Not Saussure

March 23, 2007

So that’s all right, then.

Filed under: BBC, press — notsaussure @ 8:18 pm

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’.

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  1. Must be because it’s 1.40 in the morning but you’ve lost me a bit here. I’ll try to follow it tomorrow.

    Comment by jameshigham — March 23, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  2. I read the NYT article at the time, and it was a fairly standard collection of “I once heard a broadcast where some dodgy geezer wasn’t asked hard enough questions” complaints.

    It was impossible to judge the accuracy of the column at the time, since the author didn’t bother to provide links. Pure hearsay, in other words.

    I read the Editors’ blog when I can, and it’s often an insight – it’s amazing how often I’m able to track back the comments to blogs such as USS Neverdock or crazy 9/11 truth sites. That must be the power of links – the blogger in question cries, “Sic ’em, Fido!” and a pack of barking idiots charges off yelping like pups.

    Anyone equipped with a sense of irony should laugh at the notion of an NY Times contributor bemoaning bias. For all that it’s supposed to be a liberal paper, I’ve been reading it online for the past five years, and its bias is typically American – Hizb Shekel, the party of money.

    Like all major American media, it kisses up to the Republicans when they’re politically omnipotent, then kicks them when they’re down. They only started seriously going for Bush’s jugular when it became apparent that the war had gone south in a bad way.

    The American media is fantastically courageous when it comes to shooting the wounded, but seems to lose its bravery when Jack Abramoff and his cronies are installing turnstyles in Congress.

    I understand why anyone who’s a recent convert to online news would imagine that American media has a liberal bias, since it’s generally critical of the Iraq disaster. What I can’t understand is those who watched the wargasms of 2002-3 coming to the same conclusion.

    P.S. In case it’s not obvious, I’m a bit of a Yankophile, and a lot of a geek.

    Comment by Flying Rodent — March 24, 2007 @ 2:11 am

  3. I read the NYT article at the time, too, and wasn’t at all impressed by it either; but neither was I particularly impressed by the Beeb guy saying, in effect, he’s got a bee in his bonnet about us and, as evidence of this, he once sent us a long screed complaining about how biased he thinks we are, but he’d got it completely wrong.

    I’m sure he had got it completely wrong, but I just think that, on principle, if you’re going to say that, you should give the details of what he said and why it was wrong rather than expect the reader to take your word for it.

    They were able to answer his criticism in the NYT article easily enough, so I just thought that either they should do a similar job on this letter he sent them or not mention it.

    If you haven’t seen Alexander Cockburn’s article in The First Post about The Laptop Bombardiers, I think you might enjoy it, particularly his idea for a Beckett play.

    Comment by notsaussure — March 24, 2007 @ 2:27 am

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