Auntie Beeb, anti-Israel?

The BBC, known familiarly to many Britons as "Auntie Beeb", has mounted a landmark High Court bid to hide from public scrutiny an internal report alleged to be 'highly critical' of its journalistic coverage of the Middle East.

The Balen Report was set in motion back in 2003 amidst mounting criticism of the Corporation's apparent anti—Israel reportage. The Beeb appointed Malcolm Balen as a 'senior editorial advisor' to improve its Middle East coverage. Having completed his report in 2004 however, Mr Balen duly disappeared from view with his report buried in the vaults of the BBC's White City HQ. All requests to view its contents were rebuffed. 

When in January 2005 the new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) came into force, efforts to view the report were renewed. By April, over 400 requests for the report had been refused. The BBC cited a blanket derogation in the Act that exempts it (and other public service broadcasters such as Channel 4) from releasing information about its journalism.

The Corporation's decision to deny these requests was later upheld by the Information Commissioner. But one London solicitor, Steven Sugar, pursued the matter. In September 2006 an Information Tribunal finally ruled that derogation does not apply to the Balen Report. The decision hinged on its assessment of the meaning of 'journalism' in the FOIA legislation. The Tribunal took the view that there was a key distinction between 'functional journalism' which 'covers collecting or gathering, writing, editing and presenting material' and 'strategic journalism' which focuses on 'the direction of policy, strategy and resources that provide the framework within which the operations of a public service broadcaster take place'.

All interested parties were given 20 days to submit proposals to the Tribunal to agree the next step. As a result, the BBC decided to fight a costly High Court battle aimed at keeping the report away from the prying eyes of those who fund it. 

Now left—skewing news reportage at the BBC, arguably still the 'world's broadcaster', is perhaps the biggest 'open' secret in the Western media. It's litany of recorded ideological biases being well documented (including here and, by myself, here and here).

Its Europhilia, its nauseating culture of anti—Americanism and its associated loaded anti—Iraq war coverage — culminating in its public humiliation by the Hutton Inquiry — have all been well exposed. But, somehow, a misty—eyed romanticism about the BBC still persists despite the hard evidence. Indeed, such is the wholesale departure of the BBC from its own Charter on Informed Citizenship and its declared commitment to 'accurate, impartial and independent' journalism, that even a leftwing think—tank has called for its public service broadcast status to be revoked.


But if anything has created a strong moral distaste among media commentators it is the BBC's increasingly blatant anti—Israel news coverage.  If anti—Semitism is on the 'orchestrated' rise across Europe, as even the BBC admits, then the left—dominated Western media is increasingly conducting the symphony. Nor is the BBC alone in being accused of anti—semitic prejudices in the UK media.


We have had the sick  Independent cartoon of Ariel Sharon swallowing a baby. The leftwing New Statesman published its famously bigoted Kosher Conspiracy over which its editor was forced to apologize. In August the Independent on Sunday ran Robert Fisk's (yes, he famously of the beating at the hands of an Afghan Muslim mob 'driven to it', so he claimed, by US foreign policy) hysterical Slaughter in Qana. Fisk's piece turned out to be yet another diatribe short on facts and long on anti—Israel propaganda. 


And perhaps you remember John McCarthy? The former hostage held by terrorists in Lebanon—region>? Well it appears he's now working for them. The Independent's anti—Israel op—ed column that is, not the terrorists.


And only last month leading US—region> lawyer Alan Dershowitz, having found the core thesis of his new book Preemption: a knife that cuts both ways had been entirely misrepresented in a Guardian book review, was reduced to drafting an Open Letter to set the record straight after Guardian editors refused a print redress.


I have often conjectured that if ever Oliver Stone re—made Casablanca it would be set in an Islamic Republic, star George Galloway or Mel Gibson as 'Rick' and the role of the iconic Transit Papers, conceived to achieve safe passage through the evil Taleban host, supplanted by a copy of The Guardian or New York Times.


But it is the culture of anti—Israel propaganda at the publicly—funded BBC with which we are concerned here. Even BBC Governors were forced to uphold a complaint of bias by numerous MP's after the BBC's Middle East correspondent revealed she had been 'moved to tears' as Yasser Arafat was helicoptered away to die. And immediately after the Reuters photo fakery was exposed, BBC morning TV presenters actually diverted an on—screen report on the affair into an attack on 'right—wing US—region> bloggers' for 'causing' the rumpus.

While I might prefer the BBC to own up to what Monty Python's Cleese would call the 'bleedin' obvious' — its ideological 'values—bias', as the Balen Report may help to confirm beyond doubt — what I truly resent, as a Brit taxpayer, is being legally bound to subsidise ideologically left—biased 'public service' broadcasting — and, by nauseating extension, its iniquitous anti—semitic propaganda.  

Peter C Glover is the British author of The Politics of Faith: essays on the morality of key current affairs. He is a writer on international and cultural affairs who regularly contributes to news sites including World Politics Watch and TCS Daily. More of his writings can be found here.