Tuesday, March 22, 2016

22-Mar-16: At the BBC, they're challenged by terror in quite revealing ways

We wrote earlier today ["22-Mar-16: Belgium's focus on Europe-based jihad just rose several notches"] that
Over at the BBC where using the word "terror" in news reports of jihadist barbarism of the sort that plagues our lives here is strictly controlled and mostly avoided [see "7-Aug-13: Political prisoners, political media"], it appears to have been a tumultuous day. Their lead story this morning appeared around 9:00 am London time under the heading "Brussels Zaventem airport and metro explosions 'kill at least 13'" [archived here], and had no mention of the word "terror". We and others noticed and criticized via Twitter which normally has little effect. Today however, some two hours later and with no fanfare or explanation, the same article (with the same URL) was given a new headline: "Brussels explosions: Many dead in airport and metro terror attacks" [archived here]. Fittingly, it calls the attacks terror - as it should. [Emphasis added]
To summarize, the BBC's editors decided this morning not to call the Brussels attacks terror. Then two hours later, they flipped and decided it was terror after all.

And now (polite but insistent drum-roll, please) the BBC has flipped again. Their report has a third version. It's up now as we write this.

Their main news story on the Brussels outrages, with the same URL as the two previous versions we just mentioned above, now has no mention of terror at all. (Just in case they change their minds again, the current version, as of 5:30 pm London time today, will remain archived here.)

The three screen shots below illustrate what happened during Tuesday.

Version 1 (Tuesday morning):
Version 1 | 9:31 this morning UTC | URL | Archived here
  • "Brussels Zaventem airport and metro explosions 'kill at least 13'
Opening line:
  • Several explosions have struck Brussels airport and the metro system, causing at least 13 deaths, Belgian media say.
Version 2 (Tuesday afternoon):
Version 2 | 12:02 this afternoon UTC  | URLArchived here
  • "Brussels explosions: Many dead in airport and metro terror attacks"
Opening line:
  • Many people have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station, Belgium's PM says.
Version 3 (Tuesday evening)
Version 3 | 17:39 this evening UTC | URLArchived here
  • "Brussels attacks: Zaventem and Maelbeek bombs kill many"
Opening line:
  • More than 30 people are believed to have been killed and dozens injured in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.
So in the end, terrorism has been excised from the BBC report. Same important story. Three different vantage points. And no explanation from BBC management for the changes, and no sign that they want their news consumers to even know.

For the BBC, calling something terror involves operating within narrow, self-imposed doctrinaire guide-lines. They are enshrined in a policy document called "Editorial Guidelines in Full | War, Terror and Emergencies" [current version online on a BBC website here].

And as we have noted over the years, BBC guidelines are one thing. But what BBC editors do is frequently another. We have discussed the double-standards (a polite way of naming what we really mean) numerous times, most recently here: "06-Jan-16: Perceptions and realities at the BBC". Click that link and, in addition to the analysis we share, there's a substantial list of our previous comments, all critically addressing the BBC and its terror strategy.

The chronic, systemic issues which we have highlighted for years are among the most weighty and consequential that a publicly-funded, globe-straddling organization with a mission
to ensure that the BBC gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas.
ever faces.

It has to be said, and especially on a day as fraught and painful as today, that this is how ideological journalism works, no matter how well-rounded the vowels or how pompous the self-justification.

Meanwhile, the jihadists of ISIS have claimed the Brussels killings as their handiwork. See "Brussels attack: ISIS says it's behind terror that killed 30 in Belgian capital" via CNN, this evening.

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