Tuesday, January 31, 2006

You're With Yehuda


Over the years, people in Israel have been able to receive very little in the way of English language radio.

There is a very small news program broadcast daily by the IBA. The time allotment for the program shrinks every year and it is always in danger of being canceled. In addition, a few years ago we had an all-English language station for about eight months before it was closed down due to a lack of proper licenses. Jordan also had an English language station for some number of years which shut down a while ago.

That leaves only the steadfast BBC World Service.

British broadcasting services such as Sky News and BBC represent all that we hate in the world of biased journalism. As an example, a few years ago a Palestinian maniac snuck a gun onto a bus and began shooting women and kids right in the face until he was killed by the police. Sky news reported it as "A Palestinian militant was shot and killed a few blocks from an Israeli police station in East Jerusalem." The BBC is similar.

I lived in a settlement in the West Back for five years. When the whole peace-process thing was starting out and Israel was reluctantly dealing with the PLO, BBC came to our settlement to interview someone. They found me.

As I bemusedly watched, they unloaded their van, set up their tripods, loaded their camera, checked their sound, and so on for about five minutes. They finally asked me what I thought about dealing with Arafat. I said that, like all Israelis, I am in favor of negotiation, that improvement in the basic lives of both the Palestinians and Israelis should be the focus of these discussions, and while we are theoretically willing to give up some land for a real peace, Arafat cannot be trusted and I don't believe that he speaks for his people or is interested in a real peace.

The interviewer called "cut" and looked at me unhappily. They spent another five minutes packing up all of their equipment, went to the other side of the settlement and found someone who was willing to shout into the camera: "No peace with the Arabs! They cannot have our land! Arafat is a terrorist!" and so on.

The BBC news reported that while the average Israeli and Palestinian may want peace, the settlers are an obstacle to peace and want to kill all the Arabs.

This is one of several instances in which I encountered first hand what "news" really means:

- News does not mean "what is happening", it means the extreme exception to what is happening. Otherwise, it's not news. Do you want to know what's happening in 99% of the world? Look outside your window. Nothing is happening. People are making food, going to school, going to work, the weather is clear. That's what's happening. If you see something on the news, that means that you are seeing something that is not typical of what's happening.

- News presents both sides of a story as if support for both sides is equal. If 99% of the people want something, and 1% want something else, you can count on seeing one interview for each.

- Nevertheless, newscasters already know the story that they want to present before they present it, and all the visual and audio you see is intended to support that story. News guys don't go out to uncover the truth. BBC wants to show that settlers are wild, crazy Arab-haters - and that's the way BBC will present them. The truth is an inconvenient fiction and won't sell.

- News is a business. Bad news is good business. Poor quality reporting is also good business.


Still, I listen to BBC, because that's what there is. Knowing what I know, I know that I can't believe anything I hear. But it is sometimes entertaining.

Every hour the BBC ends the hour with some jingles. The jingles used to end, "... wherever you are, THIS is the BBC." Lately they have switched to "... YOU'RE with the BBC."

It's not much of a change, but I think it's a good change. "You're with" gives you a sense of community, where "This is" is just self-promoting. "You're with." It's got a nice ring to it. Yes, I am. I am with you. I hate you, and I can't trust you, but I'm with you while I'm listening to you, so, yeah. I'm with you.

So here you are, dear readers; you're with Yehuda. I may be the one choosing the subjects, but you've got the comments. Together we make this blog. We're a family.


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MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Yehuda,

I know how you feel. The BBC plasters us just about every opportunity they get.

And people always say they print the news that sells... WELL, I won't buy it! It doesn't sell to me!

Seriously, I sympathize with you.

Shalom, your friend,

Yehuda Berlinger said...

The funny thing is, blogs are unedited, uncredited, and biased, but probably more accurate, in general, than official news sources.


Anonymous said...

I have read that the BBC gets a lot of criticism about its Middle East coverage but that the criticism tends to be roughly equal in volume from each side of the dispute. The BBC is at least open to criticism, unlike other news organisations.

I agree about the "you're with the BBC" point and also like the style of the channel, even if I disagree with what it says sometimes.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Once I thought that I was just a name

Anonymous said...

Once I heard on "All Things Considered" a follow up side story to a misreport. Evidently a photograph was shown to President Reagan of a boy whose arms appeared to have been blown off by an Israeli bomb during the First Lebanon war. Reagan got right on the phone and demanded of Menahem Begin that he stop the war at once.

However there was no such little boy with his arms blown off. It was manufactured to look that way. It never happened, and NPR admitted as much. However, they justified false reporting with the comment that it stopped a war.

I don't suppose it ever occurred to anyone that those terrorists whose lives were saved by that false report were exACTly the same ones who blew up 200 Marines some months later.