Promoting the BBC’s preferred Middle East narrative: how is it done?

As of 2011, BBC World News had a weekly audience of 74 million people and it is fair to assume that the number has risen since then. One of its daily programmes is named “Impact” – aired every weekday. 

One report seen by those millions of people around the world this week on “Impact” was produced by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Wyre Davies and it is another version of his previous report on Naftali Bennett of the ‘Jewish Home’ party which appeared on the BBC News website. 

Impact Davies

What is interesting about this report is that it provides a very good example of how an agenda can be subtly promoted, without viewers necessarily being aware of the manner in which they are being manipulated. 

At 1:09, whilst standing – a la Bowen – on a pile of rubble somewhere in what is presumably Area C, Davies says:

“In recent months Mr Netanyahu has tried to re-establish his Right-wing credentials by supporting more building in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land: settlements seen as illegal under international law. But even that isn’t enough to appease some of his critics and former supporters on the Right. One recent report said that there had been a record surge in settlement expansion. Not enough for those on the religious right – who say Netanyahu is still not tough enough with the Palestinians.”

What does Davies do here? First, he promotes the notion of construction on “occupied Palestinian land”. Of course any construction which is going on is exclusively in Area C – the fate of which is – under the terms of the internationally supported Oslo Agreements – supposed to be determined through negotiations. The fact that Wyre Davies may have personally decided that in his opinion this is “Palestinian land” does not make it so until a negotiated agreement defines it as such.

Secondly, Davies trots out that well-worn old BBC cliché – “illegal under international law”. Which specific “international law”, Davies does not inform his viewers – because he cannot. But importantly, he also neglects his obligation to impartiality by failing to mention the fact that there are many varying opinions on that subject. 

Davies says that “one recent report said that there had been a record surge in settlement expansion” under the Netanyahu government. Davies neglects to name the authors of the report he cites, but one can be pretty certain that he is referring to a recent report by the politically motivated NGO ‘Peace Now’; previously promoted on Twitter by his colleague. 

Donnison Shalom Achshav tweet

Obviously, Davies has not bothered to check his facts regarding the so-called “record surge” he is so keen to promote: in terms of actual construction of housing units, the 2009 – 2013 Netanyahu administration pales in comparison to the 1999 – 2001 Labour government under Ehud Barak. 

Later on in his report, Davies says:

“Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak Obama have never been close. Reports from Washington say that the US president is already resigned to a difficult relationship with an even more Right-wing Netanyahu-led government in Israel.”

The notion that leaders of different countries should be “close” is in itself a bizarre one, but the important thing to note in this passage is Davies’ promotion – again – of a “report” which he fails to name, but uses as ‘evidence’ to support his own claims. That “report” is most likely the acrimonious column by Jeffrey Goldberg published on January 15th – also promoted by a BBC Jerusalem Bureau Tweeter.

Danahar Bloomberg tweet

That Goldberg column, it not surprisingly turned out, may have had political motives of its own:

Tweet Dan Senor

What we see here are two methods used by Davies to promote a specific agenda by framing a story in a particular manner. The first method is by use of carefully chosen language: terms such as “illegal under international law” and “occupied Palestinian Land” do not stand up to scrutiny, but when used frequently enough without presentation of the opposing point of view, they become accepted – though erroneous – terminology which steers audiences towards a preferred narrative. 

The second method is the opaque use of anonymous “reports” to back up the claims used to support a particular narrative. By failing to identify the sources of those reports, Davies denies his audiences the right to judge for themselves whether they are of any value or to seek out other opinions. He assumes a patriarchal attitude which places him in the position of gatekeeper of information, doling it out in accordance with his own agenda. 

In no way can this be considered the accurate and impartial reporting of news. Rather, it is the exploitation of a news event as a platform from which to promote a politically motivated, non-transparent agenda by people who want to be opinion-shapers rather than just plain old reporters of the news.


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