Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Question and "answer"

TAE's question to the BBC, sent on Jan 21.

A study of the BBC website's coverage of the death penalty in both the US and China shows remarkably skewed coverage. In 2005, the BBC did at least 28 articles focusing exclusively on some aspect of the death penalty in the US: 21 articles about specific individuals who faced execution, and 7 articles more generally about the death penalty (of the 'waning support for death penalty' variety). All this coverage on a nation that executed 60 people in 2005. Contrast this with China, a nation that according to Amnesty International executed 'at least 3,400' people in 2005. From my search of the BBC website, I could uncover only 2 articles focusing exclusively on the death penalty in China: 2 articles of a general nature, and zero articles about any specific individual who faced execution. What explanation does the BBC have for this undeniable imbalance in its coverage?

The BBC's response, received Jan 24:

Thank you for your e-mail with regards to the BBC News output.

I note your objections to the BBC reporting on significantly more to aspects of the death penalty in the US rather than China where more executions take place. In dealing with any controversial matter the BBC is required to give a fair and balanced report. Bias cannot simply be judged principally on the quantity allocated to each separate case, and BBC journalists are expected to put their own political views aside when conducting work for the BBC in order to produce an even handed report which should enable the public to come to their own conclusions. Perfect balance is difficult to achieve on every single occasion but overall it is a more achievable goal.

Nevertheless, please be assured I have registered your comments regarding this issue and have made them available to the BBC News department and the senior BBC management. Feedback of this nature helps us when making decisions about future BBC services and your comment will play a part in this process.

I would however also like to make you aware of a television programme being produced by BBC News that gives viewers the chance to air their concerns directly with those responsible for our news output. You can e-mail 'NewsWatch' at the address below if you would like your views to be considered for this programme:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/feedback/default.stm

Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC.

Regards
Adam Sims
BBC Information


Well then, if the BBC "requires" fair and balanced reporting and "expects" its correspondents to put their personal views aside, it couldn't possibly be true that their coverage of the US and Chinese use of the death penalty was skewed. Forget everything I've said.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I note your objections to the BBC reporting on significantly more to aspects of the death penalty in the US rather than China......etc etc etc...Adam Sims
BBC Information"
Anybody got the vaguest idea what that lot meant? I've read it thru 3 times now and am still trying to get some sense out of it. Yes they are biased about the subject in question? No they're not?

10:35 PM  
Blogger Robert Englund said...

It's a form letter, along the lines of "I note your objections to [insert brief synopsis here]. In dealing with any controversial matter the BBC is required..." Scott asked a question. He didn't raise an objection or make any accusations of bias. Imbalance, perhaps, but not bias. Yet both "objection" and "bias" are addressed in the BBC's letter. In short, it's a non-response. It means nothing.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Michael Taylor said...

Last week I made an official complaint about a really nasty anti-American rant by Jon Holmes on Radio 4's The Now Show. Thought you might be interested in what I got back from them. . .

"Thank you for your e-mail regarding the 'Now Show' broadcast on the 14 January 2006.

"I understand you have concerns that the programme featured an anti-American tirade. Your views and those of other members of our audience were put to the producer of the programme, Colin Anderson, who responded as follows:

"We are sorry for any offence caused, Jon Holmes' piece ended in what was supposed to be a comedically exaggerated, bombastic style.

I considered his extrapolation from a disagreement with test-screening audiences to such a ridiculous assault on an entire nation to be a humorous one and didn't imagine it offending people as it clearly has in some cases.

The fact that the nation in question was America meant that I didn't see it as in any way racist and also that it was picking on an inherently strong target rather than bullying a minority. I do not believe that Jon was in any way attempting to encourage racial or xenophobic hatred, rather that he was trying to make a joke of his own over-reaction.

In spite of all this, some listeners have taken Jon Holmes tone as being an intentionally nasty one. This was not our intention and we will be watchful against this happening in future."

I hope this is of some assurance that the programme never meant to cause offence and that Colin Anderson will be monitoring future content on the programme more closely. Your comments have been registered on our audience log which is made available to Radio 4 and senior BBC management.

Thank you again for contacting the BBC with the strength of your views."

I replied:

"I wonder whether you might ask Colin Anderson whether, given his explanation, he can conceive of any level of abuse of Americans which he would find unacceptable."

8:49 AM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

M Taylor: LOL! Anderson will be "busy."

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This year I will be mostly ignoring the BBC

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Grumpy Troll said...

You shall nevertheless have to pay for it.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Simon Lazarus said...

Thanx for the link to send comments, Scott.

I for one will be sending a detailed letter to the powers that be at the BBC asking why they reported on the Roger Keith Coleman case here in the US but basically played the story as if Coleman were innocent, and quoting only anti-DP advocates, and leaving out the evidence outside of DNA that nailed him. Then, when the DNA showed that Coleman was in fact guilty and was properly put to death, the story the BBC did was half-assed, incomplete, and speculating "what might have happened" if Coleman's DNA had not matched.

I would like the BBC to answer once and for all why they allow their consistent leftist biases to pervade each and every story they report.

Simon Lazarus
www.joobo.blogspot.com

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody needs to buy a tv licence - it's the people who choose to that keep the BBC going (I haven't had a licence for 8 years)

http://www.tvlicensing.biz/phpBB2/

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the point is: the US is supposed (and keeps telling everybody) to be morally superior to totalitarian China.

Isn't it ?

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Events in the US are of significantly greater interest to viewers and listeners in the UK, given the political, economic and cultural influence it has on the UK. Therefore there is inevitably more coverage of stories from the US than China and this doesnt necessarily constitute a bias. Eg. If Bush makes a speech it may well get coverage but the same is unlikely to be said of the Chinese leader (how many UK viewers would even know his name off the top of their heads, like they would President Bush? Though no doubt you'd blame the BBC for this!)

What's more, the US is the only developed, democracy that retains the controversial death penalty whereas China is not so open and transparent and is often criticised for its poor human rights record. Perhaps if you search BBC output for reports about human rights abuses in China you'd find alot more coverage? Are they supposed to research and compile a report about Chinese executions evertime they feature one about the US? Tookie Williams was newsworthy. His case added an interesting angle to what is a controversial debate. Should they not have reported it unless they could find a similar report from China? what about Iran? Saudia Arabia? et al?

You mention that you were unable to find any reports about specific executions in China. Did it occur to you that information about such things is not so easy to come by in a society such as China's whereas executions in the US are much more transparent and well publicised. If theyve got the info on executions of Chinese people they'll cover it.

'Bias cannot simply be judged principally on the quantity allocated to each separate case' - This means they dont judge balance/bias on a statistical basis. Are those reports fair?Are they accurate? Do they give all significant strands of opinion? This is how they should be judged.

The Right think theyre lefties, the Left thinks theyre right wing, Israelis think theyre anti-Israeli, Palestinians think they anti-them etc etc.
At the end of the day, the BBC is impartial. Youre not.

Ps. Maybe you missed 'China Week', a series of programmes about China, its society, culture,econmoy, music etc across all BBC networks? It addressed China's human rights records.

How about that for a response? Thats probably more like what they would like to say to you. That, and Get a Life !

11:00 PM  

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