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July 15, 2004updated 17 May 2007 11:30am

Governors clear BBC programmes of anti-Israeli bias

By Press Gazette

No complaints were upheld by BBC governors this quarter, as the broadcaster prepares to overhaul its complaints procedure.

Radio news programmes featured on the list of items that have been complained about.

Accusations of anti-Israeli bias were levelled at Today, Broadcasting House and Radio Five Live’s Julian Worricker programme.

Richard Sambrook, BBC director of news, received a complaint about the Julian Worricker programme aired on 23 January, for comments made by security correspondent Frank Gardner in his interpretation of the Palestinian position and of UN resolutions.

In a phone-in session on the programme, Gardner said: “Theirs [the Palestinians] is essentially a territorial fight to liberate their land from illegal occupation; people should understand that Israel is illegally occupying Arab land.

“It’s against UN resolutions, and the transportation of a civilian population into occupied territory and then colonising it is illegal under the Geneva Convention.”

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He also said he did not think the US was even-handed in its approach to the IsraelPalestine conflict, adding that Israel “is supported entirely or heavily, financially, in terms of a military aid package which runs to billions of dollars a year”.

The BBC governors’ complaints committee disagreed with the accusation that Gardner’s comments were unfair, inaccurate, subjective, imbalanced and misleading.

Appeals were also made to governors regarding reports aired on the Today programme on 9 January and an edition of Broadcasting House on 18 January.

The items were on the deaths of twin babies in the occupied territories after their mother and father were apparently delayed at an Israeli checkpoint.

The complainant observed that the BBC had not broadcast a response by the Israeli army, but governors did not find the complaint to have “identified substantive evidence of bias”.

Gardner is currently recovering after being seriously injured in an attack by suspected Al-Qaida gunmen while reporting from Saudi Arabia last month.

By Wale Azeez

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