BBC Defends Coverage of Israeli Air Strikes

2:12 PM PST 07/16/2014 by Scott Roxborough
Luke Macgregor/Reuters
BBC Director General Tony Hall

A pro-Palestine group staged a protest outside the BBC's London headquarters and an online petition accusing the public broadcaster of pro-Israel bias has received 45,000 signatures.

The BBC has defended its coverage of the latest Israeli air strikes in Gaza among accusations that the British public broadcaster is too pro-Israeli in its reporting on the region's escalating conflict.

Recent heavy Israeli bombardment in the Gaza region has brought the Palestinian death toll to 215. The bombing is in retaliation for rocket attacks by Palestinian group Hamas against Israeli cities.

The conflict has been the subject of extensive BBC news coverage, but a prominent pro-Palestine group claims the broadcaster's programs have been systematically “entirely devoid of context or background.” The Palestine Solidarity Campaign posted an online open letter to BBC director general Tony Hall criticizing the broadcaster for not illustrating what it considers key aspects of the conflict — including that the population in Gaza consists of refugees and there is great military imbalance between the two sides, with Israel possessing “one of the strongest militaries in the world.”

More than 45,000 people have signed the online letter, including British director Ken Loach, musician Brian Eno and philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky, a longtime critic of Israel. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign also staged public protests outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London and the BBC North building in Manchester.

In a statement, the BBC defended its news coverage, saying, “our role is to explain what is happening and why and we endeavor to reflect a range of voices, amid deeply held views. We are committed to continuing to report and analyze sometimes fast moving events in an accurate, fair and balanced way.”

The BBC did not cover the protests outside its offices in its news bulletins.

The BBC's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict has frequently come under attack in the past — with both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups claiming bias. An independent report on the BBC's coverage, published in 2006, found no evidence of “deliberate or systematic bias.”

Email: Scott.Roxborough@thr.com

Twitter: @sroxborough

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