BBC Israel focus in numbers: February 2014

Below is our regular end of month count of articles appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website according to the twenty-two countries and territories defined by the BBC as making up that region per the profiles on that page.

As in previous months (see ‘related articles’ below), the count relates to three categories of articles – headline, non-headline and features – with the total representing both the appearance of a report and its level of exposure in terms of the number of days it stayed up on the site.

Table Feb

As we see, Syria understandably once again got the most coverage on the BBC News website throughout February, followed by Egypt and then Israel. Iraq, which has once again seen a very violent month, was fourth and Lebanon – also plagued by violence – came fifth in terms of coverage. Despite the fact that Israel came in third place, two significant events were not covered at all by the BBC: the state visits by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Throughout the past twelve months in which we have been monitoring the scale of coverage afforded to the countries and territories defined by the BBC as making up the Middle East on its website, Israel has consistently been among the five countries receiving the most coverage, despite the continued unrest prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa and despite its being the only one of those countries defined as ‘free in the 2013 Freedom House survey.

Table 2 feb

Looking at the total coverage over the past twelve months, we see that Syria received the most coverage, followed by Egypt and then Israel, Iran and Iraq.

table feb 3

When we began this series of articles a year ago we noted that:

“…the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau serves as its main base for the entire region and – as is the case with many other media organisations besides the BBC – whilst that physical fact may have its roots in the sheer convenience of establishing a base in a modern country with essential communications services, a relatively high proportion of English speakers and the ability to provide a comfortable and reasonably familiar Western environment for its staff, it also means that there are quite simply proportionately more journalists on the lookout for stories in Israel than in many other countries. 

How much of the BBC’s reporting on Israel has actual journalistic value and how much is just space-filling with items conveniently located on its doorstep? To what extent does the BBC’s focus on Israel distort the picture BBC audiences receive of that country in general and their perception of the prominence of the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular? 

The fact that one tiny Middle East country with only a fraction of the region’s total population is the subject of so much reporting in comparison to most of its larger and, in many cases, more turbulent neighbours reflects a disproportional approach to Middle East reporting which in itself has the potential to compromise the BBC’s reputation for impartiality.”

In a subsequent article we noted that:

“One issue arising from the 2012 report commissioned by the BBC Trust on the subject of the ‘Arab Spring’ was that of excessive focus on one particular Middle East issue.

“Although the review does not cover the period before December 2010, some BBC executives volunteered the view that in that period Middle East coverage focused too intensively on the Arab-Israel conflict, at the expense of the wider Arab world, so that the public was more surprised by the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” than it need have been.” “

Clearly, not much has changed over the past twelve months as far as the BBC’s focus on Israel is concerned.

Related Articles:

BBC Israel focus in numbers: December 2013 and year-end round up  (includes links to all previous months)

BBC Israel focus in numbers: January 2014

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