FAIR Challenges CBC’s Report on Israel/Palestine Film

FAIR issued a press release today (2/4/09) challenging the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation over false and biased claims made by its ombud after the CBC came under pressure from a campaign launched by groups that advocate for uncritical coverage of the Israeli government.

The campaign was launched in response to CBC‘s October 23, 2008 airing of the 2003 educational documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land (which can be viewed online here). The film cited a FAIR report on U.S. media coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, prompting the CBC‘s French-language radio ombud Julie Miville-Dechene (12/08) to question the independence of FAIR’s research, referring to the organization as a “pro-Palestinian” and “militant group.”

A peculiar finding, for as FAIR contributor Seth Ackerman, who authored the study, noted today in a letter to the CBC president, FAIR’s spokespersons have appeared on several occasions on the CBC to discuss issues ranging from media coverage of the Kosovo War to radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Faulting the film for “failure to account for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip,” Miville-Dechene also cited a 2001 FAIR study that found only 4 percent of U.S. network news reports “concerning Gaza or the West Bank mention that these are occupied territories” as an example of an “anachronism” in the documentary, because Israel had subsequently withdrawn military forces and settlements from Gaza.

In a press release issued today, FAIR noted that

Under international law, however, Gaza remains an occupied territory, because Israel continues to control its borders. FAIR’s finding of a chronic failure by leading American media organizations to mention the occupation is actually even more true today: A search of the Lexis Nexis database during the most recent war (12/2/08-1/18/09) reveals that the percentage of network news programs about Gaza or the West Bank that mentioned the occupation has fallen from 4 to only 2 percent.

While the ombud characterized FAIR’s finding that only 4 percent of U.S. news reports surveyed in 2000 mentioned the occupation as “shocking,” FAIR noted that

the coverage on CBC‘s own evening newscast, the National, from the same period was roughly equivalent, with only 5 percent of reports concerning Gaza or the West Bank referring to occupation.

The mischaracterization of FAIR was far from the only problem with the ombud’s report. One of the “factual errors” listed by the ombud: “Repeatedly, the documentary mentions the ‘illegal’ occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.” As independent journalist Justin Podur writes, “This merely suggests that the ombudsman lacks the most cursory understanding of international law. And, possibly, an understanding of what constitutes a factual error.”

Given that the role of an ombud is to uphold standards of factual accuracy, this is an alarming state of affairs indeed. And one that warrants action.

Contact info for the CBC-Radio Canada ombud and president:

Julie Miville-Dechene
Ombud, Services francais
Société Radio-Canada
Email: ombudsman@radio-canada.ca

Vince Carlin
CBC English Ombud
P.O. Box 500, Station A
Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6
Phone: 416-205-2978
Email: ombudsman@cbc.ca

Mr. Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO
P.O. Box 6000
Montreal QC H3C 3A8