BBC unable to reply to a complaint about items it already amended

Late last month we noted that a clarification provided by the former head of the International Court of Justice during an April 26th interview with the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ programme cast a spotlight on repeated misrepresentations of the decision given by the court in late January.

A BBC INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS MULTIPLE BBC MISREPRESENTATIONS OF ICJ RULING

Donoghue: “I’m glad to have a chance to address that because the court’s test for deciding whether to impose measures uses the idea of plausibility — but the test is the plausibility of the rights that are asserted by the applicant, in this case South Africa. So the court decided that the Palestinians had a plausible right to be protected from genocide and that South Africa had the right to present that claim in the court.

It then looked at the facts as well. But it did not decide — and this is something where I’m correcting what’s often said in the media — it didn’t decide that the claim of genocide was plausible.

It did emphasise in the order that there was a risk of irreparable harm to the Palestinian right to be protected from genocide. But the shorthand that often appears — which is that there’s a plausible case of genocide —isn’t what the court decided.” [emphasis added]

In light of the clarification given by Joan Donoghue in that interview, CAMERA UK submitted a complaint in which we requested that the BBC correct its own misrepresentations of the ICJ’s decision and issue clarifications concerning its reporting on the misrepresentations by others.

Since that complaint was submitted on April 27th, the BBC has aired additional items of content promoting disinformation concerning the ICJ’s decision, including the following:

BBC RADIO 4’S ‘TODAY’ PLATFORMS DISINFORMATION ON ICJ RULING

BBC RADIO SCOTLAND PROMOTES MORE ICJ DISINFORMATION

On May 5th we received a standard response from the BBC Complaints department which included the following:

“We wanted to let you know that we have referred your complaint to the relevant people and are still looking into it. We regret that it may take a little bit longer before we can reply. Please wait to hear from us before you contact us any further – we appreciate your patience.

Although we reply to most complaints within 2 weeks we cannot achieve this every time. It depends on what your complaint was about and how many others we are handling, or may sometimes be due to issues outside of our control. Sometimes it can take a while to hear back from the key people involved, but we often find the wait is worth it.”

On May 26th the BBC informed us that:

“We are writing to say sorry that we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for. We manage this for most complaints, but it’s not always possible – we apologise that it’s now overdue.”

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC’s failure to adhere to its self-imposed time frame for responding to complaints. As many readers will know from personal experience, responses to complaints all too often fail to meet the terms set out in the BBC Complaints Framework.

What does make that response interesting, however, is that six of the nine items included in our complaint underwent amendment – in some cases more than once – during May, not necessarily on the dates that footnotes were added.

Israel reined in by ICJ rulings on Gaza – but will it obey?” by Paul Adams, January 26th 2024.

Originally read:

“But even if the situation eases – and there’s no sign yet – the fact remains that Israel still stands accused of genocide, a case the ICJ believes is plausible and thus worthy of further detailed consideration.”

Now reads:

“But even if the situation eases – and there’s no sign yet – the fact remains that Israel still stands accused of genocide, a case the ICJ believes is worthy of further detailed consideration.”

Footnote:

Israel-Gaza briefing: Obstacles to peace seem larger than ever after six months of war” by Jeremy Bowen, April 7th 2024.

Originally read:

“Evidence is accumulating that both Hamas and Israel may have committed war crimes. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is investigating Israel for “plausible” allegations of genocide against the Palestinians in a case brought by South Africa. The ICJ cannot try a case against Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by the US and UK, and many others, as it is not a state.”

Now reads:

“Evidence is accumulating that both Hamas and Israel may have committed war crimes. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Palestinians had “plausible rights to protection from genocide” which were at a real risk of irreparable damage in a case brought by South Africa. The ICJ cannot try a case against Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by the US and UK, and many others, as it is not a state.”

Footnote:

Columbia University: Pro-Palestinian protesters refuse to disband” by Brandon Drenon, April 23rd 2024.

Originally read:

“Israel strongly denies any suggestion that it is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave, though the International Court of Justice has said the accusation was “plausible”.”

Now reads:

“Following a case brought by South Africa the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found that Palestinians had “plausible rights to protection from genocide” – rights which were at a real risk of irreparable damage. Israel strongly denies any suggestion that it is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave.”

Footnote:

House speaker Mike Johnson heckled by protesters in tense Columbia campus visit” by Bernd Debusmann Jr and Mike Wendling, April 24th 2024.

Originally read:

“Israel strongly denies any suggestion that it is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave, though the International Court of Justice has said the accusation was “plausible”.”

Now reads:

“Following a case brought by South Africa the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found that Palestinians had “plausible rights to protection from genocide” – rights which were at a real risk of irreparable damage Israel strongly denies any suggestion that it is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave.” [absence of punctuation after “damage” in the original]

Footnote:

US college protests: Hundreds more arrested across US in Gaza campus protests” by Lipika Pelham, April 25th 2024.

Originally read:

“Israel strongly denies any suggestion that it is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave, though the International Court of Justice has said the accusation was “plausible”.”

Now reads:

“Following a case brought by South Africa the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found that Palestinians had “plausible rights to protection from genocide” – rights which were at a real risk of irreparable damage Israel strongly denies any suggestion that it is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave.” [absence of punctuation after “damage” in the original]

Footnote:

Live Page, April 25th 2024:

Originally read:

Now reads:

In other words, nearly a week before the BBC told us that it had “not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for” it had already made changes to most of the items that were the topic of that complaint. The BBC’s response also told us that we could “refer this delay and the substance of your complaint to the BBC’s regulator Ofcom” if we so wished.

Fortunately, before wasting Ofcom’s time and resources, we checked the items concerned before taking up that suggestion.

 

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