Members of the public who contacted the BBC regarding a claim made by Jeremy Bowen during an interview in the April 14th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme have informed us of the receipt of the following template response from different members of staff at the BBC Complaints department.
“Thanks for contacting us.
We have raised your concerns with the production team who have provided the following response;
“Thank you for taking the time to contacting us [sic], I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Jeremy Bowen’s contribution to the programme’s items on persecution of Christians on 14 April.
His interview was an analysis of the situation of Christians in Middle Eastern countries, he talked about the various threats and how Christians in various parts of region feel.
He also set this in an historical context, saying Christians had been leaving the Middle East for many years, and that this is why there are communities in South America.
At the end of the interview, after he mentioned Egypt and Lebanon, he said “Palestinian Christians feel threatened not just from extreme Islam but by what the Israeli government might be doing”. He was describing the mood of Palestinian Christians, not the policies of the government of Israel.
Jeremy is the BBC’s Middle East Editor, he has extensive experience of reporting on the ground and his analysis is based on that.”
Rest assured your feedback is very important to us and as such we have placed your concerns on an overnight report. This is a document which is made available to senior staff, programme editors and news teams across the BBC and means your comments can be seen quickly and can be consulted in future broadcasting and policy decisions.
Thanks again for getting in touch.”
Were we to take the ‘Today’ programme production team’s claim that Bowen “was describing the mood of Palestinian Christians, not the policies of the government of Israel” at face value, we would of course have to note that Bowen did not clarify that intention to listeners. Having mentioned the very real threats to Middle East Christians posed by “extreme Islam”, in the same breath he went on to cite “what the Israeli government might be doing” – thus leading listeners towards the mistaken belief that Palestinian Christians do have reason to “feel threatened” by unspecified Israeli government actions just as much as they have cause to fear Islamist extremists.
As readers are no doubt aware, this is the third recent response (see related articles below) from the BBC relating to content produced by its Middle East editor in the last few weeks and it is no more satisfactory than its predecessors.