BBC Trust ESC upholds appeal on Dan Snow’s Syria documentary

Readers may remember that back in March we took issue with Dan Snow’s distorted presentation of the commencement of the Six Day War in his BBC Two documentary titled “A History of Syria“. We were of course not the only ones to note Snow’s egregious depiction of Israel as the sole initiator of the war and his airbrushing of the Syrian and Egyptian belligerence which preceded its outbreak. 

“In 1967 [Hafez al] Assad was Minister of Defence when Israel launched a series of strikes against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Israelis humiliated Arab forces and took control of part of Syria; the Golan Heights.” [emphasis added]

One audience member, having exhausted options further down the chain of the BBC complaints procedure, took the issue to the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee and there the complaint was upheld.

Readers can view the full text of the ESC’s decision on pages 20 to 23 here and will no doubt note the fact that, curiously, the ESC used a book by the BBC’s own Jeremy Bowen as one of the bases for its decision rather than independent sources.

“The Committee decided that the events of the Six-Day War were so important in the history and politics of the Middle East, and remain so today, that, despite the brevity of the reference, more context was required and the need to use clear and precise language was particularly acute in relation to content dealing with conflict in the Middle East, as the Committee has also stated in previous findings. The Committee appreciated that this was one line in an otherwise informative and nuanced programme, but concluded that, particularly given the evidence that Jordan launched attacks on Israel before Israel’s forces were engaged, it was not duly accurate to describe the events on 5 June 1967 in the way this programme did. The Committee decided the programme breached the Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy. “

The question now pending is how does the BBC intend to communicate the fact that Snow’s depiction of the Six Day War’s commencement was inaccurate to the many thousands of audience members who watched the programme eight months ago. 

 

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