Tuesday, February 26, 2013

That Sinking Feeling

There's a good article on today's the commentator page about the BBC reporting of a Hamas rocket attack on Israel. The article is about BBC bias and news manipulation, the latter is something I think we are all to aware of in the west and I appreciate that the arguments against perceived BBC bias are based more on where it gets its funding which in turn should result in impartiality than perhaps its standard of journalism - interesting to note that this week Sky has been accused of its anti-Arab, pro-Israel bias in the U.K in its reporting.

The thing that struck me about the BBC report wasn't the 'between the lines' manipulation, which I agree is so obvious that it will slip past most people, as the fact that for me it neatly encapsulates everything that is wrong with current standards of all agencies, with a few exceptions,  reporting on the Middle East and the bigger political debate. As the article headline points out it is the twisting of a story to make the reader have empathy with the aggressor rather than the victim by way of using previous acts as its starting point. Isn't this the behaviour we used to witness as small children, surely as adults we have the powers of reasoning that allow us to judge events which have no back story purely on what we know to be the facts rather than what we think the facts should be? It's like witnessing a marital spat where somebody brings up what happened on a wedding night twenty years ago as some means of justification for an act of violence last night.

I debated the Gaza-Israel 'situation' on BBC boards for most of a decade, until I left the messageboards last May, and you could guarantee that not one attack, not one rocket, not one bomb could be judged in isolation if you dared display any pro-Israeli bias. Any lack of sympathy towards a group of terrorists who use their supporters and their supporters children as human shields in the event of retaliatory rocket attacks by Israel and you were a racist. The pro-Israel lobby were/are just as bad and soon or later the argument will recall the events of 1948 and points about democracy and freedom will be made without fail.

The BBC aren't stupid in respect of this style of reporting in the sense that we know most people only skim articles, whether online or in newspapers, either consciously or sub-consciously we have developed a sixth sense for picking out key points which is why more and more articles are presented with bullet points or highlighted or italicised text. The average length of articles which people are prepared to read is apparently shrinking from 400 words to 250 words and I assume this will decrease as more and more mobile devices are used for newsgathering on the go, the ultimate article could then be along the lines of 'Rocket attack, dead on both sides, Israel's fault."  At which point we may as well all join Span in bed with Rachel Riley.

Rachel Riley - she's from Essex you know


Span Ows said...

Excellent Paul and thanks for the mention at the end (what's the word she's after?)

Now of course anyone reading my comment will bounce to the end and miss your very pertinent points. Attention span, mobile devices, time all play their part. A couple of years ago my beef was the online Beeb editors shoving most pertinent points below the 'scroll line' although that seems to have improved but only probably because more stories are Coalition gov based instead of New Labour!

Also your early point re funding, I agree, how many times has 'Well the DT/DM/Sky said this' as a response to 'The BBC said this'.

Paul said...

Thank you - I'm sure we could hazard a guess, I believe there is an example on youtube of Carol Voderman standing next to the word wanker.

We have tried an experiment at work with letters to clients in which we have proved, not scientifically but pretty widespread, that if a letter includes two questions the reader will only see one.

Re your last point, it's funny as children we are told two wrongs don't make a right but as adults it seems to be accepted.

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