Research into bias gave me a one-side view

By Daniella Peled, November 27, 2008

A student researching media bias has been given a fresh insight into partiality after his requests for information from Israel advocacy groups were, he claims, ignored while pro-Palestinians were happy to answer his enquiries.

Alan White, 21, a sociology student at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, says he emailed a range of organisations as part of his dissertation into media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how partisan groups shaped their public relations strategies.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Council for Arab and British Understanding, War on Want and Jews for Justice for Palestinians all responded rapidly to his request for 10 minutes to ask questions about media.

The PSC invited him to their lobby of Parliament, and the others arranged interviews with him and provided relevant literature.

However, he insists that his emails to Bicom, the Zionist Federation and Just Journalism all went unanswered and the Israeli Embassy told him they were too busy with a state visit to help with his enquiries.

Labour Friends of Israel said they were not allowed to answer questions on bias and suggested he contact Bicom or Just Journalism.

Mr White said he was "bitterly disappointed" that only one side had replied.

"Perhaps I would have got a better response had I been older, or a journalist, or just a regular member of the public. But the fact that public relations groups won't even acknowledge a student researching the very thing that they are set up to promote, beggars belief."

Bicom did receive Mr White's email but only offered to help him after the issue was brought to their attention by the JC two weeks later.

A spokesman said: "Bicom's stated main target audiences are British journalists, politicians and other senior opinion formers but we are happy to help others if and when we can."

A spokeswoman for Just Journalism said: "Unfortunately, we have no record of receiving the email but would be absolutely delighted to help since this is an issue that we are closely monitoring."

And Alan Aziz, director of the ZF, also said he had not received the email but that he would also be happy to help Mr White with his research.

Mr White insisted he did send them, but did so via their websites. "If they didn't receive anything from me then that can only be because their emails from their websites were not working," he said. "But even then, none of the emails bounced back.

"I did email the embassy pretty consistently for weeks on end. I've been told that [head of public affairs] Ronit Ben Dor will speak to me over the phone on Friday.

Last updated: 2:40pm, November 27 2008