The BBC is hyping up it’s refusal to air the ad from the DEC appealing for cash for Hamastan, thus suggesting it is without bias. Mark Thompson was on to say that he believed showing this appeal could be taken as favouring one side over another. Quite right. Sky has also refused to show the DEC sppeal so BBC virtue in this regard is not unique! So what do we make of the BBC approach here? Superficially I welcome it but of course having endured three weeks of pro-Hamas propaganda dressed up as news reporting, I rather worry that what the BBC is actually doing here is a little bit of sophisticated triangulating, giving itself cover so that any future criticism of its coverage of matters in the Middle East is invalidated because of this move. Your view?

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359 Responses to TRIANGULATION

  1. martin says:

    The Radio 5 phone in is on this subject. Funnily enough, I really don’t mind the BBC doing the appeal. I think most sensible people can tell the difference between an appeal and a news report.


  2. Jack Hughes says:

    Our village cricket club needs just £2000 for repairs to the pavilion. Can the BBC show our appeal as well ?


  3. Anonymous says:

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, David.


  4. Michael says:

    Most definitely my thoughts as well. The Bias towards the Palestinian narrative was blatant through out the Gaza operation and they found a small fig leaf to cover there obese naked body.


  5. Cockney says:

    This is totally about face – how about they try not being biased during the war itself and then broadcasting the appeals for the victims afterwards.

    I can’t see why they wouldn’t broadcast the thing provided someone will be rigorously checking that the dosh will go to kids and not missiles. Where’s the politics? Did they reject the Rwanda appeals for fear of being seen to “favour” Tutsis or Hutus?


  6. mikewineliberal says:

    What is interesting for here is the clear dislocation of views between the journalists and the management at the BBC. The reason the BBC keep this in the news is because the hacks are unhappy with the decision their management made and they want to make them squirm. The problem with your analysis David is that it assumes a monolithic and calculating BBC, whereas the reality speaks of a very plural organisation. You see this in differences of tone between different bits of the BBC (so eg Today and Newsnight) on various issues.


  7. Cockney says:

    BTW I got inconvenienced by a “Stop the War” March in town on Saturday, which was interesting as I thought that the war had already stopped. Clearly these people have nothing better to do with their weekends.


  8. mikewineliberal says:

    Sorry, should read “for me here”


  9. Bert says:

    If the BBC had broadcast the appeal it would have been on our screen/radios once. By refusing to air it they have an excuse to discuss it on every news broadcast for days. So in my opinion this is a stunt to actually give the appeal more air time.
    As for their stated reasons for not broadcasting, it’s a bit late for them to worry about appearing to be objective over Gaza.


  10. John Reith spins in his grave says:

    I listened to Thompson on Toady this am and noticed he kept emphasising “the details of what happened are still too contentious”.

    I think he remembers how the beeb made fools of themselves the Jenin “massacre that never was”.

    He well knows also, what his journos also know but would never admit – that the “Israeli atrocity” reports they keep churning out are unsubstantiated Pallywood propaganda.

    Remember, he’s seen the Balen report even though we haven’t – and one day it will come out.

    He may be a devious lefty – but he still has his pension to think about.


  11. James says:

    I’m convinced that refusing to show the DEC apeal amounts to window dressing. If you plead impartiality on this emotive subject it deflects attention from all the other bias in the news reports over the last month.

    In response to MikeWineLiberal, I think “very plural” is a bit strong more like shades of grey. Having at one time worked for the selfsame organisation I think “monolithic” and “calculating” are fairly accurate descriptions. You only need to flick through a copy of Ariel…


  12. John Reith spins in his grave says:

    I can’t see why they wouldn’t broadcast the thing provided someone will be rigorously checking that the dosh will go to kids and not missiles…..Cockney | 26.01.09 – 9:42 am | #

    You’re being completely naive. Hamas runs Gaza at gunpoint – including the UNHCR.

    NOBODY can control where the aid ends up.

    If it goes into construction projects – it’ll end up rebuilding tunnels to top up the GRAD stockpiles.


  13. martin says:

    Interesting call on 5 live. Some bloke with a posh voice rang in. He continually referred to the BBC as “I” and “We” and when Campbell mentioned Sky News he kept saying “we are better than them” and “I don’t want to be compared them”

    A BBC employee perhaps?


  14. martin says:

    mikewineliberal: For once I actually agree with you. What is shows is the political activism within the BBC hacks. Who runs the BBC?

    As I pointed out I personally don’t care if the appeal is run or not, I object to the idea that BBC management thinks we the public are so thick we can’t tell the difference.

    However, what I do want is the BBC to be more honest on where aid money goes to.


  15. David Vance says:


    Amazingly, I too agree with you.


  16. scribbler1 says:

    I’m not absolutely sure what triangulation means, but I am sure your comments are spot on. I would take it a step further and argue that the growing backlash against the licence fee has got the BBC worried, and as you suggest this is an attempt to counteract their biased reporting so they can say ‘what bias? We refused to carry a pro Gaza broadcast’. Watch out for more of the same.


  17. Sue says:

    We often get comments on this site accusing us of not wanting impartiality at all, and that what we really want is bias on OUR side.
    After hearing John Humphrys this morning giving Christopher Gunnesss a bit of a grilling – ‘just how needy are the Palestinians?’ – I’m asking myself how true that accusation is. Yes, it was good to have Humphreys savaging the right party for a change. Also, although I didn’t hear Mark Thompson this morning, I was beginning to wonder whether the BBC’s annoying intransigence was for once not such a bad thing.

    From what I’ve heard, Mark Thompson actually said that showing emotive pictures is a tad political, and his sudden recognition that this is the case begs the question, why didn’t they realise this earlier on; before the horse had bolted. It’s a bit late to shut the stable door now and pretend that they can demonstrate impartiality by refusing to show some more pictures of Palestinian suffering. And to pretend that they still have this reputation for impartiality to ‘maintain’. It’s long-gone. In the past. Dead. That is a dead reputation.
    I suppose if they really wish to kiss it back to life, they could start by transferring Jeremy Bowen to domestic duties straight away, and maybe show a few emotive pictures of something heartening such as Israeli hospitals treating Palestinian patients etc. etc.

    I agree with your take on this David. Had they been even handed in the first place though, there would be far less of an issue. Of course the problem about how the money is spent remains. If the public knew more about that they could view the appeal and make an informed decision about whether or not to donate.
    They’ve managed to be hypocritical and disingenuous yet again.


  18. Rachel Miller says:

    I agree with David, and in fact I suggested the same to my husband yesterday.

    There is another angle to be factored in: I imagine the bBC has received quite a few complaints about its one-sided coverage of the Gaza issue and its instinctive bias against Israel. So the decision not to broadcast the appeal could very well be used as a counter against complainants: ‘See, we’re not biased! We are so impartial that we are not even giving air-time to the appeal!’

    Of course, I suspect there are many other factors in play, and mwl is right to remind us that the bBC comprises many different individuals with their own agendas.


  19. Sue says:

    Mel. (Mel to me, Mad Mel to others)


  20. Libertarian says:

    The BBC should do NO appeals for any cause at any time.

    To accept ANY appeal is to accept the status of the BBC as a ‘social engineer’ and a ‘force for good’.

    To accept either of these propositions requires you to ask:

    Who’s version of ‘society’ do we ‘engineer’?

    Who’s definition of ‘good’ do we pursue?

    During times of Nation Extremis, the channels may & should be used for public information.


  21. Cockney says:

    I generally think Mel Phillips is barking, but if one accepts what she says regarding the destination of “aid” then in this case she’s absolutely right, the Beeb shouldn’t be broadcasting the appeal.

    But they should make it clear ONCE why this is so (i.e. WHY is it political, not “it could be perceived as political”) and then leave it be. Stretching this out over umpteen days as a news story just gives disproportionate airtime to the normal pro-Palestinian and highly political suspects, which was the problem in the first place…


  22. deegee says:

    Our village cricket club needs just £2000 for repairs to the pavilion. Can the BBC show our appeal as well ?
    Jack Hughes | 26.01.09 – 9:34 am | #

    Don’t you mean, can the BBC publicly refuse to show your appeal? 😉

    What more can the BBC do? They make their own actions a Top Story on the homepage, with new follow-up stories every day, they list the charities involved, emphasize critics of the decision but not supporters, allow others to accuse it of bowing to Israeli pressure and far from least actually publicize DEC’s telephone number.

    From a layout point of view the story is illustrated with a graphic – a sign that the story is more important than a mere link. That photo always shows some photogenic old man, woman or child mourning the destruction of what we are to assume is their house. How about one of a Hamas heavy threatening to renew hostilities if their demands are not met? This further undercuts the claim of attempted impartiality.

    The caption can be illustrative. In today’s BBC chief stands firm over Gaza ,(What a hero!) 🙂 The ‘caption’ is
    “The high profile controversy has given this appeal more publicity than it could possibly have imagined getting”
    MP Mark Field
    Apart from having no connection with the graphic the box further illustrates the BBC knows quite well what they are doing.

    How true, how indicative of the way the BBC consciously manipulates the audience with language and media tricks.


  23. Dr Michael Jones says:

    Exactly David. Classic Beeboid manipulation.

    More lies from our Thought Masters.


  24. Tom says:

    mikewineliberal | 26.01.09 – 9:45 am |

    You are right that a distinction can be made between the views of the management of the BBC and those of its journalists on this issue.

    But this does not reflect any genuine pluralism. It is a distinction without a difference.

    The management (whose sympathies in this conflict lie with the Palestinians) are looking for cover.

    They know the truth will soon come out about the true level of casualties in Gaza, and that the ratio of dead Hamas fighters to women and children will be nothing like as they have reported.

    They may also know that the Israeli government has a fat file instancing many cases of BBC bias in this conflict.

    This DEC decision is a cynical pre-emptive move so that they can point to one occasion when they seemingly went against Palestinian interests.

    On the other side, the BBC’s journalists (whose personal sympathies also lie with the Palestinians) don’t much care whether their managers have a fig leaf to wear when the Israeli Ambassador comes a-calling or not.

    This is, therefore, essentially an argument over tactics rather than substance.


  25. PaulS says:

    Tom | 26.01.09 – 11:08 am

    Yes, you and David’s analysis is spot on. This is a synthetic public squabble.

    The management side can be compared to New Labour: generally they want to be seen to do the right-on, progressive left-leaning thing, but are prepared for expediency’s sake to dress up in their enemy’s clothes from time to time.

    The staff are more like Old Labour. They will insist on doing the right-on, progressive, left-wing thing all the time, even when doing so may be damaging to their cause.


    Because it makes them feel morally superior to everyone else.

    And that’s all they really care about.


  26. Callum says:

    This whole issue stinks of the sordid bureaucracy that is unfortunately so emblematic of British society today. The BBC, by its own definition, is a ‘public service broadcaster. One of such international prominence as Aunty needs to recognise that its service extends beyond Britain and in this example, into the Gaza strip. This is a humanitarian appeal • how more impartial can one be than by appealing on behalf of a human being? The BBC should be ashamed • theres an interesting blog post here:


  27. Mick McDonald says:

    Our village cricket club needs just £2000 for repairs to the pavilion. Can the BBC show our appeal as well ?
    Jack Hughes | 26.01.09 – 9:34 am | #

    Only if you meet the necessary diversity criteria and minority quotas. In fact, “Club” suggests exclusivity, so should be renamed “Collective”

    “Village” sounds too rural (ie Tory) and should be renamed:”Non-urban dwelling environment”


  28. deegee says:

    Have Your Say I fisked the earlier version here.

    As before my comments are footnoted.

    Should broadcasters show the DEC appeal?(1)

    More than 50 MPs say they will back a parliamentary motion urging the BBC to screen a charity appeal for Gaza. What is your view?(2)

    BBC Director General Mark Thompson has defended the decision not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee film. He said that the BBC is passionate about defending its impartiality and could not give the impression that it was “backing one side” over the other.(3)

    Criticism over the corporation’s decision has come from archbishops, government ministers, charity leaders and 11,000 viewers.(4)

    Labour MP Richard Burden is putting forward an Early Day Motion and says he has the backing of 57 MPs. Sky News has decided that it would not show the DEC film but ITV, Channel 4 and Five will broadcast it.(5)(6)

    Does showing the appeal affect broadcasters’ impartiality? Should humanitarian issues override concerns about impartiality? Should politicians pressure broadcasters to show emergency appeals?(7)

    This is not a debate about the licence fee. Any comments which do not attempt to answer the questions in this debate will be rejected. If you are unsure please check the house rules.( 8 )

    (1) As before, broadcasters or the BBC?
    (2) I’m a little uninformed here. Does that mean 57 from the 646 members of Commons or does that include 732 entitled to sit in Lords?
    (3) I would love him to explain how broadcasting this appeal favours one side. Perhaps he could balance it with a disclaimer or even better a Hamas spokesman saying how they won and are preparing for the next round?
    (4) It must be a bad decision then, mustn’t it? Doesn’t anyone support the decision?
    (5) I checked the EARLY DAY MOTIONS site MP Richard Burden doesn’t seems to have put one forward. Why? is it so difficult?
    (6) Why not a motion censuring Sky News?
    (7)OK but shouldn’t this be the first paragraph?
    ( 8 ) 🙂


  29. Caveman says:

    The BBC obviously need to do something on the side of the Israelis as they are getting dangerously close to the danger zone area of 97-100% Palestinian bias, and they need to take it back a little. (100% is only for selected causes like global warming).

    “Now, we need something that is clearly on the side of the Israelis, and yet at the same time does not spoil all the hard work our reporters have done. What can we do that avoids giving a negative image of our freedom fighter allies and friends?”

    Then some bright spark had the brilliant idea – ban the appeal, reveal no war-truths, milk it for all its worth and get the bias reading right back down to 94%.

    Another advantage is it will provide plenty of material for programmes like Feedback, where it can be used to totally balance the programme.
    Half the programme about the Israeli atrocities, and half the programme about the appeal, makes a completely fair programm and at the same time leaves zero minutes left for those things we don’t like to mention.


  30. Robin Horbury says:

    The House of Lords is due to report soon on whether the Balen report should be released under FoI. That’s the sole reason why the BBC is taking a “stand” on the appeal, because it wants to draw fire away from what Balen reputedly contains.


  31. La Cumparsita says:

    I agree with mikewineliberal. The newsroom is having a spat with their own management. And as a result the appeal has had much more publicity for days on end than had it been broadcast in the usual way.
    And what was not mentioned (at least on what I have heard) is that the broadcaster has no editorial control over the content of the appeal. So both the BBC & Sky have in my view made the correct decision.


  32. Muslim Wars says:

    The more extreme muslims need some way of expressing their love of war. It’s a pity they can’t just do it between themselves, like they have for centuries and millennia in places like Afghanistan.

    Unfortunately, having hoards of war-loving fanatics who hate us and whose loyalties will always be elsewhere coming to live amongst us, was not a good idea. Coming here even seems to make them more extreme than ever. Look at that doctor in Scotland. One minute studying hard for his difficult exams whilst looking forward to a huge salary and status, and the next minute driving his truck into the airport to try and kill everyone! What kind of religion is it that makes someone end up like that?

    Why don’t voters ever think about the policies of the candidate they vote for to check if the candidate’s views match their own?

    Don’t worry, voters, only joking! I know you cannot change voting habits of a lifetime.


  33. mikewineliberal says:

    Did you know the BBC also refused DEC access to their ariwaves for the Lebanon in 2006 (other non-ME appeals have been stopped too). So this decision – with which I agree – is consistent with a more general policy.

    Not an ad hoc cycnical tactic I suggest.


  34. Jim T. says:

    Looking at this laterally – why is there an appeal at all? If someone wants to give, let them give. Saudi Arabia has already said it will pay whatever these terrorists need anyway. There’s been so much publicity it doesn’t need a broadcast appeal. The money will only be used to buy more weapons. When have these Hamas people been interested in humanitarian needs? I


  35. Millie Tant says:

    Interesting piece in the Daily telegraph by Janet Daley, I thought:

    (Sorry, I can’t seem to copy and paste some relevant extracts from the link. Aaagh…)


  36. pounce says:

    If the bBC had aired the appeal. It would be done and duted.

    This way they keep the Gaza issue on the front page weeks after other news stories should have taken over the mantle.
    Sri Lanka
    Congo war crimes
    Ethopian pull out from Somalia

    All of the above are now and should have removed Gaza from headline news.
    This way Al beeb keeps the pressure on Israel.

    Loved how Al Beeb had no problem of showing Tony (I ruined this country) Benn actually lighing up and smoking. Now imagine the outcry if anybody else did so.


  37. Caveman says:

    Sue – thanks for the link to the Melanie Phillips article.
    What a good article. Here are some extracts:

    …its (BBCs) claim that it was anxious to safeguard its reputation for impartiality will have caused a sharp intake of breath among the many who think it no longer has a reputation of impartiality to defend.

    One of the great ironies of this situation, after all, is that most people in Britain have no idea about claims that Hamas has apparently been stealing the aid supplies and blowing up the crossing points — because the BBC’s reporters haven’t told them.

    Indeed, by reporting many of Hamas’s own claims as fact — particularly its estimate of the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, which Israel strenuously contests — the BBC has helped create a dangerously unbalanced and irrational public mood. It was especially troubling, for example, to hear the jaw-dropping accusation — made by, among others, Health Minister Ben Bradshaw — that the BBC has buckled to Jewish or Israeli pressure.

    Across the board, the BBC operates as a kind of ‘Guardian’ newspaper of the air. It is institutionally hostile to conservatism, big business, religion, the countryside and family values; it supports multiculturalism, environmentalism, European federalism, human rights law and ‘alternative’ lifestyles.


  38. Millie Tant says:

    I was as shocked as Melanie Phillips by the comments of Ben Bradshaw last week (on Any Questions) about Israel as an alleged bully and about BBC broadcasting on foreign affairs (“impeccable”, if I recall correctly.) You’re having a laugh, aren’t you, Ben? If not, it’s a frightening insight into a Labour Minister’s mind (and the delusions therein about BBC journalism.)


  39. NotaSheep says:

    My thoughts on this over the weekend turned to very small figleaves trying to cover a load of BBC bollocks. Interesting that I was not alone.


  40. Dr Michael Jones says:

    And while we’re at it, do you think the lying, cheating, extorting BBC will report that Louis Michel’s (European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid) strong attack on Hamas who, he says, “bears full responsibility for the war in Gaza”???

    Yeah, sure they’ll report this. Mind you, they only have about 233 staff there at the moment…


  41. Hero From the Future says:

    Millie Tant – I agree; the Janet Daley Telegraph is a tricky article to copy and paste. Hint: If you end up with a load of photos etc, copy it to Notepad first, and they all get stripped off. Then Select/All and Copy to Word.

    Here are a couple of extracts:

    The BBC is not a department of state • however grandly it may conceive its public duty…

    …This is just one more example of how very much at sea the BBC now is in its pursuit of a new formulation of its “public service” role. Having pretty much lost its founding identity as a source of edification and enlightenment to the nation, it is now flailing around, unsure of whether it must justify its right to exist (which is to say, to retain its funding arrangements) by holding its own with crass commercial competitors, or by formulating a new grandiose social function.

    It is not just the absurd anachronism of the BBC’s funding mechanism that is straining the logical limits of modern reality but the whole notion of broadcasting as a field which must be controlled, rationed and censored by the state when the internet has blown the possibility of that control to smithereens.

    Why not set everybody free? Let Channel 4 offer the pro-Palestinian case if it wants to, and some other outfit report on crime as most people see it. Then you can come to your own conclusions and we can debate these things like grown-ups.


  42. The Omega Man says:

    I’m not sure I agree with David here, but fully understand his scepticism. People and organisations sometimes take a principled stand, either having not thought through the counter-productive consequences, or realising this but still feel a correct position has to be taken. We should applaud the BBC in doing the right thing, in this case • would we not justly criticise them for doing otherwise.

    While the BBC is behaving inexplicably to many people • people fed the diet of BBC news from Jeremy Bowen et al, it could do nothing else, lest it make itself a laughing stock. The comparison with Jenin is apt, and it’s also been made here Ynetnews also puts the figures of civilian casualties as no more than 250,7340,L-3661940,00.html .

    The trouble is, it’s hard back tracking for the BBC from where it is. It’s partiality is already well understood by people who follow this issue, but it can’t risk being exposed so blatantly. The BBC must be wondering if it’s too late to come clean and show Hamas for what it is.


  43. Millie Tant says:

    Thank you, Hero From The Future.
    My hero! I did want to copy the bit about the BBC trying to carve a grandiose social function. Grandiose is what the BBC is.


  44. weirdvis says:

    BBC spokesperson: Ve haf vays of disarming our critics even if ve haf to scheiss on our Palestinian Kameraden to do it.


  45. Osma Bum Laden says:

    Just a note to the BBC to say again, thanks for all your support over the past few weeks. May Alah be praised for an ally like you. May all your male reporters in Gaza have 72 virgins each. May all your female reporters have… er um, never mind.

    But as Ben Bradshaw rightly points out (you must be very proud to be represented by a man like that – your health service must be really great – ), there is Jewish or Israeli pressure. We must resist it. Only last week one of them got through and ended up on daytime news for at least 30 seconds. Please don’t let it happen again.


  46. La Cumparsita says:

    Sorry if this has already been referred to but also see the fine article by Andrew Roberts in The Times
    EXTRACT: “Mark Thompson, the Director-General of the BBC, is quite right to refuse to broadcast the appeal of the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) for humanitarian relief for Gaza, but not for the reason he thinks. He is under the impression that it will damage the BBC’s reputation for impartiality in reporting the Israel-Palestine question, but the fact is that the BBC does not have any such reputation, having for years been institutionally pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. The reason that his decision is brave and right, however, is that many of the 13 charities that make up the DEC are even more mired in anti-Israeli assumptions than the BBC itself.

    Mr Thompson rightly appreciates that the issue of humanitarian relief in this conflict is quite unlike humanitarian relief for victims of a tsunami or a famine.”


  47. Millie Tant says:

    Omega Man,

    Yes,it may be hard to backtrack, BUT I would surmise that a large part of the mass of BBC News viewers getting home from work / coping with family life and getting the evening tea or dinner etc will not be aware of BBC partiality re the Middle East.

    A casual viewer with half their attention on the children / dog / work problem / the neighbours / the travel chaos on the way home, will see pictures of crying /dying children and mothers, Israeli tanks and planes and a talking head spouting alongside the pictures. That’s the image narrative.

    The visual (and the word narrative if the latter does catch their attention) may be assumed to carry some sort of authority because a) it is on the telly and b) from the State broadcaster.


  48. Roland Deschain says:

    Did you know the BBC also refused DEC access to their airwaves for the Lebanon in 2006…
    mikewineliberal | 26.01.09 – 12:05 pm | #

    No, I didn’t. So why the brouhaha this time compared to silence then? Who has decided it’s an issue now?


  49. Neil Craig says:

    If you are serious about censorship you don’t put out press releases & fill every news vroadcast that you are doing it. What the BBC are doing is trying to look like they aren’t anti-Israeli. In fact they only look like they are trying to look like they aren’t anti-Israeli.

    If they really were biased they would just decide not to broadcast an appeal & not say a word about it as they decided when not doing anything for the 250,000 (refugees & dead) from the Krajina Holocaust or the 350,000 from Kosovo after we took over. But then that was censorship in the Nazi cause & thus to be done seriously.


  50. frankos says:

    You could argue that far more people have been made aware of this pro Paletian biased charity then would ever have been reached by a simple BBC slot after the news.
    Those martyrs at the BBC could easily have conspired to give maximum coverage to the Palestinian plight.
    Mind you that assumes that BBC executives are anything other than empty headed Liberal rent boys.