Forum

profile |  register |  members |  groups |  faq |  search  login

Exchange with BBC's Paul Danahar

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Media Lens Forum Index -> Media Lens Forum
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
David C
site administrator


Joined: 12 Jan 2004
Posts: 234
Location: Southampton

Post Post subject: Exchange with BBC's Paul Danahar Reply with quote

From: David Cromwell
Sent: 17 May 2011 13:30
To: paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk
Subject: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Dear Paul Danahar,

I hope you’re well. As the BBC Middle East Bureau Chief, presumably you will have a view of ‘More Bad News From Israel’, an updated study by Greg Philo and Mike Berry of the Glasgow University Media Group (Pluto Press, 2011).

For instance, in a new chapter they present a careful analysis of BBC and ITV news coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-2009. The researchers recorded, transcribed and analysed over 4000 lines of broadcast news text from the BBC and ITV.

‘The most striking feature of the news texts’, note Philo and Berry, ‘ is the dominance of the Israeli perspective, in relation to the causes of the conflict.’

Specifically, they note of BBC news during Operation Cast Lead:

‘the [Israeli] themes of “ending the rockets”, the “need for security” and to ‘stop the smuggling of weapons’ received a total of 316.5 lines of text. Others such as the need to “hit Hamas” and that “Hamas and terrorists are to blame” received 62 lines. The total for Israeli explanatory statements on the BBC is 421.25. This compares with a much lower total for Hamas/Palestinian explanations of just 126.25.’

But even these 126.25 BBC lines of ‘explanations’ lack substance: ‘the bulk of the Palestinian accounts do not explain their case beyond saying that they will resist.’ What is almost non-existent are crucial facts about ‘how the continuing existence of the blockade affects the rationale for Palestinian action and how they see their struggle against Israel and its continuing military occupation.’

Notably:

‘There are just 14.25 lines referring to the occupation and only 10.5 on the ending of the siege/blockade.’

Instead, BBC news tended to reflect the Israeli framework of events:

‘The dominant explanation for the attack was that it was to stop the firing of rockets by Hamas. The offer that Hamas was said to have made, to halt this in exchange for lifting the blockade (which Israel had rejected), was almost completely absent from the coverage.’

So BBC news coverage was skewed by the Israeli perspective, perpetuating ‘a one-sided view of the causes of the conflict by highlighting the issue of the rockets without reporting the Hamas offer’ and by burying rational views on the purpose of the attack: namely the Israeli desire to inflict collective punishment on the Palestinian people.

Philo and Berry conclude:

‘It is difficult in the face of this to see how the BBC can sustain a claim to be offering balanced reporting.’

These are serious and well-substantiated charges. I’d be interested in hearing your response, please.

Best wishes

David Cromwell


From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 17 May 2011 14:24
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Dear David

I hope you are well.

I wasn't around during Cast Lead I was in China. So my main observation would be a personal one and that is that I'm not a big fan of the John Motson approach to analysing news

regards

Paul

Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief


From: David Cromwell
Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 2:38 PM
To: Paul Danahar
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'
Thanks Paul,

Would you care to explain what you mean by ‘the John Motson approach to analysing news’, please?

Best wishes

David



From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 17 May 2011 14:54
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David

Yes of course. Personally, I don't think adding up the number of sentences about coverage is much more useful, when comparing two news organisations, than trying to work out who has won a football match by counting how many times one team kicked the ball compared to the other.

But I can't offer more of an opinion than that because the book isn't out yet and I only have your selected excepts from a publication that has nearly 500 hundred pages in it.

regards

Paul
Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief




From: David Cromwell
Sent: 17 May 2011 16:01
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi Paul

Many thanks, that's an interesting perspective. The book and Operation Cast Lead aside, do you think BBC reporting on Israel-Palestine is balanced? Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, commented:

“In the news reporting of the domestic BBC TV bulletins, ‘balance’, the BBC's crudely applied device for avoiding trouble, means that Israel's lethal modern army is one force, the Palestinians, with their rifles and home-made bombs, the other ‘force’: two sides equally strong and culpable in a difficult dispute, it is implied, that could easily be sorted out if extremists on both sides would see reason and the leaders do as instructed by Washington...” (Tim Llewellyn, ‘Why the BBC Ducks the Palestinian Story – Part 1,’ Media Lens, January 15, 2004; http://bit.ly/lmjn5i)

Is Llewellyn wrong in your opinion?

Best wishes

David


From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 17 May 2011 16:06
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

sorry i was looking at the american version of amazon where the book is published in June i see it's out in the uk


Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief



From:Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 17 May 2011 16:29
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David

Do I want to comments on Tim's opinion. Not really, he is entitled to his opinion.

Do I think the BBC reporting on Israel-Palestine is balanced. Yes I do.

Do I think those involved in active lobbying for one side or the other (I'm not suggesting you are I'm just making a broad point) can always be persuaded of that. No I don't.


No offence but I'm off out the office now

regards

Paul









From: David Cromwell
Sent: 18 May 2011 09:01
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi Paul,

Thanks – I really appreciate you engaging with a BBC licence payer on these issues. If I could just stretch your patience some more, please.....

You said:

‘Do I think the BBC reporting on Israel-Palestine is balanced. Yes I do.’

Then how would you explain, for instance, the following key absence in BBC News? The dominant explanation for the Israeli attack on Gaza was that it was to stop the firing of rockets by Hamas. The offer that Hamas was said to have made, to halt this in exchange for lifting the blockade (which Israel had rejected), was almost completely absent from BBC coverage. There is only the briefest mention that such debate was taking place. On 31 December 2008, a BBC correspondent made this passing reference:

‘The human suffering in Gaza and reports that Hamas is offering a ceasefire if Israel lifts its siege, are increasing international pressure on the Israelis which they continue to ignore.’ (BBC1 early evening and main News, 31 December 2008)

This compares with literally hundreds of references over the same period to the rockets as the rationale for Israeli action.

When it comes to the Israeli views, BBC journalists may appear to have no problem in endorsing them. For example, a BBC journalist commented that:

‘Israel feels itself surrounded by enemies, with reason.’ (BBC1 early evening News, 8 January 2009 – italics added.)

Would the BBC feel able to endorse the Palestinian view in this way? Have you ever seen or heard a BBC report noting that ‘Palestinians feel themselves to be subject to a brutal military occupation, with reason’?

Philo and Berry first published their detailed news analysis and impacts on audiences in 2004 in ‘Bad News From Israel’. No offence, but I’m a little surprised that the BBC Middle East Bureau Chief apparently isn’t aware of their work and findings.

Hopefully you’ll get hold of their latest book which was published last month in the UK, as you’ve now seen, and reconsider your stance.

Hopefully we can then continue this debate.

Best wishes

David



From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 09:38
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David

Hope you're well.

That's a surprise I thought you were doing the usual media lens trick of making it look like you were just a BBC license fee payer wanting a chat without declaring you are a writer ( I say writer because Journalists tell people when they are likely to be quoted) and then putting up selected bits on the website.

If infact you are not that David Cromwell then I do apologise because I've been assuming that you are. If you are that David Cromwell but you are abiding by usual journalist practices and do simply want a chat then I apologise again.

If you are that David Crowell and you aren't being honest about your intentions in the hope that I'm too stupid to google people before I respond to them well, that's a shame, but it still doesn't mean I'm not willing to talk to you.

I'm quite happy to answer your points [above] but before I do would mind if i asked you a question or two because all your points are from years ago. Does that mean you're dead chuffed with everything else since jan 2009 . May I ask when you were last in Gaza. I ask because I'm keen to know whether your concerns are based on first hand experience or second hand reports.

I hope me asking you a question or two doesn't send you into flight.

regards

Paul


Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief



From: David Cromwell
Sent: 18 May 2011 10:31
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Thanks Paul,

Yes, I am part of Media Lens. I wasn't trying to fool you, in fact I quoted from a Media Lens media alert in a previous email citing the reference. It’s to your credit that you would still be prepared to respond to our questions. Other journalists often clam up at the merest hint of our name.

You ask:

‘...all your points are from years ago. Does that mean you're dead chuffed with everything else since jan 2009’?

If you look at the archive of media alerts you’ll see we’ve written quite a bit about the failings of mainstream news coverage of Israel-Palestine and the wider Middle East since then.

No, I haven’t been to Gaza and I'm not affecting to be an expert - we reference credible sources on these issues, but do not pretend to be one ourselves. However, I do have extensive, first-hand experience of BBC output and can compare your version of ‘balance’ against these sources.

I'd be very interested in any responses to my questions, please....

Best wishes

David



From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 11:06
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David
I don't think making a reference to a publication is an admission of working for that publication. I suspect that wouldn't meet your own sense of right or wrong when applied to the mainstream media. Do tell me if I'm wrong about that.
I'm not sure it's to my credit either. I suspect most people you deal with would consider it stupid. People clam up when they hear the "merest hint of your name" not because they fear your scrutiny but because they think you'll distort their words, stitch them up and abuse them. I've had that experience on your website before but it wasn't with you so lets see, media organisations make mistakes, most are not malicious. What I would ask though is that you focus our conversations on things that you find upsetting since January 2010 which is when I took over.
Re Gaza. I'm sure there's a long debate to be had about whether your credible sources would be thought credible by others. I do not think you not having been to Gaza means you are not allowed to comment on coverage there. I do think though that the region is less black and white than perhaps it seems from where you are. Where do you stand on the question of resistance. Do you subscribe to the Hamas or present Fatah approach. I'm assuming you have an opinion.
Finally to answer your last point. I think it's a little harsh to suggest that 'Bad news from Israel' is an essential read. It's placed 251,456 on the best seller list at Amazon a full 61,238 places behind 'How to defend yourself against Alien Abduction' though the latter is more reasonably priced so maybe that helped its sales.
My point is that I suspect there are more people in England concerned over the plight of the Palestinians and how the media covers the conflict than there are of those watching the sky at night for little green men but the book sales don’t reflect that. Maybe it's just you and Benjamin et al that think this is the right way to analyse news. The rest may prefer the Barry Davies approach, though here I will unlike you declare an interest because he's a Spurs fan like me.
All the best
Paul




From: David Cromwell
Sent: 18 May 2011 12:01
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Thanks Paul,

The essential features of BBC news coverage of Israel-Palestine didn’t change after you took your present position as the BBC’s Middle East Bureau Chief in January 2010. Why should it be any different?

Let’s take BBC News coverage of the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla on 31 May 2010. As you know, nine peace activists were killed on the Mavi Marmara.

BBC news made extensive use of the Israeli edited footage of the attack. Philo and Berry note that your coverage was ‘problematic’ because ‘in its description of the events and their sequence, it highlights and at times clearly adopts the Israeli perspective.’ The main BBC news reporting that night ‘move[d] towards clear identification with the Israeli account of events.’

On 5 June, press reports noted that five of the people had been shot either in the back of the head or the back. None of the BBC news programmes monitored by the Glasgow University Media Group reported this. But the main news did find space the following day to report on pictures from a Turkish newspaper showing Israeli soldiers ‘disarmed and beaten’.

Philo and Berry observe:

‘Let us imagine a different situation in which a controversial event occurred on the West Bank. Would the TV news routinely employ footage supplied by the Palestinians, with captions saying for example, “Israeli soldiers shoot unarmed civilians”? Would they do so if the Israelis were denying the validity of the sequence of events? The use of Israeli edited material in this case is indicative of the legitimacy accorded to them, rather than to Palestinian sources.’

How would you respond to this?

Another example from the period since you took your present position:

In September 2010, the UN Human Rights Council published a report on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. Among its major conclusions were that the Israeli blockade was ‘unlawful’, that the Israeli forces had used torture on flotilla peace activists, and that at least six of the passengers had been subjected to ‘extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions’ (for example being shot at close range while lying injured). The UN report also noted that live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers, thus directly contradicting the Israeli perspective that had featured so heavily in BBC News.

The BBC lunchtime, early evening and main news did not cover this report. Why not?

As Philo and Berry conclude:

‘... given the extent to which the BBC in particular, had highlighted and endorsed the Israeli view of events in the raid, the exclusion of this alternative account is extraordinary. It is difficult in the face of this to see how the BBC can sustain a claim to be offering balanced reporting.’

This is just a sample.

I’d be interested in your response to any of the above points, please.

Best wishes

David



From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 12:11
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

hang on david be fair you haven't answered any of my questions yet


From: David Cromwell [mailto:cromdavid@gmail.com]
Sent: 18 May 2011 14:18
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi Paul,

Apologies if I was being unfair. There’s only one direct question you put to me; and that was after you’d responded to my own specific questions with a seemingly offhand:

‘I do think though that the region is less black and white than perhaps it seems from where you are.’

The question you asked was:

‘Where do you stand on the question of resistance. Do you subscribe to the Hamas or present Fatah approach. I'm assuming you have an opinion.’

We believe that the Palestinians have a right to resist the Israeli occupation and the injustices that are regularly committed against them. But we don't support any resort to violence - by any party - both on moral and strategic grounds.

You say that journalists won't deal with us “because they think you'll distort their words, stitch them up and abuse them.” Such fear of honest debate is unwarranted and unfair. In fact, we've had fruitful exchanges with - and positive reactions from – numerous journalists including Peter Baron (former BBC Newsnight editor), John Humphrys (BBC), Bill Hayton (BBC), Andrew Buncombe and Johann Hari (of the Independent), Peter Wilby (New Statesman), George Monbiot (Guardian), Jonathan Cook (ex Guardian), Tim Llewellyn (ex BBC), David Mannion (ITV News) and many others.

We don't “abuse” journalists and we certainly don't publish anything personal. We publish answers in response to reasonable questions about media reporting and commentary. Such challenges are surely a defining feature of any functioning democracy. None of this should be out of bounds, or kept secret, particularly when the journalism is publicly funded.

Any responses to those questions in my previous email would be much appreciated, please.

Best wishes

David



From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 14:37
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David

thanks for that but you skipped the harder of the questions which was

"I don't think making a reference to a publication is an admission of working for that publication. I suspect that wouldn't meet your own sense of right or wrong when applied to the mainstream media. Do tell me if I'm wrong about that. "

My point being that you didn't say you were from media lens, you presented yourself as a license fee payer without mentioning the fact that you were going to quote anything I said to you. You have a media lens email address but you didn't use it to make contact.

So if i may before i get onto your other questions (and I hope you'll recognise that I have made an effort to engage and will continue to do so) can i ask my question again perhaps a little more clearly this time.

Do you think they way you approached me for comment met the standards of truthfulness and integrity that your website seeks to champion.

all the best

Paul




From: David Cromwell
Sent: 18 May 2011 15:09
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Thanks Paul,

Fair point – you’re not the first journalist to raise this issue, so perhaps I can point you here for our view:

http://www.medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3022

On the question of truthfulness and integrity, I'd draw your attention to this passage:

‘Reviewing British media performance in the Guardian in July 2004, George Monbiot wrote that "the falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of Iraq were massive and consequential: it is hard to see how Britain could have gone to war if the press had done its job”. (Monbiot, ‘Our lies led us into war,’ The Guardian, July 20, 2004)

‘This is no joke. The British media really are complicit in terrible crimes against people and planet. In our exchanges, we discussed the relationship between truth-telling and corporate power. The fact is that media corporations are hierarchical, in fact totalitarian, organisations. Control resides entirely at the top - there’s no democracy, no sharing of power. It is actually one of the wonders of the modern world that a collection of private media corporations can combine together to persuade the public to wage war on a country like Iraq, while the public has essentially no ability to challenge that private propaganda. Media power, although immense, is almost completely unaccountable.

‘Unsurprisingly, given these power relations, journalists are often unwilling to talk openly and honestly. But it is vital that the media be challenged, that we try to wheedle answers out of journalists and editors and open these issues up for public discussion.’

Many people have defended WikiLeaks on similar grounds: both they and their sources have not been ‘abiding by usual journalist practices’, to use your words. But their work can be justified on moral grounds (as can Daniel Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers).

We’re happy to continue debating this issue with you, of course. Hope you won’t let it get in the way of answering those earlier questions though.

Best wishes

David


From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 15:30
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

can't you answer the question yourself.

I'm could just as easy refer you to a bucket load of links on the BBC site for 'our view' which would save me the time of reading through your questions and have to formulate a response

It's an approach which i'm sure you'd normally disapprove of.

and i see by the end of the last email you've began to refer to yourself in the third person, I hope that doesn't mean you're sinking into your corporate Shell

Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief


From: David Cromwell
Sent: 18 May 2011 16:50
To: 'Paul Danahar'
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi Paul,

Thanks, but your response is evasive and of little substance. I answered your questions. I’ve now given you three opportunities to respond to serious observations about BBC News reporting of the Israeli killing of nine peace activists after you took over as BBC Middle East Bureau Chief. You don’t seem able or willing to answer, so let’s leave it there.

Best wishes

David




[In the meantime this came in as a further response to my earlier email:]

From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 16:52
To: David Cromwell
Subject: Re: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David

I'm off home now but so you know I'm not stalling I've written responses to your questions and I'll pass them on as soon as you get the chance to answer my last one

All the best

Paul


From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 18 May 2011 19:17
To: David Cromwell
Subject: RE: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Oh David come on, don't do a runner on me now.

I asked you a question about your ethics and practices before we moved on to the flotilla. It's you that has been evasive. We're talking Editor to Editor.

If you are going to set yourself up as a moral champion and 'stick it to the corporate man' you should be able to answer easy questions about ethics.

Like, how do you personally reconcile working for Shell for four years during the time Ken Saro-Wira was accusing them of some pretty nasty stuff in the Niger Delta. I remember running out of petrol on the M1 at the time because I wouldn't use a Shell garage. It really upset my old girlfriend because we had to walk 45 minutes to get some petrol and Yorkshire winters are bloody cold.

I suspect the people that read your website now were also up in arms then about what Shell were up to while you worked for them.

Do you regret working them in light of your present role.

I'll happy answer all your questions but please have the decency to answer mine first. Because as you know I did ask first.

Hope to hear from you soon.

All the best

Paul

Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief



From: Paul Danahar [mailto:paul.danahar@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 19 May 2011 08:49
To: David Cromwell
Subject: FW: BBC produces 'more bad news from Israel'

Hi David

I haven't heard back from you so I'll make this my last email. But
before I sign off can I return the favour and suggest a book for you to
read.

It was published in 1992. (Heh isn't that when you were working for an
oil company?) It's called Genocide in Nigeria: Ogoni Tradegy by Ken
Saro-Wira. I'm afraid its even further down the Amazon bestseller list
than your favourite tome but maybe that's because it doesn't have a
champion. Apologies I haven't read this one either so I can't vouch for
it's validity. It seems to be a tale of 'powerful state-corporate
interests' (I hope you don't mind I borrowed that line from your
website). The blurb is below

All the best


Paul


Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief

"This collection of newspaper columns and articles mostly written in the
1970s and 1980s perhaps provides the best overview of Saro-Wiwa's
political and environmental concerns. The articles document his concerns
about the fate of the Ogoni people and their mistreatment by
multinational oil companies and collaborating Nigerian government.
Saro-Wiwa argues that the Ogoni are a minority in Nigeria, exploited by
the ruling ethnic majority, and that the Federal Government of Nigeria
was threatening the Ogoni with genocide. At the time, this was a key
publication in bringing the Ogoni tragedy to the attention of the
international community. Nowadays, it is of continual relevance to
present day concerns about the actions of the oil companies, indigenous
and environmental rights in the Delta region."


Paul Danahar
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief
Fri May 27, 2011 9:38 am
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
johnwhilley



Joined: 03 Oct 2004
Posts: 724
Location: Glasgow

Post Post subject: BBC go muckraking Media Lens Reply with quote

http://johnhilley.blogspot.com/2011/05/bbc-go-muckraking-media-lens.html
Mon May 30, 2011 6:06 pm
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Media Lens Forum Index -> Media Lens Forum All times are GMT + 1 Hour
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2005 phpBB Group
    printer friendly
eXTReMe Tracker