BBC rejects complaints over flotilla

A Panorama programme which investigated the Gaza flotilla incident has been largely cleared of inaccuracy and partiality by the BBC's editorial standards body.

The BBC Trust apologised for three breaches of accuracy and impartiality, but rejected dozens of complaints which were made by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its supporters.

In Death in the Med, presenter Jane Corbin interviewed IDF soldiers and activists involved in last May's incident. She concluded that those on board the Mavi Marmara ship had been politically motivated and had not acted primarily to help Palestinians.

Following its broadcast last August, PSC demonstrators protested at BBC offices around the country and launched a letter-writing campaign to complain about the programme's content. They said it had included "shockingly biased reporting" in Israel's favour.

But the Trust's investigation concluded the programme had "achieved due impartiality and due accuracy overall".

The 121-page report stated: "The committee commends the BBC for having tackled this most controversial of issues. In the committee's view, the programme was an original, illuminating and well-researched piece of journalism."

The three breaches of editorial guidelines included issues around the failure to use information from preliminary autopsies carried out on the nine killed activists, coverage of how the Israelis treated those injured on the ship, and descriptions of some of the aid on board the flotilla.

More than 2,000 people contacted the BBC following the broadcast, with around 72 per cent giving negative feedback. The Trust rejected 48 other points of issue raised by campaigners.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign claimed the Trust's admission on the three points represented a "major victory" for their campaign, but admitted they found the full ruling to be "less than satisfactory".

A spokesman for BBC News, which makes Panorama, said: "We will consider seriously any lessons to be learned. We note that the Trust remarked it is unlikely that a current affairs programme such as this, covering such a contentious issue, would be found to be entirely flawless if it were subjected to the level of deconstruction and analysis that Death in the Med has undergone."

Supporters of the Zionist Federation had written to the BBC supporting the corporation over the programme.

In a separate ruling, Ofcom rejected a complaint from the Free Gaza Movement that it was unfairly portrayed in the programme.

The group claimed it had been misrepresented, accused of carrying weapons and that interviews with its members who took part in the flotilla had not been included in the programme.

But Ofcom ruled that Death in the Med had not portrayed Free Gaza unfairly and had not included any allegations to which the group should have been given an opportunity to respond.

    Last updated: 12:56pm, April 21 2011