family-has-dies-two-weeks-after-israel-forcibly-evict-him-from-his-home-of-52-years/
Sun Nov 23, 2008 10:04 pm
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johnwhilley



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A response and further enquiry.

John

---------------

Dear Mr Hilley,

Thank you for your latest email.

I'm sorry that you are unconvinced by the fact that the footage was gained following " a large amount of background legwork over a number of months."

It is a shame that you remain dissatisfied with this, but please be assured that our Middle East teams work in in often difficult and dangerous circumstances to bring us the widest possible range of news and perspectives from a volatile region about a highly contentious and
constantly developing story of conflict.

You suggest that our coverage focuses solely on the Israeli perspectives and yet the evidence does not support this view. Perhaps you would be interested in reading the following recent examples:-

Inside Gaza: malnutrition and shortages:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7766509.stm
Gazans despair over blockade:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7739063.stm
Gazans describe life under blockade:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7735852

You may also like to view this video:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7763750.stm

As an impartial broadcaster we cannot adopt a stance as you suggest we should. Even though many in our audiences would wish us to come down on one side or another, uniquely, the BBC has an obligation to take an impartial, even-handed approach to issues. Please be assured that we constantly strive to meet this obligation.

I don't think there is anything that I can usefully add to my earlier response. However, should you now wish to proceed to the second stage of the complaints process, it is now open to you to write to the Director of
BBC News:

HelenBoadenComplaints@bbc.co.uk

Yours sincerely

Stewart McCullough
Complaints Coordinator
BBC Complaints

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints
-------------------

Dear Stewart,

Thanks for your belated reply and standard BBC dismissal.

As ever, viewers of these exchanges can form their own conclusions regarding your “legwork” and “impartial broadcaster” claims. Perhaps you think that noting, on occasion, the obvious humanitarian crisis in Gaza constitutes balanced coverage. Or, in the wake of the current massacre of Gaza, that citing Israeli establishment sources can somehow pass for contextually-informed journalism.

Here's just a couple of current examples, with comments, on how BBC reportage is framed to portray Israel's state violence as an essentially defensive exercise, with no contextual reference to it's illegal and inhumanitarian siege.

http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=10007#10007

http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=10008#10008

Please pass these on to Jeremy Bowen and Jonathan Marcus. Perhaps they could spare a moment to explain their deference to the Israeli version.

In the meantime, I'd like to remind you of the following letter I sent on 26 November 2008:
Quote:

To

Stewart McCullough
BBC Complaints
Ref: 15909637 BBC News

Dear Stewart,

Further to my recent letter, and in lieu of a reply, could you tell me on what basis a decision was made by the BBC's Jerusalem bureau to cover the story of the al-Kurd family in Sheik Jarrah, East Jerusalem?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7729487.stm

The online piece by Heather Sharp appeared on 14 November 2008 (updated 15 Nov) following my letter of 13 November on the matter.

I'd like to know whether the Jerusalem bureau knew about the al-Kurd's situation prior to my letter and, if so, why they only reported it after my letter was sent. I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
John Hilley

So, to repeat, why did the BBC's Jerusalem bureau fail for so long to cover the al-Kurd family's situation?

I've laid out my concerns about this matter in straight language and would appreciate a similar, courteous response.

I'm also forwarding this request, as suggested, to Helen Boaden for 'second level' consideration.

I look forward to an early response.

John Hilley
Tue Dec 30, 2008 2:15 am
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johnwhilley



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A good example of the BBC gatekeeper system in operation. I've continually asked for an explanation on the BBC's failure to report the intimidation and eviction of the al-Kurd family (see above).

As this further evasion shows, my enquiry is still being passed around various BBC departments (in this case, the Divisional Advisor for Future Media & Technology complaints, for some reason) rather than properly examined. This, despite having forwarded it to Helen Boaden via the formal webform, as requested.

Quote:
6171470
Thursday, 15 January, 2009 1:02 PM
From:
"info@bbc.co.uk" <info>


Dear Mr Hilley,
Thank you for your further comments addressed to my colleague Stewart
Mccullough which has been passed to me for a reply. I am afraid there is nothing further I can usefully add. However, if you want to pursue this complaint further to the next stage in the complaints process please send this to Helen Boaden Director of BBC News: HelenBoadenComplaints@bbc.co.uk
Regards,


Vis Karunaratne
Divisional Advisor for Future Media & Technology complaints
BBC Complaints
ww.bbc.co.uk/complaints


John
Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:09 pm
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johnwhilley



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Further letter to Helen Boaden:

Dear Helen Boaden,

Re 16171470

I've now sent a series of requests asking for the above referenced matter to be investigated. I've also sent it through the formal webform, as previously instructed, asking for it to be considered by you as a 'second stage' enquiry. Having done all this, I'm still awaiting a satisfactory response. The latest evasion received from the BBC is noted here:.

http://www.medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=10052#10052

Please answer my question and explain why it is being passed around like this.

Yours sincerely,

John Hilley
Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:32 pm
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A Stage 2 response from the BBC re the al-Kurd case, followed by my response.

--------------

RE: Question on the al-Kurd family
Wednesday, 11 February, 2009


Dear Mr Hilley,

The Director of News, Helen Boaden, asked me to look into your Stage 2 complaint regarding the editorial decisions behind our coverage of the al-Kurd family. It is part of my role as Head of Editorial Compliance for BBC News to undertake Stage 2 investigations on her behalf and in consultation with her.

Please accept my apologies for not having acknowledged receipt of your complaint and letting you know that there is a twenty working day target for responding to Stage 2 complaints. I thought I would be able to reply to you sooner but our Jerusalem bureau have been particularly busy and I needed to consult them to establish the facts behind coverage of the al-Kurd family before responding to you.

You have suggested that the Jerusalem bureau took too long to cover the al-Kurd family's situation and you ask why this was the case. You also suggest that the bureau team covered the story only after you had brought the matter to their attention.

The decision to cover the al-Kurd family's eviction was based entirely on the editorial merit of the story and the resources available at the time. The BBC News website reporter in question, Heather Sharp, tells me that she was unaware of any correspondence between you and the BBC. I am told also by our bureau chief in Jerusalem that no-one in the team had been aware of any correspondence from you about the al-Kurds at the time they decided to cover the issue.

Heather Sharp visited the al-Kurd family on Wednesday November 12th, as did the Middle East correspondent, Tim Franks. The Jerusalem bureau took the view that the al-Kurd family’s case was an important story of relevance to an international audience. The reports took a few days to prepare because of the complexity of some of the issues involved and were then scheduled to run as soon as possible, given other competing demands for space. Tim Franks was going to cover the story, but in the event was out of the country when the eviction happened and another correspondent, Wyre Davies, reported on it for TV and Radio News outlets.

It is worth noting that one of Wyre’s features on this issue, aired on November 17th, was for BBC World, which has a global audience of 78 million. Indeed, there was coverage of the al-Kurd’s case across all our output – on TV, radio and online.

You ask why it took so long to report the issue. Even a well-resourced BBC bureau, committed to full coverage of the many aspects of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, has to make judgements about which stories to cover and when, given competing demands.


I hope that I have addressed your concerns, but, if you remain dissatisfied with my response, you may wish to take your complaint to the final stage by appealing to the BBC Trust. If you wish to contact the Trust, you can do so by writing to Bruce Vander, Complaints Manager, Editorial Standards Committee, 35 Marylebone High Street , London W1V 4AA .

Finally, may I remind you that any future complaints you wish to make should first be sent in via the webforms on the BBC's complaints website so that they can be logged and processed centrally. There is a three stage process for handling complaints as explained at the attached link, in case this is helpful: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle.shtml

Yours sincerely

Stephanie Harris
Head of Editorial Compliance
BBC News

-----------------

Dear Stephanie,

Thanks for your response.

I acknowledge your discussions with Heather Sharp and the BBC's Jerusalem bureau regarding my correspondence on the matter. I, of course, have no way of knowing whether my email to the BBC had been drawn to their attention or whether it had influenced the issue. I merely asserted that the story was only covered after I sent it.

The more substantive problem concerns the serious journalistic and editorial failings of the BBC's Jerusalem bureau. You say:
Quote:

The Jerusalem bureau took the view that the al-Kurd family’s case was an important story of relevance to an international audience

Why, then, did BBC coverage of their case only commence on 14 November 2008, the point at which the family had been evicted? The answer to this principal question remains unadressed in your letter.

As noted in my original and subsequent emails, the al-Kurd family's plight had been prominently reported by other international media, such as al-Jazeera, long before the actual eviction. The family had also, as noted in my letter, been supported by many international figures, including the US State Department's principal representative in Jerusalem. There had been notable legal developments in the case. A major campaign had been formed to support the al-Kurds and other families in the Sheik Jarrah neighbourhood. Part of the al-Kurd family home had been illegally occupied by Israeli settlers. The family had been subject to routine threats and intimidation from surrounding settler supporters. And the health of Mr al-Kurd had been seriously affected by the situation, leading to his untimely death.

Again, why did the BBC fail to make a single mention of these very prominent issues and developments prior to Heather Sharp's piece?

The Jerusalem bureau's failure in the al-Kurd case is symptomatic of a deeper BBC disregard for, and insensitivity to, Palestinian suffering. It also highlights their negligence in serving to inform viewers about Israel's systematic efforts to purge and 'cleanse' Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

I intend to forward this correspondence and set of concerns to the BBC Trust as a Stage 3 complaint.

Yours sincerely,

John Hilley
Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:22 pm
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A further exchange with Stephanie Harris.



Dear Mr Hilley
 
Thank you for your further email and I thought that I had answered your original question about why we did not report on this situation earlier. I'm sorry that my reply wasn't clear enough in this regard.
 
There are many aspects to a conflict which has gone on in this region for many decades. The BBC has a long tradition of covering the conflict in depth in both English and Arabic. We cannot however cover every story at every stage. The BBC has to balance likely interest in particular stories with other demands on time and resources in the region. It also has to make judgements between stories from the Middle East and those from Britain and the rest of the world. That is what happened in this case.
 
The al-Kurd family was engaged in a long legal struggle to remain in their home. At the point where the possibility of eviction became an actual eviction the story was covered on the English language output on TV, radio and online. However, the BBC Arabic service, which is able to devote more time to the region, did cover the story before the eviction.
 
I hope this further explanation is helpful.
 
Yours sincerely
Stephanie Harris

----------------------

Dear Stephanie,

With respect, neither of your replies adequately explains why the al-Kurd's situation wasn't covered earlier by the BBC. Your latest message merely states a series of generalised claims about 'good BBC practice', while intimating that the pre-eviction situation – and all its vital context - wasn't newsworthy for a wider international audience.

The fact remains that there was no serious investigative reporting of this longstanding issue. And that begs a number of critical questions about the editorial and journalistic motivations of the BBC's Jerusalem bureau.

In preparation of the next stage of complaint through the BBC Trust, perhas you could forward me details of when the BBC reported the issue prior to Heather Sharp's piece?

Yours sincerely,

John Hilley
Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:56 pm
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Dear Mr Hilley

Thank you for your further email. In the end, what we are discussing is a question of news judgement. I think you are right that the al-Kurd family's situation was one we might have covered before we did - along with a number of other stories we might have covered - but we don't think it was a significant "miss" not to have done so. I do not think that finding out the exact dates when the Arabic Service covered the story will shed any light on this issue and suggest that you now go ahead and contact the BBC Trust to ask them to entertain your complaint.

Yours sincerely

Stephanie Harris
Head of Editorial Compliance, BBC News

____________

Dear Stephanie Harris,

I note your acknowledgement that this story could have been covered sooner, but disagree that it was not a significant miss. The contextual importance of the case alone suggests otherwise. The issue is, indeed, one of "news judgement" - the type of news judged safe for transmission by the BBC.

I've prepared a letter for the Trust. Could you provide me with an email, rather than postal, address? *

Yours sincerely,
John Hilley

* (Duly sent.)
Tue Feb 17, 2009 3:53 pm
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To

BBC Trust

Bruce Vander,
Complaints Manager,
Editorial Standards Committee,
35 Marylebone High Street ,
London W1V 4AA

17 February 2009


Dear Mr Vander,

I wish to initiate a formal BBC Trust review/appeal regarding unsatisfactory responses to a complaint about the BBC Jerusalem bureau's editorial and journalistic failings. I am dissatisfied with the reasons offered by BBC management and request a reassessment of the issues raised. My original complaint, BBC responses and further exchanges are all available for viewing at the following Media Lens Forum entry:

http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2845

I wrote to Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News on 15 September 2008 detailing what I and many fellow observers regard as gross bias by omission, language and false context in reporting, and failing to report, events in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (This is consistent with the BBC's widespread misrepresentation of the Palestinian case during Israel's recent attacks on Gaza.)

My complaint sought specific reasons for the non-coverage of the al-Kurd family's campaign against eviction from their home in the Sheik Jarrah area of East Jerusalem, a high-profile, internationally-acknowledged case with critical implications for the future of Arab/Palestinian 'residents'. As you will note, the BBC only reported the story after the family were evicted from their home. I believe this failure to address their prior situation and its vital context to be symptomatic of a more institutional bias within the BBC's Jerusalem operation.

As you will see, my initial enquiry was not dealt with directly by Helen Boaden. Instead, it was, rather frustratingly, passed around various BBC departments and personnel - one having no formal competence to deal with the matter. The Trust might wish to investigate the efficiency of this process.

Taking up the issue, Stewart McCullough noted instances of BBC coverage and the“legwork” being undertaken by BBC reporters around the West Bank/East Jerusalem, a claim which does not, as I've argued in my responses, stand up to serious scrutiny.

In her Stage 2 response, Stephanie Harris offered this further explanatory statement:
Quote:

“The decision to cover the al-Kurd family's eviction was based entirely on the editorial merit of the story and the resources available at the time.”

Unfortunately, this, again, offers little illumination. The point of contention is whether the BBC's Jerusalem bureau actually knew about the al-Kurd's problems before the eviction and, if so, did they take an editorial decision not to report it? I would like the Trust to help provide a comprehensive answer to this question.

Stephanie Harris further states:
Quote:

“It is worth noting that one of Wyre’s [Wyre Davies] features on this issue, aired on November 17th, was for BBC World, which has a global audience of 78 million. Indeed, there was coverage of the al-Kurd’s case across all our output – on TV, radio and online.”

I also find this unsatisfactory. It still fails to explain why the story was not deemed newsworthy beforehand.

She goes on to say:
Quote:

“You ask why it took so long to report the issue. Even a well-resourced BBC bureau, committed to full coverage of the many aspects of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, has to make judgements about which stories to cover and when, given competing demands.”

I also find this a bland, generalised and unacceptable excuse. All editors and journalists have to make judgements – which rather undermines the BBC's standard 'we are always objective' claim - but why was this case and its key context deemed unfit to report when other major outlets such as al-Jazeera had made significant note of the family's ongoing campaign and its crucial implications?

Please also note that Stephanie Harris declined to provide me with details of when the story had been covered on the Arabic Service prior to the eviction event, feeling that this would not shed any further light on the matter. I dispute this, and ask that this information be retrieved and the content addressed by the BBC.

As intimated in my letter noting personal experiences of the West Bank/East Jerusalem, the BBC is not fulfilling its charter to inform viewers about the routine suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israel and its military forces. I have endeavoured to keep some ongoing record of this daily IDF brutality and the non-reporting of it by the BBC and other Western media.

http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1660

I'd be pleased if you could review some of the stories/issues noted here and consider whether the BBC could have been doing much more to cover them.

I'd also like you to consider these reporting failures in relation to the BBC's selective use of language, content and context, as judged by the BBC-commissioned Loughborough Study (2006) which calculated over thirty instances of pro-Israel bias in BBC output. See:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9307

The first two findings alone offer serious corroboration of my complaint in concluding that the BBC:
Quote:

“rarely covered daily Palestinian hardships and repression under occupation”
and
“was incomplete, misleading, and failed to consistently provide a full and fair account of the conflict”.

This, of course, comes in light of the BBC's decision not to air the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal, a position which confirms for many the BBC's strong institutional leanings towards Israel.

I remain firmly of the view that had the BBC been dispensing its proper duty in covering the deaths, attacks, incarcerations, intimidations and humiliations visited on the Palestinians, a fuller public understanding - and possible resolution - of the situation might be currently apparent.

As sugested in my initial complaint, this would entail much more localised reporting from West Bank locations, such as Bi'lin and Ni'lin where Israel is shooting and maiming innocent civilians in defence of its illegal wall. It would require considerably more locally-based pieces from the many refugee camps like Balata, Aida and Azeh. And it would involve a great deal more “legwork” coverage of the forced removals and quiet ethnic cleansing of Arab/Palestinian 'citizens' in East Jerusalem, as recorded by human rights groups like B'Tselem and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

Instead, as Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook has documented, the BBC's Jerusalem-based operation relies heavily on existing Israeli media cues and sources, while much of its 'journalistic viewpoint' is closely attuned to Israeli cultural and political sensibilities. I request that you read Cook's thoughtful critiques as essential background to my complaint/appeal.

http://medialens.org/alerts/06/060630_kidnapped_by_israel.php

http://medialens.org/alerts/08/081007_intellectual_cleansing_part2.php

Thus, I still await substantive answers to my initial letter and points of concern:

1. Why did the BBC's Jerusalem bureau fail for so long to cover the al-Kurd family's situation? Did they know about the al-Kurd's problems before the eviction? If so, on what grounds was an editorial decision made not to report it?

I also wish these questions to be considered against the BBC's other journalistic failings, with particular regard to the West Bank/East Jerusalem. Please read the evidence and examples noted in my correspondence, coupled with the opinions of Jonathan Cook, and consider the following:

2. Is the BBC's Jerusalem bureau really providing comprehensive, balanced and informative coverage of the principal causes of Palestinian suffering? Does the BBC give greater prominence to attacks on Israelis? Does it adequately explain and report the persecution of Arabs/Palestinians in Jerusalem? Could the BBC be providing a more critical, in-depth and daily reportage of Israeli repression across the West Bank and the consequences of such for Palestinian people?

I look forward to your considered response.

Yours sincerely,

John Hilley
Tue Feb 17, 2009 4:04 pm
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Received from the BBC Trust:

...............

John Hilley

03 March 2009

Ref: 16357809


Dear Mr Hilley

Editorial & Journalistic failings by the BBC Jerusalem bureau

Thank you for your email of appeal regarding the above dated 17 February 2009.

We will consider your request for an appeal under the BBC's editorial complaints procedures. In order to determine whether your complaint qualifies for appeal by the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee we will need to review your complaint and prior correspondence with the BBC alongside your email of appeal. We will do this as quickly as possible, however, and will let you know as soon as we reach a decision. We will also keep you informed if for any reason we meet with delays during this reviewing process.


Yours sincerely,
Ruby Seehra

Ruby Seehra
Editorial Team Assistant

BBC Trust
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4AA
Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:53 pm
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Further exchange:

---------------------

Dear Mr Hilley,

Following further consideration we shall not be putting the paperwork for your appeal before the Editorial Standards Committee at its meeting today as originally planned.

We shall be in touch with you again shortly to advise you of the next step.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Fadda

Michael Fadda
Editorial Assistant, Editorial Team
BBC Trust Unit
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4AA

T: 020 7208 9647  |   F: 020 7208 9670
mailto:michael.fadda@bbc.co.uk| bbc.co.uk/bbctrust

-------------------

Dear Mr Fadda,

Thanks for this long-awaited communication. I'd be pleased to know why my appeal wasn't put before the Committee today, as originally planned. I'd also like to know, more precisely, if and when you intend to do so.

Yours sincerely,

John Hilley
Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:42 pm
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BBC Trust ruling on my complaint and my further letter of appeal.

John

----------------
11 June 2009

Dear Mr Hilley

BBC News coverage of Al-Kurd family eviction

The Head of Editorial Standards at the BBC Trust has reviewed the correspondence relating to your complaint and has decided that it is not appropriate for the Trust to consider your appeal.

I realise that this will be a disappointment and I would like to explain the reason for the decision.

The Royal Charter and Agreement set out the different functions of the Trust and Executive. It is for the Executive to handle the day-to-day running of the BBC. The Executive is responsible for the BBC’s editorial and creative output (Charter 38 (1) (b)).

The decision as to what to include or what not to include within BBC output is therefore a matter for the Executive unless there is evidence that the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines have been breached. The Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards noted that this story was in fact covered, although not at the stage that you feel it should have been. In light of the fact that the story was actually run, the Head of Editorial Standards does not feel that you have made a plausible case that the omission of this item led to a breach of the guidelines on impartiality.

Should you wish to appeal the decision not to put your complaint before the Editorial Standards Committee you may do so by emailing the Chairman of the ESC at ‘trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk’, or by writing to the Chairman at the address below.

Richard Tait
Chairman, ESC
Room 211
35 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 4AA


In order to be considered, your appeal must be received by Thursday 2 July.

Yours sincerely

Bruce Vander
Complaints Manager, BBC Trust


-------------------

Richard Tait
Chairman, ESC
Room 211
35 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 4AA

12 June 2009

Dear Mr Tait,

I'd like to appeal the decision by Mr Bruce Vander and the BBC Trust to disallow consideration of my complaint regarding BBC handling of the Al-Kurd family eviction.

The primary purpose of the complaint was to highlight the BBC Jerusalem bureau's failure to cover this long-running story. That they eventually did so – after my initial complaint on the matter – should not affect the fact of serious prior omission and effective breach of BBC 'impartiality'.

I had asked for a formal explanation as to why BBC editors and journalists had not seen fit to carry the Al-Kurd story. The Trust's decision not to proceed with this complaint means that no reason for the omission will now be made available.

Many will see that as a very convenient outcome for the BBC's Jerusalem bureau. For the Al-Kurd family and campaigners for justice, it will be viewed as yet another illustration of institutional BBC bias.

I ask again that the Trust investigate whether the BBC knew about the Al-Kurd story prior to the eviction and, if so, on what grounds did they deem it unsuitable for broadcasting.

As you can see, my statement of complaint calls for for a fuller questioning of the Jerusalem bureau's reporting from the region. That request also appears to have been entirely ignored by the Trust. Again, observers can draw their own conclusions.

The Trust seems to be sheltering behind the 'narrow remit' line of only considering complaints about an existing report.

What I'm concerned to highlight is the systematic scale of selective output and omission, an editorial and journalistic agenda suggesting a deep disinclination within the Jerusalem bureau to criticise Israel.

The Trust's refusal to look at my complaint leaves us, effectively, with no regulatory body willing to even countenance such a problem.

I hope the Trust will take the opportunity to rescind this loaded decision.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

John Hilley
Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:51 am
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--- On Tue, 21/7/09, Trust Editorial <trust> wrote:


From: Trust Editorial <trust>
Subject: Update on request for appeal to the BBC Trust

Dear Mr Hilley,

Please find attached a letter from Bruce Vander regarding your challenge to the decision not to proceed with your appeal.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Fadda

Michael Fadda
Editorial Assistant, BBC Trust Unit

------------------

John Hilley

21 July 2009

Dear Mr Hilley

BBC News coverage of Al-Kurd family eviction


I am writing further to your email to Richard Tait of 12 June. Your challenge to the decision not to proceed with your appeal was due to be considered by the Editorial Standards Committee at its meeting on 16 July.

I regret that, due to the volume of ESC business in this meeting, there was not time to consider your request for an appeal. As there is no ESC meeting in August the next opportunity to consider your request will be the meeting on 1 September 2009.

Please accept my apologies for this unavoidable delay.

Yours sincerely,

Bruce Vander
Secretary, Editorial Standards Committee


----------------------

Dear Mr Fadda,

Thanks for your email. Please forward this to Mr Vander.

Dear Mr Vander,

Thanks for contacting me regarding this "unavoidable delay." I'm inclined to wonder precisely why my appeal didn't merit time for inclusion at the ESC's July meeting.

Perhaps the current eviction crisis faced by other Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah might have helped concentrate the Committee's minds on the matter.

I look forward to an early consideration of my case.

Best wishes,

John Hilley
Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:57 am
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Update:

(3 September 2009)

Dear Mr Hilley,

Your challenge to the Head of Editorial Standards' decision not to proceed with your appeal regarding BBC News coverage of the eviction of the Al-Kurd family was considered by the Editorial Standards Committee at its meeting on 1 September, we shall write to you shortly with the Committee's decision

Your complaint regarding "six facets of BBC bias" is still being considered for acceptance on appeal to the Trust. We shall contact you again in due course when we have come to a decision on how to proceed.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Fadda

Michael Fadda
Editorial Assistant, BBC Trust Unit

BBC Trust Unit
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4AA

T: 020 7208 9647 | F: 020 7208 9670
mailto:michael.fadda@bbc.co.uk| bbc.co.uk/bbctrust
Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:03 am
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Dear Mr Hilley,

Please find attached a letter from the Chairman of the ESC, Richard Tait, regarding the Editorial Standards Committee's decision on your appeal request. A hard copy of this letter has been posted to you.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Fadda
-----------------
BBC Trust
180 Great Portland Street
London W1W 5QZ
T. 0203 214 4994
bbc.co.uk/bbctrust

9 October 2009
Ref: 16697852

Dear Mr Hilley

I am responding to your letter of 12 June appealing the decision not to
progress your appeal regarding editorial judgment in relation to reporting the story of the Al-Kurd family’s eviction.

At its meeting on 1 September the Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) considered your appeal. It noted the following correspondence:

1. Your email to stage 1 of 15 September 2008
2. The stage 1 response from Stewart McCullough of BBC Complaints of 15 October
3. Your response of 15 October
4. The second stage 1 replies from Stewart McCullough of 24 October and 10 November
5. Your responses of 13 and 26 November
6. The responses from Stewart McCullough of 5 and 22 December
7. Your response of 30 December
8. The response of 15 January from Vis Karunaratne
9. Your reply of 15 January
10. The stage 2 response from Stephanie Harris of 11 February
11. Your response of 12 February
12. Stephanie Harris’ response of 12 February
13. Your response of 13 February
14. Stephanie Harris’ response of 16 February
15. Your appeal to the ESC of 17 February
16. Bruce Vander’s letter of 11 June explaining the decision not to proceed with your appeal
17.Your letter of 12 June appealing this decision

In summary you complained that the BBC failed to report a particular story (that of the eviction of the Al-Kurd family) from the West Bank and in doing so demonstrated institutional bias.

As Mr Vander mentioned in his letter of 11 June, the Committee will not generally consider an appeal which in its opinion concerns issues of bias by omission in BBC news programmes.

The Committee noted that you believed the BBC had breached it guidelines on impartiality by omitting to present the al-Kurd family’s campaign against eviction.

The Committee also noted the responses of the BBC Executive in which it was stated that the decision not to cover the al-Kurds’ eviction was based on the editorial merit of the story and the resources available at the time.

The Committee also noted that, regarding the different functions of the BBC Trust and Executive, it was the responsibility of the Executive to handle the day-to-day running of the BBC and, therefore, to manage the BBC’s creative and editorial output.

As such, it is left to the Executive to decide what to include and what not to include within BBC output, unless there is evidence that the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines have been breached.

The Committee noted that the story of the al-Kurds had been carried by BBC News in various outlets and, while it recognised that the coverage had occurred after the eviction had happened, the Committee was satisfied that a case had not been made that there had been a breach of the impartiality guidelines with regard to the omission of the item.

The Committee concluded that it was not appropriate to take this matter on appeal.

May I thank you nonetheless on behalf of the Committee for raising this issue.

Yours sincerely

Richard Tait
Chairman, Editorial Standards Committee

--------------------------------------------------

Ref: 16697852

Dear Mr Tait/Mr Fadda,

As with our prior correspondence, I will post your letter (9 October 2009) in a suitably public forum to help illustrate its hand-wringing content. It is yet another classic exhibit of BBC evasion and protective closure.

To state that the Executive retain responsibility for daily BBC editorial output is to reiterate the obvious. But it says nothing about the Trust's ability or willingness to examine elementary charges of bias within that Executive-determined output. You also note that “the Committee will not generally consider an appeal which in its opinion concerns issues of bias by omission in BBC news programmes.” Which, again, leaves one wondering precisely what useful function the Trust serves other than, as we see here, to say, in circular logic, that it's a matter of Executive judgement.

One can so easily get lost in such contorted bureau-speak, an intended diversion, one strongly suspects, serving to smother the actual issues in specious technicalties.

Meanwhile, the al-Kurd family, and others like them in Occupied East Jerusalem, have been woefully served by a supposedly world-leading news organisation. To conclude, in the Executive's favour, that “the decision not to cover the al-Kurds’ eviction was based on the editorial merit of the story and the resources available at the time” is a most shocking acceptance of what passes for fair, competent and informed journalism within the BBC's Jerusalem bureau.

Again, one can only keep an open record of the BBC's joint evasions over this issue and allow discerning observers to form their own critical view of the Trust's real reasons for not accepting this appeal.

Yours sincerely

John Hilley
Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:09 pm
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