TV news biased against Palestinians, says study

British television news is routinely biased towards the Israeli view of the conflict, according to academic research.

As a result of lobbying by the Israeli government’s public relations machine and the difficulties of explaining a complex story in ratings-driven bulletins, few people can understand the roots of the story, the Glasgow Media Group suggest.

Young people in particular are unaware of key elements of the conflict. In a sample of 300 questioned by the researchers, only 9% knew that Israel was the occupying force.

When the intifada began in 2000, a team led by Professor Greg Philo of Glasgow University examined 3,536 lines of text transcribed from 89 news bulletins. Only 17 lines were devoted to the conflict’s history.

Consequently, he said, the Israeli side was favoured, because attacks were portrayed as responses to Palestinian acts.

Writing in today’s Guardian, he adds: “A news journalism which seeks neutrality should not endorse any point of view, but there were many departures from this principle.”

The broadcasters deny bias. Roger Mosey, BBC head of television news, said: “I don’t believe there’s any institutional bias towards one side or other in the Middle East conflict.”

ITN said: “We’ve been covering this conflict fairly and impartially for more than half a century. We are not in the business of providing a daily history lesson.”