22 July 2006

One media organisation, two views

Posting on the BBC's The Editors blog Richard Porter reflects on two quite different versions of the BBC midday news coverage on Thursday of the evacuations from Lebanon. One, BBC World (Mr Porter's department), focused on the international aspects of the evacuation and drew attention to "a
rising chorus of experts who have raised the question of international humanitarian law". The other, the domestic BBC News 24 channel, depicts the evacuation through Union Jack-tinted spectacles: there is no indication that nationals of other countries were also seeking evacuation.

Porter comments

It's a great thing about the BBC that we have sufficient editorial independence to be able to make these decisions. Both, in their own way, are very focused on the audiences served by the programmes. Neither (in my view) is more correct than the other.

This blandness raises more questions than it dodges. While the BBC does have, as he later states, an obligation to keep British citizens informed of the evacuations, focusing so closely on the British perspective makes it harder for the listeners to get a feeling for the context in which they are taking place, and may in consequence increase rather than allay fears.

Fortunately, like the good BBC person he no doubt is, Porter recants a little at the end of the post:

The challenge for us - whether we be serving domestic or international audiences - is not to lose sight of all the issues. It's complicated; it's changing rapidly; opinions are strongly-held on all sides and need to be properly reflected. So even if we spend a few hours of one day focusing on one aspect - such as the British evacuees - we must make sure that over time we keep coming back to the core questions. What's happening now? What caused this? What's going to resolve it? And many others...

This is a good summary of why I turn to the BBC so often as a major source of my international news.

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