A week is a long time in Gaza. Or, how the BBC covered 38 consecutive breaking news stories …

As airstrikes rain down on Gaza the BBC sends a reporter to an Israeli children’s soft play centre

The BBC’s reporting on the current conflict in Gaza has been subject to claim and counter-claim of bias from pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli camps.  Surely they can’t both be right. I decided to take a closer look at the BBC Breaking News twitter feed to try and determine whether there was any substance to the claims.

Over the last seven days @BBCBreaking have flagged up 38 breaking news stories related to the current crisis in Gaza.  I’ve made copies of them all and present all of them here, in chronological order, added my own commentary above each one.  (The final one is from around 10am this morning). Many of these stories have disappeared now or have been amalgamated into other commentary.  The headlines give an insight into how the BBC is weighting its coverage. Feel free to disregard my comments and draw your own conclusions.


STORY 01:  Nov 16th:  Report on air raid sirens in Jerusalem.

STORY 02:  Nov 16th: Confirmation of attack from Hamas. Weapons described as “long range rockets”.  (Keep this in mind when searching for BBC descriptions of weapons used by Israeli military.)

STORY 03:  Nov 16th: “No casualties” reported after Hamas rocket fire.  (Compare with Story 04):

STORY 04:  Nov 16th:  Running total of fatalities (without mentioning where or by what type of ordnance).

STORY 05: Nov 17th:  Report on successful Israeli attack against a military target.  No mention of strikes on civilian population.  BBC source:  Israeli military.

STORY 06:  Nov 17th: Numerical update on fatalities in previous 48 hours.

STORY 07:  Nov 17th: Report on rocket fire landing on Tel Aviv.  No mention of specific Israeli missile strikes in Gaza.

STORY 08:  Nov 17th: IDF Press Release regurgitated on successful rebuff of rocket attack.  BBC repeat IDF operational codename:  “Iron Drone”.

STORY 09:  Nov 17th:  Running total of total casualties over previous 48 hours.  Disparity in fatalities is the big story and balanced coverage would be expected to reflect this in weighting of news stories.

STORY 10:  Nov 18th:  BBC regurgitate Israeli military Press Release on quantity of Hamas rocket attacks and number of IDF successful interceptions.  No mention of number of missiles & bombs launched by Israeli military and airforce into Gaza.   Probably more than 8…

STORY 11:   Nov 18th:  Report on Israeli military air strike which doesn’t land on Palestinian people but hits the geographical landmass of “northern Gaza”.

STORY 12:  Nov 18th:  No mention of Israeli ordnance fired in relentless air bombardment of Gaza.  However BBC regurgitate yet another IDF Press Release about successfully interception of TWO rockets.

STORY 13:  Nov 18th: Report on Israeli PM’s threat to escalate destruction and killings in Gaza.  Headline is couched in Israeli-acceptable terminology: “significantly expand”.

STORY 14:  Nov 18th:  Bland statistical report on Palestinian deaths and injuries.

STORY 15:  Nov 18th:  Worst atrocity of Israeli attack is reported as “nine people killed”. Reality:  4 women were killed and 4 were children killed. They were all members of the Al-Dalou family and were aged 10, 7, 5 and 1.  BBC headline concentrates on IDF Press Release claiming that it was the home of a “Hamas official.”

STORY 16:  Another IDF Press Release is uncritically regurgitated which compares number of missiles FIRED by Hamas (and successfully intercepted) with the number of “TARGETS HIT” by Israelis.  Q. Would it have been fair and competent journalism if the BBC compared numbers of Israeli missiles launched in their blitz with the number of targets actually struck by Hamas missiles?

STORY 17:  More Palestinian deaths are reported but in Israeli-acceptable language. NOTE: When Palestinian deaths are reported they are done so as Hamas claims, and are presented in QUOTE MARKS.  (Quote marks are used for opinions rather than facts).

STORY 18:  Nov 18th: Fatalities escalate but are presented without comparative figures on each side.

STORY 19:  Nov 19th:  When Israeli airstrikes are launched from billion dollar high-tech aircraft it is reported as “shelling”.  This term is rarely used for Hamas.  Hamas always fire “rockets”.

STORY 20:  Nov 19th: Carnage of previous night’s Israeli onslaught is downplayed and blandly reported as “18 Palestinians killed”.  No mention of age, sex or civilian status.  Headline refers (yet again) to “targeting 80 sites”.  Repeated use of IDF’s preferred terminology – “targeting sites” is questionable.  Used by BBC used to give impression of clinical strikes on military targets rather than civilian populations.

STORY 21:  An IDF Press Release is regurgitated by BBC as they try to defend the mass murder of a large Palestinian family.  There is no mention of the 4 children killed including the 1 year old baby. Weight is given to IDF claim that it was a “legitimate target” because, it is claimed, a Hamas official lived there.  NOTE: The IDF claim is uncritically presented without quote marks:

STORY 22:  Quote marks are wheeled out for a Hamas leader’s comments.

STORY 23:  This Hamas claim is accepted by BBC (no quote marks).

STORY 24:  Nov 19th:  An Israeli attack on a Gaza media building is legitimised by contextualising it in terms of the death of an alleged “Islamic Jihad militant”.  No quote marks on “Islamic Jihad militant”.  IDF claims are accepted verbatim.

STORY 25:  Nov 19th:  Palestinian death toll “rises above 100”.  BBC has no need for exact numbers when it is Palestinian lives that are lost.

STORY 26:  Nov 19th: Palestinian couple and their young children killed.  (Edit from error in original post).

STORY 27:  Nov 20th:  Another Israeli Press Release regurgitated as a BBC news story, again couched in IDF military doublespeak about “targeted sites”:

STORY 28:  Bland numerical reporting of 5 more Palestinian deaths.

STORY 29:  Israel’s funder-in-chief flies in to Israel presumably to pat them on the head and reassure the Israeli government that no UN action will be taken against them.

STORY 30: Nov 20: Among the stench of death and destruction a stabbing is reported! In “Tel Aviv, Israel”.

STORY 31:  Nov 21: BBC choose to headline a SINGLE rocket landing NEAR Jerusalem.  They also regurgitate a press release about “air raid sirens sounding”.  Air raid sirens are symbolic of fear and mass panic. None of the BBC headlines imply fear or panic in Gaza.

STORY 32:  Nov 21:  Statement from Egypt.

STORY 33:  Nov 21st: An IDF Press Release (attributed correctly for a change) is reported on a Hamas attack which injures 5 IDF soldiers.  It would seem that 5 injured Israeli combatants carry more headline weight that 4 Palestinian children killed by an aerial blitz.

STORY 34:  Nov 21st: Reports of a possible ceasefire.

STORY 35:  Nov 21st:  IDF Press Release about one of their combatants killed is given headline treatment by BBC.  We learn he was hit by a rocket from Gaza and died of his injuries.  These are more details than we learn of any Palestinian civilian or child killed in last 7 days.

STORY 36:  Nov 21st: Report on the unlikelihood of imminent cease-fire.

STORY 37:  Nov 22nd: Israeli airstrike on Gaza hits media building staffed by BBC.  Thankfully, we are informed, no BBC journalists were injured.

STORY 38:  Nov 22nd:  A BBC headline finally questions Israeli military spin. It needed the Sec Gen of the UN to say it though which could hardly be ignored.

Comments (13)

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  1. David McCann says:

    Well done Kevin. I suggets you send this to Media Lens who have really started to lift the lid on BBC reporting.

  2. Holebender says:

    Story 26 clearly says the family was killed in Gaza by Israelis, not in Israel by Hammas (as stated in your comment).

  3. bellacaledonia says:

    Holebender – I misread that one. Thanks for pointing it out. My comment is now changed.

  4. “Disparity in fatalities is the big story”

    Is something a big story if it is entirely predictable?

    Although Hamas strive to kill civilians with their rockets (a War Crime), they are not very effective. At the same time HAMAS ensure that they locate their positions close to civilians (also a War Crime), and this means that some civilians get caught in the crossfire.

    You can’t expect the BBC to have the same ‘Hamas PR department’ attitude to reporting this as yourself.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      “HAMAS ensure that they locate their positions close to civilians (also a War Crime), and this means that some civilians get caught in the crossfire.”

      Hamas are in government in Gaza. Governments traditionally tend to operate close to civilians.

    2. Donald says:

      Gaza is the most densely packed area on Earth. The civilians have nowhere to run. And Israel does target civilians. They just lie about it, and our media lets them get away with it.

    3. I believe that the Gaza Strip has the greatest density of population than anywhere else on this planet with a limited water supply which doesn’t give them many options.

  5. Albalha says:

    Thanks for the research. As you’ll know The Glasgow Media Group’s 2004 Bad News From Israel (followed in 2011 by More Bad News From Israel) documents the skewed, selective reporting and just how ill informed people in the UK are as a result. Sadly those in power are unlikely to change course until there really is a major political/global shift. Look at Cameron at PMQ’s today talking about the Tel Aviv bus, as Dispatches found out 80% of Conservative MPs are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and many in the other parties too.

    Have any of our MSP’s spoken out?

  6. Well done Kevin. So blatant. And of course every BBC News story today leads on the bus bombing…

  7. Keith says:

    Ah yes, the bus bombing, incorrectly reported by the BBC as being claimed and “masterminded” by Hamas. They led with that false report hour after hour. (Well done, Kevin!)

    1. Keith, the so-called ‘bus-bombing’ was done by an Israeli man!

  8. markgolding683357650 says:

    One hopes the BBC is set on a path of destruction simply because the BBC is blindly resolute in supporting a long deceased great power structure that has continued to extend the impossible by deception and war.

    That deception endeavors to manipulate our thinking by diversion and entertainment in much the same way an ancient Rome near to collapse staged gladiator gore in the arena’s of death.

    Yet this fondling of our cognitive map is finally emerging as bankrupt simply because the Internet, that great British HTTP invention called the ‘www’ has already begun to evolve our lives from people like Craig who speak the truth in the face of this collective delusion. We realise to understand something is to be liberated from it.

    We exist in an age of consequence. Too long have we endured a rapacious financial system, abject poverty for millions, escalating war, violence, torture and environmental fall-out.

    Government and religion have stalled. Our lives reside with war, conquest, poverty disparity and death.

    Those four Horsemen are active and real. The very trait that enabled us to survive is the very trait that has suppressed us.

    I believe we can no longer allow the gate-keepers to overwhelm our thoughts and obscure our reasoning.

    The power of intention forced Israel to cease fire with Hamas. It is that power in our blogs, tweets, websites, films, voice and boots on the ground that will free the people of Gaza from the blades of genocide; the blood of their children will stain Israel, putrefy her cause and render her leaders prostate and paralysed. The sequel is overdue.

  9. randyjw says:

    If BBC is staffing Al Jazeera or Agence-France Press, then I, for one, would like to know! Your commentary says Israel damaged a MEDIA building staffed by BBC. The BBC blurb says a hotel was damaged, where BBC staff were….(were doing what? Staying? Were they inside the hotel? How did the damage occur?) There is nothing at all mentioned about a BBC media building. Where did you come up with that falsehood?

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