Earlier this week we noted an item broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster in which listeners were given inaccurate information concerning Israel’s population and the proportion of Israelis vaccinated so far and in which they were wrongly told that the proportion of people vaccinated is “a fake number” because it does not include Palestinians:
CAMERA UK submitted a complaint concerning that item and two days later we received a response from the Head of News at BBC Northern Ireland.
“I’m replying to your recent complaint about the content and handling of a discussion on TalkBack (05 January).
As you know, we had been discussing the Executive’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, referencing the high number of infections in Northern Ireland, tensions within the Executive itself and the experience of people in other countries and the approach being taken by their governments – including Belgium, France, the Republic of Ireland and Israel.
We suggested that one third of Israel’s population had been vaccinated against Covid-19 and asked how they were ‘doing so well..?’
One of our commentators (Dr David McCann) said that Israel’s ‘very strong… very functional’ governmental infrastructure may have been a factor in explaining its comparative success in rolling out Covid-19 vaccines. And he noted that its administration was also a multi-party coalition
Our other contributor (Fionnuala O’Connor) raised concerns about the number of Palestinians who had been vaccinated by the Israeli government and we asked if her point meant that the vaccination total was ‘a fake number’? – prompting Dr McCann to say: ‘Absolutely, another complete own goal by the Israeli government…’.
The discussion then returned to more region-specific issues and concerns.
We accept that our reference to the size of Israel’s population (which we estimated at 6million) was inaccurate, as was our statement about the % of its citizens who have been vaccinated to date.
We note that there has been some dispute about the availability of vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including the responsibilities that the Israeli government might have in this area and whether assistance had been formally requested by the Palestinian Authority.
We think that it would have been preferable if our contributors had made a distinction between Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza and Palestinian citizens of Israel, Arab Israelis and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem – the majority of whom are covered by Israel’s health network and will fall within the scope of its Covid-19 vaccination programme.
We understand the importance of due accuracy within the BBC’s output and will want to correct the mistakes that we made in this item and to clarify issues around the roll-out/availability of Covid-19 vaccines by the Israeli government. We plan to do this on-air and making reference to last week’s discussion item.
I hope that this is useful and appreciate the time that you’ve taken to get in touch.”
CAMERA UK wrote back asking when that on-air clarification would be broadcast and suggesting that the programme’s webpage be updated to include that clarification (seeing as the programme remains available online) as well as the BBC’s main ‘corrections and clarifications’ page.
We received a response informing us that the clarification had been aired in the January 12 edition of the programme (from 1:07:11 here):
Crawley: “…I want to make a clarification about one of our programmes last week. During a discussion on last Tuesday’s programme about how different governments have responded to Covid-19, we made an inaccurate estimate of Israel’s population and the number of its citizens who have received a Covid-19 vaccine. For clarity, Israel has a population of 9 million – not 6 million as we’d suggested – and around one fifth of Israeli citizens have received a Covid-19 vaccine at this stage, which is lower than the one third total we’d mentioned.
It’s also important to point out that whilst there’s been some dispute about the Israeli government’s responsibility for vaccinating Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, those Palestinian…those Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem or who hold Israeli citizenship are covered by the roll-out of the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme and it remains one of the most successful in the world so far, which is the issue we’ve been discussing.”
While the relevant programme webpage has not been updated to include the clarification, the following does appear on the BBC’s main ‘corrections and clarifications’ page: