BBC’s “In Pictures” fails to meet editorial standards

In the the 2005 report up on our menu bar entitled “Pictures of Prejudice – a Pictorial Analysis of the BBC website” by Trevor Asserson and Michael Paluch, after interviewing the Editor at the time of BBC News Online, the report’s authors wrote:

“We were told that Day in Pictures is something of a by-product of the BBC website. A journalist from the website team will be asked on an ad hoc basis to be responsible for Day in Pictures for that day. The selection of pictures is then left to that individual. Pete Clifton accepts that Day in Pictures is under his overall editorial responsibility and that it is covered by the BBC Editorial Guidelines and the Charter which require accuracy, fairness and due impartiality and which also require that the BBC refrain from expressing its own views. However no individual mission statement exists for Day in Pictures and the journalist selecting pictures for the site is left to his/her own devices apparently without any real editorial control. The title of the site –Day in Pictures – seems to provide the only real guidance as to what the journalist is meant to do.”

Has anything changed over the seven years since that report was published? Are editorial standards of accuracy, impartiality and fairness now being met? A look at the feature entitled “In Pictures: Gaza – Israel Violence” located in the Middle East section of the BBC News website on November 19th would suggest not. 

Thirteen pictures are featured in the slideshow: seven taken in the Gaza Strip and six in Israel.

All of the pictures from Gaza show damage or injury of some kind. Two show explosions, three show rubble or destroyed buildings and two show dead or injured children. All but one of the pop-up captions attached to the seven pictures state that they are the result of an Israeli air strike. All the pictures show civilians or medical/emergency staff. There are no policemen or armed people and certainly no identifiable terrorists are shown. 


Of the six pictures photographed in Israel, three show soldiers and one a policeman. Only two show civilians – one in which they have their backs to the camera. Excepting one image, all the pictures show adult males. The photograph of children in an air-raid shelter presents a fairly calm scene. Whilst the pop-up captions on the pictures mention rockets, only in the first picture is it made in any way clear who fired the rockets and the word ‘Hamas’ is not mentioned at all. Apart from a very limited and insufficiently explained view in two of the photographs, damage is not shown and there are no pictures of dead or wounded people.

So would the average viewer take away a balanced and accurate picture of the ongoing events from this selection of pictures? The answer to that is all too obvious.


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