Initial Letter of complaint sent to BBCBBC Two
Programme name: Frontline Football Palestine
Transmission date: 11 - 07 - 05
This programme was nothing other than a pure anti-Israel propaganda piece. The reporter, Ben Anderson, was guilty of a continuous stream of uninformed comments and questions. The programme presented as 'fact' a number of ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims from Palestinian individuals about incidents of violence and repossession. Even where the 'facts' were true the programme made no attempt to explain the context. For example, it made a big issue of the fact that one of the few sports training camps in Gaza had been destroyed by the Israelis. What it failed to mention was the fact that at the time it was being used to launch missiles into Israel and to train Hamas terrorists; on Hamas's own admission, a number of its 'armed fighters' were killed in the attack.
At no time in the programme did Ben Anderson mention the context for any Israeli actions (such as extended border security checks), namely that the filming took place during a period of unprecedented terrorist attacks against Israelis. The bias in the programme is best summed up by Ben Anderson's own comment while he was witnessing a furious argument between the Palestinian FA president and one of the Palestinian players. The argument was about a ban being imposed because the players had left their training camp in Qatar to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Anderson's comment was: "The Israelis have created such an atmosphere of hate that it has forced the Palestinians to even argue among themselves". Finally, since one of the major 'arguments' in the programme was that the Palestinian team was severely disadvantaged because it could not play its matches 'at home', it is beyond belief that the programme failed to mention that Israel suffered exactly the same fate during the period 2000-2004 when FIFA forced Israel to play all its home matches in Cyprus because of the continued threat of terrorism.
BBC ResponseDear Mr Edgar
Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Frontline Football'. I understand that you felt the programme broadcast on 11 July 2005 was biased and anti-Israeli.
The notion of impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC. The BBC serves the nation as a whole recognising and responding to all different tastes, views and perspectives. Programme makers aim to reflect, inform and stimulate this multiplicity of interests with a diverse range of quality programmes.
In our programmes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we have tried to explain how the current situation started and has since developed and given air-time to representatives from across the political spectrum. However equal representation is not always possible or practical within individual programmes and account also needs to be taken of the way a subject is covered over a period of time. Individual reports or programmes may give more time to one particular incident, but we regularly report and display the suffering felt by both sides. Not every television or radio piece can include all aspects of the conflict, but this does not constitute bias. Perfect balance is difficult to achieve on every single occasion but overall it is a more achievable goal.
Nevertheless, I appreciate that you felt that on this occasion the programme displayed an unbalanced view and therefore please be assured that I have recorded your complaint on our daily log for the attention of BBC programme makers and management and for everyone involved in the production of 'Frontline Football'.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact the BBC with your views.
My response backNuala,
Your response would have been acceptable if the programme was purporting to be about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian perspective. But it wasn't. The programme was about football. It therefore breached every reasonable rule about impartiality. There are many people who would have watched the programme simply unaware that what they were seeing was nothing other than a vicious anti-Israel Palestinian propaganda documentary. People without any previous knowledge of the conflict would have come away with a hatred of Israel. Is this what the BBC intended? And if the BBC was going to commission such a programme why on earth did it use a presenter who was so clearly ignorant of any facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Awaiting BBC's second response
Edgar's Final CommentThe fact this programme was allowed to go ahead demonstrates the extent to which an anti-Israel attitude permeates throughout the BBC. Their response about balance is ridiculous. There is no meaningful 'counter-balance' because it would mean screening a programme about something unrelated to politics (say DIY) and using it as the basis to defame all Palestinians, with a mixture of some truth and mostly made up stories. Somehow I can't see the BBC doing that.
And to confirm how serious I think this is I noticed that in the Sun of all places the TV writer Ally Ross had a little footnote saying that he thought this programme was the one of the best documentaries he'd ever seen and was worthy of awards. I can understand why naive non-politically-aware viewers might say this. They were presented with an incredible story presented as unchallenged truth. Why would they not believe it?