“The BBC is a perfectly closed system of thought.”

In a lengthy speech on media bias, Melanie Phillips examines the awful consequences of biased reporting regarding Israel and Iraq. The speech runs to 17 pages in a pdf document on her website. Here are her observations on the BBC.

But probably the greatest single reason for the obsessive and unbalanced focus on Israel,along with the irrationality over Iraq, is the hostility and prejudice of the BBC’s reporting.

Unlike newspapers, the BBC is trusted as a paradigm of fairness and objectivity. In fact, it views the world from a political position which is similar to that of the Guardian or Independent. In other words, its default position is the left. And since it regards this as the political centre of gravity, it cannot acknowledge its own bias. The BBC is thus a perfectly closed thought system.

When it comes to Israel, it persistently presents it in the worst possible light. It language and tone are loaded, it handles Arab and Israeli interviewees with double standards, and panel discussions are generally skewed with two or three speakers hostile to Israel against one defender or, more often, none at all.

The BBC’s bias against Israel is simply staggering. A 30-minute BBC profile of Arafat

described him as a ‘hero’ and an ‘icon’, and spoke of him as having ‘performer’s flare’, ‘charisma and style’, ‘personal courage’, and being ‘the stuff of legends’. Ariel Sharon, by contrast, was subjected to a mock ‘war crimes’ trial. It constantly presents the Israelis as the aggressors and responsible for the violence in the

Middle East — the opposite of the truth. And it wears its heart on its sleeve for the

Palestinians who are presented not as aggressors motivated to murder by brainwashing in hatred of Israel and the Jews, but as innocent victims. For example, BBC Radio News said of Israel’s raid into Gaza last autumn to stop the rocket attacks from there upon Israeli citizens that this was ‘making Israeli streets safe perhaps, certainly making life miserable and intolerable for the Palestinians of northern Gaza’.

A previous radio news bulletin reporting Israel’s killing of 14 Hamas terrorists was an object lesson in bias. Reporter Alan Johnston’s language made it sound as if the event was on a par with the recent murder of Russian schoolchildren in Beslan. Thus there would be ‘many funerals’ today for the Hamas ‘faithful’, much ‘anger and grief’. And then came the following startling assertion: ‘The movement is struggling to end Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank’. Thus Johnston presented Hamas as some kind of heroic freedom fighters ‘struggling’ — a loaded word if ever there was one — against colonial oppression. But Hamas of course does not seek merely to end Israel’s presence in Gaza and the West Bank. It aims to eradicate Israel altogether as a Jewish state.

That particular week, the Today programme broadcast a total of 17 items on the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, four items hostile to Israel, and one item complaining that money for the poor was being diverted to the war on terror. It broadcast no items on the murder of six Israeli soldiers and the subsequent murder of five more in Gaza that week, events which were mentioned in passing; no mention of the fact that Palestinians had played football with the heads they cut off murdered Israeli soldiers and even placed one of the heads on a desk while being interviewed; and merely two items, on the same day, on the decapitation in Iraq of the American hostage Nick Berg. Thus the BBC’s objectivity and sense of balance and, indeed, moral values.

Read the whole thing.

Hat Tip: Power Line

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54 Responses to “The BBC is a perfectly closed system of thought.”

  1. marc says:

    I have been trying for almost a year now to get Powerline, Instapundit and other big American blogs to help expose the anti-American propaganda being put out over here in the UK.

    It’s great to see one of the big ones finally notice.

    My take on Melanie’s excellent article, with more info, is here: http://ussneverdock.blogspot.com/2005/01/bbc-abuse-of-media-power.html

    It’s not just the BBC spreading propaganda, check out this blog from Manchester


    If you have time, set him straight on a few things.


  2. cockney says:

    Melanie’s comments on the UK media as a whole are obviously ridiculous. If we all cried (and fired off 17 pages) every time our opinions weren’t universally accepted we’d all look bloody awful and the rainforests would be no more.

    Within the UK privately owned media there is a vast range of opinion on the US and Israel, from the Guardian’s handwringing concern over those poor lickle depwived Muslims to the Murdoch press’ equally vomit inducing fawning over every Bush rambling. If there’s a universal problem it’s the failure of any of the outlets to present a detailed factual basis in support of their selective reporting and dubious opinion, rather than bias. The implication that should be drawn is that PC teaching doctrines and Thatcherite education cuts have produced a nation dim enough to require spoon feeding in their media consumption rather than thinking for themselves.


  3. cockney says:

    Her complaints about the BBC are clearly more valid, given that we all have to pay for it. Again though she misses the point. The problem with the BBC’s coverage of the Iraq War and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the lack of coherent background information, historical facts, and in depth analysis of the prevailing views of those directly involved, from which those with some degree of intelligence can come to a view. Mel correctly suggests that there is a left wing ethos within the BBC which leads them to skew news towards that perspective, but wrongly suggests that the ‘right’ approach would be to skew it 180 degrees.


  4. Andrew Paterson says:

    Cockney, you’re missing her point. She rejects the left-wing notion that truth is objective and I believe stands by what used to be common sense measure of ‘dealing with the facts’. The problem with the left-wing orientated media is facts are often incompatible with their pre-determined beliefs so they are either explained away or simply ignored. By lying, or lying by ommission, great harm can be done, as we are seeing in Europe with an overwhelmingly anti-israeli media block. This ‘lack of coherent background information, historical facts, and in depth analysis’ has led to overwhelming numbers of historial laymen despising Israel thanks to what they are presented by organisations such as the BBC.


  5. cockney says:

    What we should be getting is a well produced and detailed documentary series, in best BBC tradition, setting out the historical basis of the conflict, the developments since the establishment of Israel, the roles of Arafat and Sharon, interviews with the main protagonists and both populations. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be popular – it’s at least as exciting as any of the other historical stuff in vogue at the moment and is as important as any other issue facing the world today. Instead we get lukewarm knee jerk left wing crap with nutcase righties lining up to demand that Israel be relabelled as the goodies.


  6. cockney says:


    I appreciate your point, and I would fully concur that the left wing media’s world view is wholly out of step with reality, however that’s hardly unique to the left – it is equally as relevant to Mel and her chums on the right. Some of your American contributors for example appear to believe that gangs of violent Muslims roam the streets of Britain randomly attacking infidels. No, they don’t.

    Any idiot with a search engine and time on their hands could put together a selection of quotes that ‘prove’ pretty much any argument that they want. It’s a technique adopted by John Pilger in his equally ridiculous articles – pull together some ‘horrifying’ statistics.


  7. Andrew Paterson says:

    “relabelled as the goodies”

    Well, Israel is the liberal democracy who has come under constant military attack from dictatorial neighbours with the objective of destroying Israel and ethnically cleansing its population (facts) so they are on the moral high ground. Given these facts and many otherwise in consideration I could never think otherwise, those that disagree would have to address these facts (for example) but they either ignore them or explain them away.

    The series you describe would be interesting but can we expect the BBC to produce such a show? I doubt it. It’s an organisation full of people who share a similar world view. At the interview if you’re a right leaning mind then you don’t get in it appears.


  8. Rob Read says:

    The BBC just cannot make documentaries any more.

    BBC “science” consists of talking Heads repeating things three times, then rinse, repeat. It really is all they can manage at the moment.

    P.S. I’m sure the Israelis would just like to not be portrayed as the baddies, as they currently are by the BBC. The palestinians seem to have been given an endless supply of get-out-of-terrorism-free cards by it’s reporters.


  9. Rob Read says:

    I wasn’t forced to pay for Melanie Phillips opinion.

    I was threatened with jail to fund Orlas propaganda war.


  10. Pete_London says:


    I’ve had that many letters from Orla’s Propaganda Fund I don’t even bother opening them anymore.

    And I’m still not paying.


  11. Blue Beard says:


    “Some of your American contributors for example appear to believe that gangs of violent Muslims roam the streets of Britain randomly attacking infidels”

    I sure Kriss Donald would agree with you. Oh, wait, he’s dead…murdered by a gang of violent Muslims roaming the streets of Glasgow.

    Just because attacks aren’t reported on the 10 O’ clock news doesn’t mean they aint happening. Muslim areas ARE slowly, but surely becoming no-go areas.


  12. Stu says:

    Arafat in his Palestinian scarf was an icon and the man was a hero to millions in the Arab world and further afield. The BBC is right to mention this in an obit, even if you don’t agree with it.


  13. Ant says:

    OT: two interesting articles.

    The BBC is out in force right now, with the Tsunamis isn’t it?

    Firstly, the press views of the tsunami:

    “But political motives are seen behind US actions,” the summary says. Then you read the comments, and nothing of the kind says this. In fact an Austrian paper defends the US. But as usual the BBC hopes people will read its heading, not the article, and go away thinking the world is against the US.

    The other interesting thing is the article about what the world has given.


    For Saudia Arabia they say: “$30m in government aid – tripling the amount it had initially pledged. The oil-rich country is also organising a telethon to raise more funds.”

    Please tell me any other country on that page which has its natual resources mentioned. It’s unbelievable. Yet they mention SA is oil-rich… perhaps saying not so subtley tha


  14. Ant says:

    that they could have donated more.


  15. Hans says:

    Stu said “Arafat in his Palestinian scarf was an icon and the man was a hero to millions in the Arab world and further afield. The BBC is right to mention this in an obit, even if you don’t agree with it.”

    I don’t have a problem with them saying he was a “hero” to Palestinians and to the Arab world. The problem is that the BBC leaves out the negatives –

    1. Arafat was the creator and single greatest fomenter of the suicide bombing system which I am sure you agree contributed to the death of more innocents than Israeli soldiers.

    2. Arafat had a lot of blood on his hands for other terrorist attacks against non-combatants.

    3. Arafat took for himself much of the money given to Palestinians throughout his career.

    4. Arafat is responsible for much of the violance and bloodshed in Israel/Palestine over the past 4 years due to his rejection of the peace deal with Barak.


  16. Zevilyn says:

    I despise FOX News, but it’s interesting to note that some of the BBC’s panel discussion programmes have a format not dissimilar to FOX’s, which clearly deliberately has more Right-leaning panelists than Liberals.

    Reverse FOX’s format and you have the BBC’s format. Same techniques, different bias.


  17. Zevilyn says:

    Having said that, David Sells’ item on Newsnight last night was very much an attack on Anti-Americanism.

    Sells pointedly exposed Chirac’s Anti-Americanism and political opportunism.
    A pity that Chirac’s revealing remarks on US aid following the Tsunami have not been more widely reported.


  18. David says:

    My take on this is that the BBC is definitely biased against ISrael and that it covers up the Jew-hating among Palestinians and Arabs in general.

    That said, Israel has been and still is guilty of grave injustices towards the Palestinian people. There has clearly been a policy to prevent a Palestinian state emerging and to incorporate (illegally) Palestinian land.


  19. Zevilyn says:

    I have little time for Sharon, and indeed some of the Israel’s methods are counter-productive.
    But the Palestinians methods are far more counter-productive.

    The problem is, even though I hope there will be Israeli and Palestinian states, I seriously doubt that they will “co-exist peacefully”.
    There will have to be peacekeeping between the two states.
    I suspect a very large percentage of Arabs favour the “one-state” solution.


  20. cockney says:

    That’s pretty reasonable in my view although the issue is far too complicate to summarise in two (or twenty) paragraphs. The problem as I see it the conflict has implications in so many areas, yet British public knowledge of the issues (to the extent that people care at all) is limited to the highly simplistic and partisan stuff provided by the UK media (including the BBC which is a particular disgrace).

    i.e. ‘Israel is the liberal democracy who has come under constant military attack from dictatorial neighbours with the objective of destroying Israel and ethnically cleansing its population (facts) so they are on the moral high ground.’ Trueish enough and would be worth insering into Guardian and BBC coverage but it completely ignores the reasons why the state of Israel is so despised which can’t wholly be summed up by ‘Arabs hate Jews’.


  21. cockney says:

    What I can’t understand is why nobody knows the history of this. There is nothing in the UK education syllabus or, as I’ve said, in the media. I’ve personally picked it up only through a slightly nerdy interest in history and it seems many others pick up selective items through the viewpoint glued on to their overall political philosophy.

    Why not have a TV series on it? Surely it’s as relevant and interesting as the ancient Egyptians or Romans (big on the BBC this year apparantly). It’s got everything – political intrigue, violence, history, moody looking landscapes. I’m sure they could tack on some romance and manly looking actors if need be.


  22. Andrew Paterson says:

    But David how about the historical fact that the Palestinian’s have been offered their own state on many occasions, but have rejected it in favour of armed conflict?

    To suggest that ‘there has clearly been a policy to prevent a Palestinian state emerging’ flys in the face of the fact that different political parties in Israel have different plans and, as just one example, the Camp David Peace Plan. What pray tell was so malignant about that, extremely generous offer?


  23. Andrew Paterson says:

    Agreed Cockney. The kind of balance we both demand is unfortunately however nowhere near fruition.


  24. chevalier de st george says:

    There is no place in Dar Al Islam for an automonous non Islamic state.
    Israel is a blasphemy. It cannot be allowed to continue to exist.Itis a blight on the Holy land of the Umma.
    Arafat’s clever ploys to “establish a state for the homeless palestinians” have fooled the worlds western leaders for years, simply because they have not studied the History of Islam in the arabian peninsula.
    The maronites of Lebanon, the last remaining self determining non muslims in the ME were wiped out by Arafat and the Syrians and thousand of lebanese christians escaped to western sanctuaries. 200,000 died in the bloodbaths and now they are a tiny percentage of the lebanese population and Lebanon has returned to Islam.
    Now the Palestinian christian are fleeing the pal controlled areas as they are increasingly persecuted and are no longer useful to the muslim majority.
    Israel is the last man standing in the long history of Islamic oppression in muslim conquered lands.
    Every moderate muslim who ha


  25. espresso says:

    So “Zevilyn” despises Fox News? For starters, who gives a crap?

    If he deployed his brain instead of his typically smug British knee-jerk bias, he might see that we need the equivalent of Fox in the UK to smash the BBC into being fair and balanced.

    Here are a few points you’re missing Zev old boy in comparing Fox’s so called “bias” to the BBC.

    The BBC is the dominant cultural institution in the UK and has massive influence around the world.

    Fox News is a US cable TV operation whose top rated show gets a million viewers on a good night. You know how this compares to the ratings for the lefty NBC, CBS, ABC, NY Slimes, CNN, LA Slimes, Boston Globe, Dis-Associated Press, Al-Reuters, Hollywoodenheads, et al?

    I’ll put it simply. NOT VERY WELL.

    Every “news” report on Fox is straight down the middle, Every discussion on Fox features one representative of the left and one from the right. Every time. Every “opinion” show on Fox features a pundit who tells the view


  26. espresso says:

    …who tells the viewer exactly where they are coming from politically. And you think this compares to the BBC. Go pull the other one.

    And even if you were correct (which you are not) so what? Fox’s ratings are utterly miniscule compared to the Institutionally Leftist US media. And to the BBC’s worldwide influence.

    Yet despite its comparatively small ratings compared to the Networks, Fox is having a profound effect in slowly getting these US equivalents to the BBC, to start rethinking their attitudes to their customers who don’t share their default leftist views of the world.

    Yet we don’t even have the tiny equivalent of a Fox in the UK to counter balance the left bias of the BBC. So please, despise all you like, but don’t make dumb assertions about Fox for being a “reverso” BBC.

    Forget trying the “reform” the BBC. It’s never going to happen until we get a competing news channel that meets the needs of conservatives who are fed up of having their views,


  27. espresso says:

    ….views, values, and opinions rubbished by a bunch of white, middleclass, Institutionally Leftist, PC-addled cultural Nazis. Bring on Fox News UK PDQ is what I say.


  28. cockney says:

    Surely if the market demanded it we’d already have it?


  29. Anonymous says:

    Here in the UK we don’t only have BBC as the main TV/radio news medium, with no counterbalance like Fox or even free talk radio.

    We also suffer the even-worse bias of Jon Snow on the main Channel 4 News. A news service that EXPLICITLY set out to be leftie.

    Yes, we have a varied press, but the key thing about the BBC is that WE ARE FORCED TO PAY FOR IT AND ITS ROYAL CHARTER SAYS IT SHOULD BE BALANCED.


  30. David says:

    To Andrew Stephenson –

    The unfortunate fact is that the Palestinians haven’t been offered what they are legally entitled to: namely the land that wasn’t part of Israel immediately prior to the 1967 war. Israel carried out an illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. Through negotiations it is also trying to maintain control over something like 10% of what remains.
    They have also been offered nothing on the right to return.

    I think there is a solution, subject to good will – which the Palestinians have yet to deliver on.

    See next post.


  31. David says:


    The solution would involve:

    Turning whole of Jerusalem into a semi-international entity as was done successfully with Vienna during the multi-power occupation (involving both USA and USSR at height of cold war!). This would allow both Israel and Palestine to have their capitals there.

    On the right to return – there should be some limited right as a quid pro quo for continued Jewish settlement on the West Bank. Other potential returnees should be offered compensation.

    I agree however with those who say that the Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular have never demonstrated a real commitment to a two state solution.


  32. Zevilyn says:

    Jon Snow is arguably the most biased “journalist” on TV (though John “Blanks” Kampfner and Orla “Fatah” Guerin are not far behind).

    Then there’s C4 News’ US correspondent Jonathan Rugman, a man who knows nothing about America.

    I think what has happened is not so much to do with political ideology, it is more the media becoming a ruling class.


  33. Roxana Cooper says:


    I personally think the Palestinian people are entitled to NOTHING – any moral claim they might have once had having been wiped out by thirty years of bloodshed.

    I do not believe they are interested in anything short of the destruction of Israel and will only be disuaded from pursuing this objective by military force.

    I like the idea of linking the ‘right of return’ to continued Jewish settlement of the West Bank, especially as the Palestinians are bound to refuse any such concession.

    Since when is occupying territory taken in war ‘illegal’? As I recall it was the Arabs who started the ’67 war – also know as the Six Day War since that’s all it took to defeat them. Embarrassing that.


  34. Monkey says:

    I’m sick and tired of the Middle East, with all it’s petty squabbling. It’s such a boring, over-reported subject.

    The suicide bomber, the inevitable IDF response, the funerals, the millitias firing in the air… zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Now that Arafats dead, the next ‘peace initiative’ is bound to succeed, and all of this nonsense will evaporate.


  35. DumbJon says:

    Slight OT, but since it came up, can we have no more of the argument that if there a demand for a British FOX, then the market would supply it.

    While it is gratifying to see the Left argue in favour of the free market, it ignores the fact that by law, channels are required to be politically neutral.

    What this means in practice can be found by analysing the travails of the real FOX news (British viewership reaching many tens of people) at the hand of the regulators, usually provoked by complaints from Leftie activist groups – but also by complaints from Beeboids themselves. Apparently, a huge source of free money isn’t enough. They also need to use the law to crush potential competitors.


  36. Monkey says:

    I think you are mistaken about the viewing figures for fox. I don’t know the source, but I heard that during the Iraq war it had higher figures than some of the British channels.

    The reason it has low figures now is that it is very America-centric, and tends to report stories which are only of interest to americans.


  37. Monkey says:

    Fox produced a good documentry a few months back called ‘Eurabia’ which critically documented the Islamification of Europe and the rise of millitancy. You’d never ever see a British channel have the guts to produce such a piece.


  38. David says:

    Roxana –

    I would certainly agree that the onus is on Palestinians to demonstrate in as many ways as possible that they have given up on a one state solution and that they genuinely want peace.


  39. Susan says:

    New Topic: Wonderful progressive Islamic Iran and its approach to transgender surgery:


    The article promises to tell us why transgendering is legal in Iran while homosexuality is strictly forbidden. But instead, it waxes rapturously about how “progressive” the Iranian approach to transgerndering is, and lobbies shamelessly for a similar law in the UK.

    The article, in contrary to its headline, only mentions the illegality of homesexuality in Iran in passing. Of course it doesn’t mention anything about killing homesexuals by toppling brick walls on them or throwing them off of cliffs — the approved punishment for gays under Islamic law.


  40. Susan says:

    Whoops, it’s the blurb on the Middle East news front page that actually features this headline, not the story itself:

    “Gender swap
    Why Iran permits sex-changes but outlaws homosexuality”

    But, as I stated before, the actual article says next to nothing about the status of gays under Iranian law. It’s all a gushing puff piece for the “tolerant” mullahs.


  41. Roxana says:

    “I would certainly agree that the onus is on Palestinians to demonstrate in as many ways as possible that they have given up on a one state solution and that they genuinely want peace.”

    Which will happen when the Messiah comes – maybe.


  42. chevalier de st george says:

    The BBC is nothing more than a prostitute presenting itself favourably to those Big spender audiences in the Middle East.
    Truth has NEVER mattered to them, only the Aunty brainwashing of the british public and like the UN the incessant demonization of Israel.
    And British Jews still pay the tax without a whisper of dissent!!
    In the end the brainwashing of all those middle class brits, mentioned by Melanie Phillips, over years and years by the BBC results in tragedy for britain and has yielded a generation of self hating brits. Few Brits today, would have supported war against Hitler and the Nazis. Thank god, it happened 60 years ago!
    They are truly the enemy within.


  43. Anonymous says:

    It’s time out for the BBC but it’s so stuck in its cocoon it does not realise. The longer it’s in denial the worse it will ultimatley be.


  44. Monkey says:

    “The BBC is nothing more than a prostitute presenting itself favourably to those Big spender audiences in the Middle East.”

    I have never understood why the BBC goes so out of it’s way to please muslim audiences. Doesn’t Britain also have a massive Hindu population?
    Have you ever seen anything about hindu religion or culture on the BBC, or British TV in general?

    India is an emerging superpower with the 2nd largest population in the world, and has extensive historical and cultural ties with Britain. The beeb would serve us well by producing positive programmes about our hindu population to sell to an Indian audience (ie actually promoting britain abroad and making money at the same time).

    I can’t help feel that their current obsession with pleasing millitant muslims is a classic example of the squeeking wheel getting the grease.


  45. Burt says:

    Reading all the above is truly discouraging. Has no one understood the real problem? Change the UK semi-democracy into a real democracy with a proper constitution, Bill of Rights, and a real Freedom of Info Act instead of the silly paper tiger being foisted on British “subjects.” Only then will there be any shred of hope for a responsible media rather than the world laughing stock it is now.


  46. Monkey says:

    I’d rather be a subject of the queen than a subject of the EU commision.


  47. Susan says:


    Some members of the Hindu community in the UK tried to organize a boycott against the BBC a few years ago because of biased reporting in favor of the Muslim side in the Kashmir dispute. Let me see if I can Google up some references for you.

    Also, the Hindus aren’t by definition anti-Western. Therefore the Beeb and the left in general doesn’t have any use for them. They are only interested in promoting groups/ideologies that want to destroy/undermine the West, liberal democracy, and capitalism.


  48. Susan says:


    I googled a bit and found an organization called Hindu Human Rights which has a lot of links to it regarding Beeb bias, like this one:



  49. Burt says:

    You shouldn’t want to be a subject of anyone! What have you got against being a citizen of a free democratic republic? It’s not perfect but at least it has more potential than UK monarchy! By the way, I didn’t mention anything about the EU, which is a corrupt example, but at least give them credit for making a start in the right direction.
    Burt K


  50. Roxana Cooper says:

    I thought the UK was a parlementary democracy – certainly it hasn’t been a true monarchy for nearly two hundred years.

    A monarch and royal family has a certain utility as a focus for national feeling – not to mention monarchical pageantry being a real tourist draw – but it is a dreary job, despite the perks, for anybody with half a brain and a normal desire for privacy.