I Know What You Did Last Summer



BBC Watch has reported this interview of Chris Patten by the BBC’s Stephen Sackur concerning James Harding:

  Sackur: “He [Harding] said – quote – “I am pro-Israel and I haven’t found it hard because The Times has been pro-Israel for a very long time……James Harding is self-declared pro-Israel. Do you have any problem with that? Do you think that it might create problems for you and for the BBC when one considers that perhaps the most contentious issue we all in BBC news and current affairs have to deal with on a daily basis is reporting the Middle East?”

No surprise that Harding might be pro-Israel…he is Jewish.

But this is what he also said, something that Sackur didn’t reveal:

‘Harding stressed the need for balanced journalism. “We say we’re pro-Israel but we’re also pro the Palestinian state… the question a journalist should always ask himself is are you making the case before opinion is dressed up as reportage?”


 It’s a fair question to ask…well it would have been if Sackur had also mentioned the bit about being pro-Palestine as well…and hadn’t added ‘very’ to the words  ‘ The Times has been pro-Israel for a long time.’ in his question.


Sackur is married to an Iraqi, Zina Sabbagh….I wonder if that influences his reporting on the Middle East or his interviews with Israeli diplomats?


Not the first time Sackur has been concerned about the ‘Israeli Lobby’:

The Pro-Israel Lobby:
A Lobby to Reckon With

Stephen Sackur
BBC World Service (radio)
11 May 2002

‘In this week’s Assignment, Stephen Sackur investigates America’s Pro-Israel lobby and its influence on the White House’



In Occupied Territory

Stephen Sackur

Sari Nusseibeh, Professor of Philosophy at Bir Zeit University, a leading Palestinian intellectual and political activist, was arrested by Israeli Border Police at his home in the West Bank village of Abu Dis on 29 January.



You have to ask though if the same concerns were raised about the suitability of Muslim Aaqil Ahmed within the BBC when he was made head of religious broadcasting…surely that too concerns one of the most contentious areas of news and current affairs that the BBC has to deal with?  Mark Thompson allegedly told Ahmed not to mention his religion…presumably to lessen any controversy…especially as Ahmed had been accused of introducing pro-Islamic programmes to Channel 4….so rather than question his suitability it seems Thompson wanted to sweep the question under the carpet.

Were the same concerns asked about Labour’s James Purnell being given a £300,000 job at the BBC?

Were the same concerns shown about the recruitment by the BBC of  Ali Hashem….who previously worked for the terrorist organisation, Hezbollah, in their own Televison station, Al Manar?


The BBC is of course concerned about possible extremists within the ranks of UKIP:

 ‘Nazi salute’ UKIP candidate claims Facebook account hacked’




Just for interest, and in relation to a previous post that mentioned Israeli historian (of European history), Shlomo Sands, here is Sackur interviewing him:

‘Zionism succeeded to create an Israeli nation’




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25 Responses to I Know What You Did Last Summer

  1. Joseph says:

    I quite often find that this site is guilty of hyperbole, in this instance the behaviour of the journalist is being under-reported, Mr Sacker is a rabid anti-Israeli who’s body of work show him to be a disgrace both to journalism and the BBC


  2. Guest Who says:

    ‘One Response to I Know What You Did Last Summer’

    Now, maybe. What happened to the others?


    • Span Ows says:

      I’m assuming they were deleted for the ‘racist’ content. I replied to you too so 3 replies have been deleted.

      Dez’s comment was OTT so I have no problem with deletion except to have left it would have shown him up more for what he really is.


      • Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

        Censorship does not sit well here.

        Needs to be some pretty good reasons why.


      • Guest Who says:

        ‘to have left it would have shown him up more for what he really is’
        Creating a lot of collateral orphans is one thing, but whacking out replies invested in as well (I merely questioned the racism accusation) is a BBC trait that does not sit well if emulated here too.
        Dez has poisoned this well and the mods have thrown his corpse in on top.
        Not sure that’s the way to go.


      • Demon says:

        I missed Dez’s comment. Amazing, if it was racist, considering his claim the other day that he didn’t dislike anyone according to their race.

        I had no reason to believe him then either.


        • Span Ows says:

          It wasn’t him Demon; he claimed that Alan was being racist (he wasn’t) but the way Dez wrote his accusation wasn’t just “that’s racist”, it was very sly and snide however I agree with what Guess Who and Dysgwr_Cymraeg say about comments being deleted.


  3. worrywot says:

    How the hell are we supposed to know who James Harding is without clicking all over the place? This site is becoming so introverted and smug that a newcomer to it would wonder about your own bias. Has the bbc ever taken note of anything that appears here?


    • Guest Who says:

      ‘How the hell are we supposed to know who James Harding is without clicking all over the place? ‘
      Ar risk of seeing this reply lost in another purge of Bank Holiday work experience commentary, on a site that discusses BBC bias, the appointment of the new head of BBC news being a matter of awareness to those concerned at BBC direction does not seem unreasonable to presume.
      Also, it takes one click to get to the relevant reference URL, in the first line, for all explanation necessary.
      ‘James Harding – the new chief of news here at the BBC. He was the editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper’
      It is hard to imagine how much simpler it could be made. Which for some not to is indeed a bit of a worry.

      Would you like to know more?

      As to the rest… ticking all the ‘I’m new here, you lot..no one cares’ boxes on the crib sheet may work on a slow contrarian day with a dozy supervisor, but probably not on any familiar with the strategy.


  4. chrisH says:

    A few silly comments above, I`d say.
    I have seen Steven Sackur on a few occassions and his anti-Israel, pro Islam stances are pretty clear…his Geert Wilders interview(or was it rant?) was all-too-typical.
    There is no excuse for any of us to fund his partial , pro-Muslim claptrap…yet, being a house trained Beeboid, that`s what we end up doing.
    Don`t need to know or care about the others-if it`s Sackur, it`ll be a Muslim suckup piece….if Patten was ever pro- anything, he`d have his keffiyah/Arafat T-shirt by the time Sackur has interviewed him.


  5. worrywot says:

    It is typical of crappy journalism we suffer from not to identify your subjects right from the start in the main body of the piece!


  6. worrywot says:

    If you go here:http://honestreporting.com/bbc-headline-parrots-syrian-terror-charge-against-israel/

    you can see at the end of the website that they actually tell people how to complain to al-beeb.
    Why doesn’t biased bbc launch a campaign to shut these vicious fools down and therefore serve a real public service purpose? Right now you are nothing more than a weak forum that achieves nothing.


  7. David Preiser (USA) says:

    the question a journalist should always ask himself is are you making the case before opinion is dressed up as reportage?


    This would be news to the Beeboids reporting on US issues.


  8. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Although Sackur has angered me on other occasions with his misguided questioning, in this case I agree with him completely. It’s absolutely a big problem for the BBC to hire someone publicly (as opposed to keeping the opinion private) pro-Israel as the top news man. It shows how out of touch with reality Patten is if he claims to be unaware of just how contentious the issue is, and the constant stream of “complaints from both sides” the BBC gets every time they mention Israel or Palestinians.

    Not only that, but it also shows just how out of touch Patten is with the internal strife at the BBC over Israel. Sackur’s anger betrays just how much anger about Israel there is amongst Beeboids, and how much pride the Beeboids take in appearing to remain above the fray (it’s all about the appearance, not the reality).

    Probably most important of all, though, is that Sackur’s charge reveals just how much they really don’t believe the crap they feed us about how proper journalists leave their opinions at the door.

    So we just have to ask Sackur in turn: Are you concerned that Jeremy Bowen will not have “changed his spots” about Israel? Are you concerned that Paul Mason will not have “changed his spots” about his extreme-Left politics? Are you concerned that Stephanie Flanders will have “changed her spots” about her Left-wing, Statist economic views? Are you concerned that Richard Bacon or Victoria Derbyshire or Mark Mardell or James “If we win the election” Naughtie have “changed their spots” about their own political views? Or are they all magically superior to Harding for some reason, and are trusted to leave their personal opinions at the door?

    What a #^&%ing joke. Apparently the only personal opinion which should bar one from becoming a BBC journalist is being pro-Israel.


    • You don't live here. You're not British says:

      Do you not think your obsession is a bit odd? This might be the one tiny corner of the British interwebs where you seem to fit in, but that very fact should really give you pause for thought.


      • David Preiser (USA) says:

        That’s a rather bigoted and uninformed comment. The BBC is a global broadcasting organization, which expends a significant amount of energy and resources on the US. has increased effort and spending on its US division, with the stated goal of increasing its US audience and advertising revenue. There is, for example, the attempt to introduce a subscription-only US iPlayer.

        Not only does the BBC report in the UK and worldwide on US issues, including their production of “bespoke online video and text features”, but they have had a special nightly news broadcast called BBC World News America produced in the US and specifically targeted at a US audience (which no longer competes directly with the US syndicated version of BBC World News), not to mention their very own cable TV network, BBC America. The BBC misinforms and makes biased news reports on the US both for the British public and the rest of the world.

        Don’t you think your ignorance of what your own state broadcaster does is a bit odd? This might be the one tiny corner of the British interwebs where you sense the opportunity to easily criticize someone from the US, but the very fact that you chose to cast aspersions rather than actually debate the issue at hand should really give you pause for thought.

        Your prejudices are duly noted.


  9. Onion says:

    Sackur is married to an Iraqi, Zina Sabbagh – so what? Should the BBC hire/fire people based on who they’re married to? I’m pretty sure that would be illegal. Also, doesn’t that presume that a person always agrees with their spouses’ politics? And that Iraqs all have the same politics.

    ‘In this week’s Assignment, Stephen Sackur investigates America’s Pro-Israel lobby and its influence on the White House’ – so what? Seems a legitimate sucbject to me.

    ‘You have to ask though if the same concerns were raised about the suitability of Muslim Aaqil Ahmed within the BBC when he was made head of religious broadcasting’

    Yawn, this again? I’m pretty sure its illegal to discriminate in employment based on a person’s relgious beliefs.

    ‘Mark Thompson allegedly told Ahmed not to mention his religion’ – First time I’ve heard that suggestion. Any evidence for that?

    ‘The BBC is of course concerned about possible extremists within the ranks of UKIP:’
    I don’t really see how that’s related to your main point, but again, so what? Its a perfectly legitimate story to cover.

    Stephen Sackur presents HarldTalk. This means he often asks tough questions. The clue is in the title.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      So is it not illegal to discriminate against someone for publicly espousing a pro-Israel belief? Seems like that’s what Sackur is suggesting. Asking whether or not Harding can leave his personal beliefs at the door may be a legitimate tough question, but how many other BBC employees have similarly controversial opinions over which they are not questioned, and which we’re expected to believe don’t compromise their journalistic integrity?

      If we ask the tough question on this issue, how about others?


  10. Onion says:

    Sackur doesn’t suggest he shouldn’t have been employed, or that he should be fired. He put a question, which is what interviewers tend to do.
    You often ask journalists if they could explain things to you because maybe you don’t understand news. Here’s an example.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Onion, Sackur’s question was asked from the perspective that Harding should not have been hired due to his expressed opinion, was it not? Or can you offer another interpretation of the question? Merely stating that he asked a question explains nothing about the question or why it was asked. Was it a valid question or not? If so, why, if not, why not?


      • A Journalist says:

        Journalists ask awkward questions. That was the only “perspective”. Onion is so right. The biggest problem here is you don’t understand how news works at all.


        • David Preiser (USA) says:

          Both you journalists are dodging the real question. Stating that it was an awkward question doesn’t answer my own apparently awkward question. You both seem to be acting as if I’m asking why Sackur asked the question, when in fact it’s not the case.

          Why was the question awkward? And then you can explain why the same awkward question should not be asked about other BBC employees with similarly publicly stated opinions which might call into question whether or not they leave their personal opinions at the door.


          • Guest Who says:

            BBBC should be flattered to attracting a more and more professional audience.
            Albeit self-described, which makes them on par with a Nick Robbo source or Newsnight freelance investigative team.
            So now we have our very own Perry Mason who knows what it’s like getting down & dirty prosecuting licence fee evaders or carrying an FoI expert’s briefcase as they carry Hug’s lunch box to £300k exemption cases.
            Now there appears another seasoned veteran from the seedy underworld of the East Cheam Gazette, who is also keen to tell any who will listen that ‘you don’t know what it’s like’ in a newsroom… like wot they do.
            Thing is, such claims are just views seldom backed by fact.
            Which means they could well be qualified to be from the highest echelons of BBC market ratedom.
            And that they only pontificate or make statements (one actually says the other has got it about right… ok, so) whilst not answering any.. valid… questions you raise in exchange is SOP in complement that is all too familiar.


  11. Onion says:

    We seem to agree that it was a legitimate question, and I don’t think I can explain that any better than the transcript does:

    ‘Are you comfortable for him to pronounce himself pro-Israel as head of news of the BBC?………..when one considers that perhaps the most contentious issue we all in BBC news and current affairs have to deal with on a daily basis is reporting the Middle East?”

    Read Patten’s answer too.

    You attach an ‘anger’ to Sackur that just isn’t there, nor does his asking the question mean it isn’t true that ‘journlists leave their opinions at the door’ or that he doesn’t believe that. As I said, he’s an interviewer, its ‘Hardtalk’, he asks the questions, that doesn’t mean that’s an expression of his or the BBC’s opinon.

    I think that question would’ve been asked if Harding had previously expressed a public opinon on any area of great controversy, whether the Middle East, the EU, climate change etc

    And No, I don’t think that same question can’t be asked of others too.

    I should clarify, that I’m not a journalist, and it wasn’t my intention to give that impression.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Well, then we are in agreement (other than my inference of anger), which begs the most important question (in two parts) of all:

      Are there other policy positions, so to speak, that might potentially disqualify someone from becoming News Director?

      If we are, in fact, allowed to ask other Beeboids the same question, does this grant legitimacy to the notion that journalists might not always leave their opinions at the door? Or is this just a perfunctory question we can ask, with the expectation that the answer is, of course, No? Which seems rather pointless.

      Trying to see it from the other side for a moment, I can understand that the BBC would be concerned about appearances on this issue. It is probably, after all, the most globally (as opposed to domestic) contentious issue on which they have to report, so it’s a natural and proper concern. So I guess it’s essentially required that they ask this particular question, if only to cover their asses. As we’re all apparently expected to believe from the start that there’s actually no problem here, it’s a little kabuki dance for the public’s benefit, then. Would it be fair to say, in other words, that Sackur and his producer know it’s an issue, and know they need to clear the air in order to reassure everyone that no, of course Harding will not let this influence his journalism?