BBC Complaints Dept


8 November 2011

BBC prints #provocatilla false claims as fact

Complaining to the BBC is usually a complete waste of time†. Still complaining about one false/misleading headline is likely to be easier than complaining about an overall culture of bias against Israel. Please excuse the shorthand nature of the complaint

BBC headline: Israel boards protest boats taking medical aid to Gaza

Inspection of the boats at Ashdod port showed no cargo was aboard.

This was confirmed by the Canadian boat captain when questioned over radio.

If the BBC correspondent(s) was not aware of this at time of the incident he/she has aware of it for four days. The BBC has a journalistic responsibility to update the article with this information.

Does it matter?

Yes, it matters! Leaving the article up, as is, makes it a record from a (once) credible source. A researcher or even a Googler may look no further than the BBC article. By making it appear, as of course the flotilla provocateurs want, that Israel is killing babies by denying medicine the article is subtly, once more, manipulating the reader to take sides.

BTW For all those BBC watchers/ Communication and Media students this headline follows the BBC standard of using active voice to emphasise actions of people they oppose as in Israel attacks with jets and passive voice for people they support as in Rockets land not Hamas fires rockets.


In order of probability:

  1. Ideally a correction (unlikely – the BBC rarely accepts responsibility for their own mistakes),
  2. followed by a newer article (unlikely – they will claim it is no longer news)
  3. followed by an edit to the story (likely – a boilerplate that Israel disputes the existence of humanitarian aid and ‘quote marks’ around the words Carrying medical aid)
  4. or a stealth edit (most likely – a stealth edit is changing a story without changing the datestamp).

Provocatilla response 😉

In what must be the most ridiculous spin of all time, a representative claimed they had hidden the medicines in boxes labelled food!

WHY they would do that and what they hoped to gain is undisclosed. Why they think an IDF team searching the boat with the thoroughness of a CSI‡ team could miss it is another question.

Follow up

The BBC claims they  aim to respond to you within 10 working days depending on the nature of your complaint and the research needed to address it. Those who have ever used the BBC complaint system know that if you allow a complaint to lapse it tends to disappear. I promise to follow this to the end.

Action item:

Please make your own complaint on this matter. The complaint website publishes public responses to issues of wide audience concern if they cause a significant number of complaints or involve a significant issue.

In other words the more complaints the more likely the BBC will have to make a public response.

Further reading:  Another Flotilla to the Gaza Strip, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, 3 November 2011

† I have had one unacknowledged success. I complained that the common claim that Gaza is the most (or even one of the most) densely populated places on Earth is easily refutable (see Just Dense). The BBC sent a BS reply but has since quietly dropped that boilerplate in their reports.
‡CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) in its Los Vegas and New York versions are two of my favourite series. CSI Miami, not so much.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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