Protesters force BBC to confront its pro-Israel bias

Thousands of protesters descended on BBC’s London headquarters on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Facebook page)

Approximately 5,000 protesters brought the roads around the BBC’s London headquarters to a standstill on 15 July, forcing the news organization to confront its one-sided coverage of Israel’s current assault on Gaza.

As the protesters shouted “BBC, shame on you,” Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), handed in a letter to the BBC’s Director General, Tony Hall. The letter calls on the BBC to reflect the reality of Gaza’s occupation and siege in its reporting. The open letter had been signed by 45,000 people in under a week. Signatories include scholar Noam Chomsky, filmmaker John Pilger, film director Ken Loach, musician Brian Eno, journalist Owen Jones and comedian and filmmaker Jeremy Hardy.

Protesters held up placards bearing statements from the letter, including: “We would like to remind the BBC that Gaza has no army, air force or navy” and “The BBC’s reporting of Israel’s assaults on Gaza is entirely devoid of context or background.” Speakers from organizations including Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa and Stop the War addressed the crowds.

As BBC employees watched from the top of their building, some recording the protest on mobile phones and tweeting out the footage, Lanning told the protestors: “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there’s the BBC. Come on BBC, tell the truth — it’s the occupation, stupid.”

“Have we been biased at the BBC?”

Taking place on its doorstep, and with police having to guide out BBC staff who wanted to leave the building, it was a protest against its coverage that the BBC couldn’t ignore.

And the next day, the BBC’s flagship news program Today on Radio 4, ran a seven-minute segment asking, in the words of presenter Mishal Husain, “Are the protestors right? Have we been biased at the BBC in favor of Israel?”

It was an unprecedented segment — and maybe the first time the BBC has publicly held up a mirror to its reporting of the occupation.

Answering the question was Greg Philo, co-author of More Bad News from Israel, an in-depth study of the BBC and ITV’s (another British television network) coverage of Palestine, and professor of Communications and Social Change at Glasgow University.

Philo’s answers also broke new ground for the BBC. Uninterrupted, Philo was allowed to talk about subjects which normally appear to be taboo across the BBC’s output: Israel’s occupation, its siege of Gaza, the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948, Israel’s “brutal apartheid” as he was allowed to describe it, and the illegality of Israel’s actions.

And, throughout, he emphasised the lack of the Palestinian viewpoint in BBC coverage in general.

Philo also praised those who had been at the demonstration, telling Husain: “I think actually the protesters are doing the BBC a favor. I think they will help the journalists to give a better perspective … I’ve had many senior journalists at the BBC saying they simply can’t get the Palestinian viewpoint across, that the perspective they can’t say is the Palestinian view that Israel is a brutal apartheid state.”


Asked by Husain what picture is given by BBC reporting, Philo replied: “Well, the Palestinian perspective is just not there. The Israelis are on twice as much. But the Palestinian view and the historical analysis of the events is that they were displaced from their land, they are living under military rule.”

He added: “People don’t even understand that it’s a military occupation that Palestinians are subject to. They don’t know about the economic blockade, they don’t know about the consequences of that on Palestinian life.”

As Husain interrupted to argue that the BBC had carried “many reports from Gaza … reporting on the casualties, reporting from the morgues,” Philo came back to remind her that the underlying story was not being dealt with.

“The problem with the coverage is that it doesn’t refer to the history,” he said. “That [the Palestinians] lost their homes and lands, that the occupation and the way it is conducted is illegal, that they lose their water, that they had their lives, in effect, stolen from them … Even if the BBC can’t give the Palestinian view, it should at least respect international law. The BBC should be reporting the international judgements on things like the wall …”

Here, he was stopped as Husain brought in Jonathan Friedland, journalist with the Guardian and The Jewish Chronicle, who managed to speak for only a few seconds in the whole seven-minute segment.

Philo was given extraordinary free rein by an organization which has shown — over and over again — its averseness to the Palestinian experience.

His interview on Today followed not only the previous day’s protests, but a Twitter storm on 14 July, initiated by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, during which the hashtag #BBCTruth4Gaza trended at number one in the UK for three hours, and at number four worldwide.

National newspapers in the UK covered the BBC protests and the open letter in depth, with articles and photographs in the Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard

Local protests have also taken place outside BBC studios around the country in the last six days, organized by local PSC branches, including Nottingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

In More Bad News from Israel, Philo describes the backlash for BBC management from those who support Israel’s occupation whenever anything is published or broadcast that doesn’t accord with the Israeli viewpoint. He quotes a senior BBC editor telling him: “We wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis.

The hope is that this week’s protests in London and around the country — and a letter signed by 45,000 — will show the BBC that there is a massive groundswell of its audience who want it to report fully, accurately and honestly on the occupation, and desperately want its journalists to find the courage to do so.

Greg Philo’s interview with Mishal Husain can be heard here (starting from 2:39) until 23 July.




I am disgusted at the BBC for bias reports and all I can say is, people in this working in this field need qualities of having some principles honesty, courage and intergrity but it has only proven itself to be a true definition of cowardness.


Actually the BBC regularly discusses its own coverage of the con flict, so not 'unprecedented' at all.

It's vital that the BBC guards its independence and does not allow its coverage to be influenced by political pressure groups such as yours.


BBC "guards its independence"??
How so, if you have admitted to being bias under the pressure and the "fear of Israelis telephone call"?? What independence? If you were guarding your independence, ( the BBC), shouldn't you have ALWAYS report without being bias? Shouldn't you not have fear of getting "Israli phone calls"?
Reasses that "guarding of independence" though you are putting out here whilst clearly still NOT actually practicing that "independence".
What ever happen' to freedom of speach amongst reporters and reporting??


> "Actually the BBC regularly discusses its own coverage of the conflict"

Yup. Just like Goebbels used to welcome open criticism of HIS hasbara, too....right?

> "It's vital that the BBC guards its independence "

Adolf insisted that his PR be impartial, too.


The BBC, like NPR in America, shills for the Jewish State. The only ones who can't admit that are Ziombies.


Sorry, but I have just listened to this segment and noted that Greg Philo was interrupted several times by Mishal Hussein, who would not allow him to reiterate several crucial comments, whilst at the same time Jonathan Freedland was NOT ONCE interrupted! Freedland was also able to speak for at least two minutes so not sure how that equates to a few seconds...

Clearly the BBC still has some important lessons to learn.


We need to use this time not to talk to each other but to talk to the broader world. And that is what these guys are doing.

You can support that by going after hasbara in the few places that are claiming to be "honest and open" like this group of blackholes...


People should NOT pay the TV licence as the BBC are in breech of contract. They are NOT unbiased at all. Shame on you BBC and a shame to the whole of the UK that its taken this long to bring this to light.


I would like to think that the BBC will alter its Israel bias. However, Kate Adies's introduction in "From Our Own Correspondent" this week makes one despair of this. Adies's introduction was 'Isreal's fight against Palestinian militants in Gaza'. Surely the correct opening should have been 'Palestine's fight against Israel's illegal occupation'.


agree wholeheartedly @Sacha Baggili comments.
Your having a laugh! BBC reporting factually is a thing of the past!


BBC Newschannel late thursday 17th into Friday 18th repeatedly broadcast the statement from British born Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner!
This added nothing whatsoever to the NEWS but was instead a FREE BBC propaganda broacast setting out the Israeli excuse for bombing and killing the Palestinian people of Gaza!
They then compounded their bias, by inviting a spokesman from the Henry Jackson Society-who reiterated the sickening Israeli mantra that 'Hamas hides behind the civilians!' The BBC should not use the questionable Henry Jackson Society, whose views are known to be Pro-Israel!


The very impressive interview given by Ali Abunimah on BBC News during the very early hours of this morning - was the first time that I'd ever even heard of electronicintifada. Ali - very politely but firmly told the BBC exactly what he thought of the BBC's coverage of Palestinian issues - and it's coverage of the Gaza conflict.
As for my own views on the BBC's coverage - there is no doubt in my mind that despite the honest reporting of Jeremy Bowen; BBC editorial policy is definitely pro the State of Israel. There have even been reports in the past - that BBC executives have even had meetings with Israeli diplomats at the Israeli embassy in London...
For all of you guys in Gaza - you're in my thoughts and prayers.


BBC Coverage, you say,

"It's vital that the BBC guards its independence and does not allow its coverage to be influenced by political pressure groups such as yours"

It's already been influenced, nay, dictated byZionist political pressure. The BBC is part of a rotten self serving establishment. That comment shows a half arsed response at best to these accusations.

Not in my name


Why are Palestinian group Hamas referred to as terrorists and Israeli army as soldiers???? Exactly which side has massacred over 300 civilians in a little over a week? Which side has killed innocent toddlers and babies??? Which side has invaded? And which side has subjected the other to military occupation?? The Palestinians are desperate people living under military confinement, displaced from their homeland. The Israeli army has effectively invaded a civilian refugee camp and murdering civilians especially children who they view as terrorists. .read their literature, read the comments on social media from Israelis and you will find the real story from the horses mouth! The hate and lack of compassion for those who are dieing clearly shows Israeli aims are the civilians...They are targeting children...The 4 boys killed on the open field running away from the firing soldiers in the air clearly demonstrate it is Israel who is hiding behind Hamas to commit genocide against a whole nation.


Despite the disinformation deployed by corporate media, massive protests have erupted worldwide in support of Gaza. What does this indicate? Sociological studies reflect a distrust in government institutions that is growingly universally, particularly in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. Likewise, there is a growing perception of traditional media outlets as complicit in public sector corruption. As a result, more people seek alternative news sources and question the official narrative presented by discredited media institutions. Perhaps the only upside of an otherwise Orwellian scenario vis-a-vis Israeli control of corporate media.

So glad to learn that Electronic Intifada is getting record hits and finally receiving recognition for its exceptional reporting.


Its unfortunate how late people are in realising (or reprimanding) Bbc for their bias reports. It's not only them, Cnn are in it, and most of the American media. Even for a guy with a below average intellect (like me), the lies are only too obvious.


Sky aren't any better. It's Western bias. In Israel we have names and families of people killed, same with the MH17. This is what is missing from Gaza, the human scale tragedies that are arising by the minute. The woman's hand under the rubble shown last night, and the children with their grandmother hearing the news of their mother's death - this is the reality. At the same time we must not forget that without the shield, Israel would be experiencing similar carnage from the rockets from Gaza. A solution has to be found and it has to involve people being given their land back. There is no other lasting solution possible.


I have really been surprised by the lack of context for the situation of the Palestinians given by the BBC. If you relied upon their information of the
attacks on Gaza you gain an impression that Palestinians are being used as human shields and Israel has no choice but to accept that in order to protect their citizens there will be civilians killed. This is the repeated message as soon as the tragic reports of the suffering of Palestinians is presented. So the reports run detailing the deaths and suffering from attacks on homes and hospitals, followed by an Israeli spokesperson regretting the situation but having no choice as there are rebels firing rockets at Israel from tunnels beneath the buildings hit
and they dutifully warned the victims to clear the areas ahead of each attack.
Without any context of the Palestinian situation, how they are forced to live in dreadful oppression while Israel's treatment of them is not understood by the rest of the world, this reporting is terribly biased and damaging. I know that some of the Israeli people themselves have had enough of the way their government acts and that the country is so militarised therefore a wider perspective needs to be shown to break through this miserable situation of two peoples living in such turmoil.


Disgusting. We are forced to pay for a licence of what is quickly becoming a propaganda machine for a few and the worst of all is that doesn't seem to be that bothered in hiding it.
What Israel is doing in Gaza is atrocious and those international powers supporting it and turning a blind eye are as guilty. They do not seem to turn a blind eye against Russia though, even they are not the ones actively fighting. Russia may supply weapons to the rebels, but let's be honest, somebody must be supplying weapons to Israel and Hamas. So, what about sanctions to those powers too?
One has really to wonder what the real interests of the BBC are here and who is moving the handles. With the numbers of Palestinians being killed and the infrastructure being targeted it is rather obvious that the nonsense of 'right to defend ourselves' claimed by Israel is simply that: nonsense. More so because this doesn't seem to apply the other way: every politician in the west seems to think that 'Gaza should stop firing rockets so Israel can even consider stop blasting Gaza' (never mind the damage done by those rockets is minimal compared with the massacre done by Israel). The question in my mind that has never been properly addressed in the BBC is: why is Gaza firing rockets? and under what right is Israel imposing that blockade on Gaza? I wonder how they would feel if somebody else imposed a blockade on them. Actually we know that already after EU and even US stop flying there for just 24h! Outrage is an understatement!
Now, what about the West bank, didn't that belong to Palestina as well, when did it become part of Israel? Is Israel (and those supporting them) taking advantage of the lack of army from their opponent? If that is the situation, the 'defense case' looks weak behind shadows of an active invasion.
But I guess that this is only my humble and probably inaccurate opinion. Perhaps my opinion could be more accurate had the BBC allowed an open debate on this issue .


Yet again the BBC Newsnight programme keeps on showing bias towards Israel in their interviews with pro-Israeli politicians and leading figures in Israel i.e. the programme shown last night where a pro Israeli politician was interviewed by Robert Preston! The interviewers do NOT challenge these individuals by getting to the crux of the matter by firing questions at them asking why they do not lift the blockade on Gaza, why they have stolen their lands and built a wall in effect committing apartheid! This is the root of the war going on at the moment! Where are the Palestinian viewpoints? These programmes are 'sickening' beyond belief with their hypocrisy!


Brothers! While you are screaming about Palestinians, Assad kills us by hundreds of thousands. A dying Syrian...

Amena Saleem

Amena Saleem's picture

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza and spent seven years working for Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK.