Jerry Timmins, head of Africa and Middle East, World Service, BBC Editors blog:
Professor Frank Stewart attacked BBC Arabic in the New York Times on 15 March (“British Biased Corporation”). He says BBC Arabic is “as anti-western as anything that comes out of the Gulf if not more so.”I wonder in which direction Mr Stewart’s receiver is pointing. Possibly his agenda interferes with reception. Professor Stewart has written to the BBC at great length about his views. Recently he wrote a nine page critique of the BBC Arabic Service’s coverage of the conflict in Lebanon, claiming among other things that we were anti-Israeli. We were able to respond in great detail showing that his highly selective and misleading account of our coverage was unfair and showed no knowledge of the brave and comprehensive coverage that had in fact been broadcast and which included clear and impartial accounts of Israeli views and experiences during the war. Having failed to substantiate his detailed criticism he now resorts to a generalised attack in the New York Times.
To be fair, Mr Timmins then goes on to address specific criticisms that the New York Times article made of specific programmes and to mount a general defence of the World Service’s Arabic coverage, again with examples (and since, not understanding Arabic, I’ve never listened to the station, so I can’t comment) but it struck me as a bit rum to say, ‘He sent us a detailed critique but it was all unjustified’ and leave it at that.
Don’t we get to find out what the criticisms were and how they were rebutted? I’m fully prepared to believe that Professor Stewart’s criticisms were unjustified, but I rather hope that the Africa and Middle East Service’s standards of journalism are a bit more critical than ‘However, the criticisms can safely be dismissed because an official spokesman told us there was no substance to them’.