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    BBC An everyday story of misrepresentation


    Posts : 163
    Join date : 2010-08-06
    Location : Thailand

    BBC An everyday story of misrepresentation

    Post by WTF on 26th September 2010, 6:47 pm

    I think that we all agree here and question the integrity of BBC reports on the red shirts protest. It's about time the TV news channels and their editors get questioned. Let's support the group Blatantly Biased Coverage and please forward this mail to all within your sphere who share this view.

    "BBC quaffs the Kool-Aid".....
    An everyday story of misrepresentation, bias, stonewalling and whitewash

    We are an international group of people and two common factors have unexpectedly brought us together: we all care about Thailand; we question the integrity of the BBC.

    The BBC stands accused of blatant bias, persistent factual inaccuracy, and gross distortions in its coverage of Thailand's recent "red shirt protests". A detailed investigation has been requested. However, since the end of May 2010 repeated attempts to bring our concerns to the attention of the BBC have failed and we have been unable to break through the barrier of protocols and obstructionist verbiage. We have been blocked at every step of the way and now, under the supervision of Mr David Larner, the BBC Complaints department has terminated all communication with us as a group.

    If you believe in fair and balanced TV journalism, especially as a pillar of modern-day democracy, we invite you to read on and then to forward the e-mail to as many like-minded people as possible. Our message is a fairly long read but we hope you will allow us the chance to make our case. This story should be heard. An investigation into the BBC's wholly unacceptable coverage of Thailand's red shirt protests (and the subsequent refusal to consider our objection) is necessary. Amongst other things, it would allow the BBC an opportunity to consider its own imperfections with a view to achieving higher standards of news coverage in the future.

    The following are presented below:
    a/ Opening statements
    b/ Our initial covering letter to BBC Complaints
    c/ Our case against the BBC's coverage of the red shirt protests
    d/ "The Kool Aid"
    e/ Extracts from The BBC Charter Agreement
    f/ Conversations with Mr David Larner (BBC Complaints)
    g/ Conclusion

    a) Opening statements:

    "The BBC...reporting certainly does not help when it describes the conflict as a class war between rich and poor. It's a gross oversimplification...There must be something more to the conflict when the poor happen to be led by the richest man in the country."
    Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics

    "....[the] BBC chose to create simple, distorted narratives rather than tackle the complex reality of this truly fascinating story. The disservice they did to the story, to Thailand, to their viewers and to themselves was immense. Many people, including myself, no longer trust [this network] to report the truth. The criticism heaped upon them in the wake of their sub-par reporting is just and fully deserved."
    David Sherman - freelance writer living in Bangkok

    "....The [BBC] must separate out the very real problems that the rural areas of Thailand face, which will take decades to fix, from the fact that a mob is rampaging through Bangkok, burning, looting, and firing grenades, threatening in the name of democracy to destroy what democracy yet remains in this country...."
    S P Somtow - composer, author and social commentator

    b) The initial covering letter to the BBC which was ignored for a period of around 7 weeks.
    (Significant cuts have been made. Other individual complaints remain ignored to this day.)
    29th May 2010

    ....On 17th May 2010 I wrote to the editor of The Nation newspaper in Bangkok concerning the BBC's recent coverage of the 'red shirt rallies' in Thailand. My letter was printed and since then people from across the globe have written to me. Through bias, ignorance and sensationalism we believe the BBC to be guilty of having helped stoke the fires of rebellion.
    David Cameron talks about a new style of politics. We are calling for a new style of TV journalism. Now is the time for the BBC to reassess the way it chooses to 'entertain' the world.

    We are requesting the following:
    1/ An intial response within the framework of the BBC complaints procedure
    2/ A detailed investigation into accusations regarding the failures of BBC reporters in Thailand
    3/ A public forum in Bangkok for Thais and expats to express their views to the BBC....

    I enclose a 37 page document....which includes the observations of a cross section of those who responded to my letter; the comments speak for themselves....

    ..... At the moment, the BBC's deplorable TV coverage of Thailand's recent events is as big a topic of discussion as the violence itself.

    The disturbances in Bangkok have been a wake-up call for the Thai people. Similarly, will the ongoing disapproval of TV reportage be perceived as a wake-up call for the BBC? It should be....

    I....hope you will appreciate the gravity of the accusations. The readership of The Nation, maybe even the populace of a nation, is awaiting your response. John Shepherd

    c) Extracts from our case against the BBC's coverage of the red shirt protests
    (This has been drastically cut from the original version)

    A complaint accusing the BBC of bias, factual inaccuracy, ignorance and sensationalism

    This list details examples of possible bias, factual inaccuracy, ignorance and sensationalism in the BBC's coverage of 'the red shirt protests' in Bangkok, March to May 2010.

    We are requesting a nonpartisan and comprehensive investigation into the BBC reportage in its entirety. Every single broadcast was questionable in one category or another, and we urge an examination of all footage..... We should also point out that what was NOT said is equally important, in some cases even more important....

    A letter...recently printed in the Thai press began: "When senior BBC editors recently came to Bangkok....It is doubtful that their meeting with PM Abhisit was to discuss pleasantries, so one can only presume that they were here to offer some kind of apology for sub-standard journalism." Clearly questions have already been asked. Why did your reporters get it so wrong?


    * There was a strong sense of an overall policy of support for the red shirt group. Is/Was this BBC
    editorial policy or were the reporters left to decide on their own?
    * Total failure to discuss the possibility that new elections might not have been the objective of the
    Red Shirt leadership at all, but rather mayhem, civil war, wiping the slate clean with the people's
    * When interviewed, the red shirts were allowed to put forward their views uninterrupted;
    government figures, if interviewed at all, were given the 'Hard Talk' treatment
    * No investigation into what the reds understand as democracy; the acceptance of meaningless
    answers without any challenge was quite simply bad journalism
    * Rachel Harvey interviewed an anonymous passer-by. Actually, this was Dr Weng Tojirakarn, a
    senior red shirt leader and well known Maoist leader. Did Ms Harvey know who she was speaking
    to - (she should have done) - and therefore out to dupe her audience, or had Dr Weng duped her?


    * Little mention of Thaksin throughout the period, even when accused of financing the red shirts
    * Always referred to as "an ousted PM" rather than "a convicted criminal on the run"
    * Unquestioning statements that "Thaksin was democratically elected". Really?
    * Failure to report on, or investigate, corruption, abuses of power, and extreme human rights
    abuses when Thaksin was PM
    * Little mention, if any, of the fact that the red shirt protests took place after a court case relieving
    Thaksin of part of his ill-gotten gains
    * No mention of the fact that Thaksin claimed in an interview on the BBC just a day after the 2009
    Songkran riots that "100s" of protestors had been shot by the army, and that he had the photos to
    prove it. This proved to be a lie, though the red shirts and the opposition Phuea Thai Party have
    continued to repeat it. The BBC's failure to follow up on that seriously flawed interview compromised
    the history of the whole earlier protest, and set the tone for the BBC distortions in April and May


    * Little, if any, balanced interviewing of Bangkok residents - only the red shirt point of view was
    * No attention paid to any foreign / expat voice, opinion or view - other than foreign half-wits or
    partisan members of the public masquerading as impartial observers
    * No footage of ordinary Bangkokians lining up on the streets to give the soldiers food, water, cards,
    and other gifts
    * No mention of an increasingly aggressive approach by the red shirt hooligans to locals, including
    extortion, intimidation and assault
    * No mention that thousands of local people (including poor local people) lost salaries and jobs


    * No attempt to distinguish between English language propaganda, banners, posters, clips, that had
    been carefully prepared by the Red Shirt leadership for the foreign media and the violent hate
    messages that were being communicated to the demonstrators in their own language 24/7
    * Huge criticism of the government closing down local media outlets and red shirt radio stations
    without mention of the bias and incitement to violence emanating from such agencies, including
    the call to rape Democrat Party women and children.
    * Voodooism - the blood splashing at the Government House, and the throwing of blood and
    excrement at the PM's house while the police simply looked on. This was hardly
    representative of a democratic act, though the BBC appeared to 'wallow' in it
    * Red shirt attempts to burn down TV Channel 3 while people were working inside - little reported
    * Scant attention was given to the raid on Chula Hospital by the red shirt heavy brigade
    * No coverage of the violence that had already been directed at Democrat candidates in red shirt
    areas, making the possibility of a free election virtually impossible. No mention that there had
    already been three attempts to assassinate the Prime Minister, two of them led by key red shirt
    leaders in person.


    * Little mention if any of the solid anecdotal evidence from red shirt partisans themselves that they
    were being paid daily wages or had opted into the incentive lottery scheme
    * No reference to the fact that some red shirt protesters had their identity cards withheld to
    ensure their continued stay at the protest sites. People wanting to quit were not allowed to
    * Failure to ask why the red shirts covered up all street cameras (outside the camp too). If they
    really were the ones being abused such footage would have helped their cause, surely!?
    * Pictures of music, dancing, smiling; no mention of the more sinister atmosphere building up away
    from the main stage and the more aggressive members of the reds including 'men in black'
    * Failure to cover the serious split in the Red Shirt leadership before May 19th
    * Build-up of weapons not reported


    * A total lack of realisation that the red shirt upheaval was not a simple poor versus rich class war.
    The violence had little to do with democracy but was more about the rich vying for power and
    manipulating the ill-educated masses.
    * Ignorance as to the fact that back home anyone with different opinions is threatened and
    intimidated by the red shirt activists whilst claiming the democratic right to protest in Bangkok
    * No mention of the hierarchical ordering of life in some areas of N and NE Thailand where the
    people obediently follow the orders of village chieftains, local oligarchs, powerful families, mafia
    thugs, police and village chiefs, many of whom are on the Thaksin payroll. The irony here is that
    these 'big guns' are terrified of democratic change in Thai society


    * Repeated statements or implication that the government is illegitimate and originated from a coup,
    and (if this is the case, which it is not) a failure to try to explain why.
    * Statements like: "The government refuses to negotiate" were not only unfair but lies
    * Little mention that PM Abhisit agreed to hold very early elections only to have more demands
    thrown at him by the red shirt leadership
    * No analysis of the motivations of the red shirt political leadership (their hunger for power and for a
    larger share of the corruption pot) many of whom have a well-known prior history of corruption
    * No reference to the commendable patience of the government (elsewhere ascribed to as timidity or
    disorganization) in the face of a continuing and increasing threat of violence
    * No mention that Puei Thai is an opposition party that supports the red shirt movement but stems
    from two previous ruling parties disbanded due to corruption
    * Hardtalk interview with PM Abhisit (Zeinab Badawi 28 April) was dismissive, aggressive,
    confrontational, and misinformed


    * Interview with an Isaan woman talking about democracy and justice juxtaposed with pictures of
    tanks. Other reports similarly using 'the military' as background so as to suggest the Thai army
    violently quashing innocent and unarmed protestors. A juxtaposition of carefully chosen images
    with words may, can and will produce an inaccurate picture of conflict
    * Implications that Bangkok as a whole was incredibly damaged by fire


    * The government and the army were cast as sole aggressors for a long time. The impression given
    was that the army was firing on innocent civilians
    * No mention was made of the actual restraint offered by the army - to many Bangkok residents, too
    much restraint
    * No investigation was made into the fact that many police sided with protestors.
    Police collusion was there for all to see but not reported by the BBC. The Thai government was
    forced to rely on the army because the police force refused to obey orders, or engage in any form of
    crowd control.

    * The BBC continues to drumbeat the red shirt cause.
    For example, on the weekend of the Bangkok local elections on August 27th, Alistair Leithead
    reported: " shirt anti-government protesters are beginning to gather in massive
    rallies again". Up to the writing of this report a number of gatherings have taken place, but certainly
    not to the extent suggested. Yet on the weekend of the said local elections the government
    experienced a significant and quantifiable success, a fact which goes unnoticed by the BBC

    d) The Kool-Aid

    "Some people blamed many journalists for catching a sort of “Stockholm Syndrome” inside the Red Shirt camp, and some of them did in fact seem to drink the Kool-Aid. (“Drink the Kool-Aid” is American slang meaning they blindly believe what they are told)...Even while grenades were being fired and dozens of buildings were ablaze in Bangkok, some journalists continued to spout that the protestors were peaceful and unarmed. They were drinking the Kool-Aid.
    The Reds were getting much favorable press, and so nearly all of them seemed to be extra polite and friendly with journalists which creates its own cycle. Meanwhile, the police and Army were being polite, respectful and professional, yet not offering lunch and soft drinks...If the military offered gratuities, likely we would view it with cynicism, but when protestors did the same, it was a sign of friendliness. I sensed that part of the friendliness was just normal Thai culture, but there also was extra-friendliness toward people with cameras. Some of the journalists truly seemed to fall for it. Hook, line and sinker. Others seemed to go with the flow—keeping in mind that editors in Berlin, London and New York have strong say in their stories and if Iraq taught me anything about journalists and journalism it was that distant editors [frequently] set the tone...After the acceptable white lines of a narrative are painted, few people stray from the path.
    Humans see what we expect to see, and there is no doubt that many people expected to see an Asian government using a sickening amount of force to quell dissent. We expected to see that. But that’s not what actually happened. Not at all."
    Michael Yon - International War Correspondent

    e) Extracts fromThe BBC Charter Agreement

    Impartiality and Diversity of Opinion:
    "News, in whatever form, must be presented with due impartiality."
    "Impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC's commitment to its audiences....The Agreement accompanying the BBC's Charter requires us to produce comprehensive, authoritative and impartial coverage of news and current affairs....throughout the world to support fair and informed debate. It specifies that we should do all we can to treat controversial subjects with due accuracy and impartiality in our news services....We must ensure we avoid bias or an imbalance of views on controversial subjects."
    "Our audiences should not be able to tell....the personal views of our journalists and presenters...."
    "In the global context, some controversial subjects.... will be of great sensitivity in that country or region in which they are taking place. We should always remember that much of the BBC's output is now available in most countries across the world.
    "The BBC's commitment to accuracy is a core editorial value and fundamental to our reputation."
    Editorial Integrity and Independence:
    "The BBC's global reputation is based on its editorial integrity and independence. Our audiences need to be confident that our decisions are influenced neither by political or commercial pressures, nor by any personal interests. We must not undermine these values...."
    "The BBC is accountable to its audiences....We will act in good faith by dealing fairly and openly with them. We are open in admitting mistakes when they are made and encourage a culture of willingness to learn from them"..................................

    f) The David Larner Experience: some techniques in the art of stonewalling
    Extracts from conversations with Mr David Larner, BBC Audience Services' Complaints Co-ordinator.

    "We note your personal thoughts on the matter, but it is not for the BBC to comment...."
    "I note your personal view regarding the complexity of the matter"
    "I note your personal view and those you report from others on this issue"
    "I note your view on this matter but I have explained the BBC's position clearly"
    "Your [third party comments] are not views that have been made to the BBC directly, therefore they fall outside my scope of reference"
    "This represents your personal hypothesis on a hypothetical situation....hence I cannot comment"
    "Whilst connected by virtue of a process, the [BBC Trust and the BBC] are not physically connected"
    "....whilst it is our aim to respond within ten working days this may not always be....."
    "....whilst we are currently having to contend with a backlog of correspondence following system issues, we are trying our best......"
    "....we have to be mindful that we cannot provide the level of service that is sometimes expected of us"
    "....we do not have the resources to review all the footage as you suggest......."
    "....I'm sorry for the delay in responding to your initial correspondence. Your suggestions here are.... both offensive and without foundation"
    DL: "I must clarify that the BBC Complaints process at Stage 1 provides the right for complainants to receive a reply from the BBC but this does not necessarily take the form of the 'investigation' you call for"
    JS: "Twelve weeks on, I have yet to receive either"
    DL: "Your suggestion that we are 'hoping the complainant will give up, or that you are deliberately ignoring the complaint for other more sinister reasons' is both offensive and without foundation"
    JS: "In conclusion, I remain truly convinced that the BBC is attempting at all costs to avoid an investigation and I question the overall ethics of your department in particular"
    DL: "This is not the case. I have explained our complaints handling protocols and whilst I'm sorry they do not match your personal expectations and demands for an investigation and a public forum, this is the BBC's published position"
    "I have tried my best to assist both you and others who have contacted me explaining the processes"
    "I have clarified that I am unable to deal with your complaint"
    "That being the case and having again noted your views and explained our position - and having afforded your emails considerable time at the expense of other complainants using our service - I must now conclude our correspondence on this matter"

    g/ Conclusion

    Blatant bias and lack of objectivity in much of the BBC’s reporting from Thailand continues to this day. It was most noticeable during the period of unrest earlier this year, presenting a distorted image of the nation to the world, and may even have done as much long term damage as the protests themselves. The BBC’s unbalanced reports lent credence to mob action led by narrowly self-interested parties, wrongly suggesting it was a peoples' war of rich versus poor. Were BBC journalists deliberate in their partiality or were they simply duped by the well-schooled red shirt leadership? This question must be answered.
    We ask the BBC to reconsider our request for a detailed investigation into its coverage of the red shirt demonstrations. What we have presented should convince BBC officials that such an investigation is essential. We are also seeking an internationally broadcast Panorama–style documentary to rectify some of the harm that has been done: harm toThailand and harm to the BBC’s reputation. Trust in the BBC has been considerably diminished, particularly in this region of the world. People need to see some plausible answers to our criticisms for the BBC to regain its credibility.
    scratch scratch

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