BBC 'not biased' in Middle East

An independent panel report has found that no deliberate or systematic bias was found in BBC coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

In October 2005, the BBC board of governors commissioned the panel to investigate the impartiality of the BBC news and current affairs coverage of the Middle East conflict.

In response to the report published earlier this week, BBC News management said: "We welcome the report’s central finding of ‘no deliberate or systematic bias’ in our coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and our ‘commitment to be fair, accurate and impartial’."

However, the report revealed that while viewers and listeners perceived the coverage to be unbiased, many admitted that they did not understand the conflict and, possibly for that reason, did not see the subject as important or interesting.

Panel chairman Sir Quentin Thomas said in his introductory statement: "It [the BBC] could do better to meet the gold standard which it sets itself in its best programmes."

BBC News management said: "We are confident we have the right editorial structures and processes in place to provide high quality, impartial journalism and to ensure we continue to make progress in developing the authority and comprehensiveness of our output."

In his 2005 Goodman lecture, Michael Grade, chairman of the BBC, admitted that the corporation’s treatment of Israel and Palestine was a long-running issue where "sensitivities were acute" and where management had made significant efforts to improve the BBC’s coverage.

The measures included the creation of the position of Middle East editor in order to strengthen the BBC’s ability to report, analyse and explain developments across the region.

Indeed, the report highlighted BBC management’s "commitment to high standards, the recent developments to strengthen performance including the appointment of Jeremy Bowen as Middle East editor".

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