Snow defends Channel Four’s Israel coverage

By James Martin, March 19, 2009
Perfect panel: from left, Robin Shepherd, Peter Wilby, Stephen Pollard,  Alex Brummer, and Jon Snow

Perfect panel: from left, Robin Shepherd, Peter Wilby, Stephen Pollard, Alex Brummer, and Jon Snow

Broadcaster Jon Snow this week defended Channel 4’s coverage of the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza, arguing that “both sides of the conflict have been let down by the political classes and it’s left to the media to pick up the can”.

Mr Snow, together with JC columnist and city editor of the Daily Mail, Alex Brummer, former New Statesman editor, Peter Wilby, and former senior research fellow at Chatham House, Robin Shepherd, was addressing the question,”Do the British media have an obsession with Israel?”. The Hampstead Town Hall event, chaired by JC editor Stephen Pollard, was organised by the media group, Just Journalism.

Mr Snow told the 200-strong audience: “It’s difficult to cover a war when you can’t speak [directly] to the people involved in the conflict. Most of the reports [were not from journalists on the ground but] were by people living in Gaza.”

Arguing that broadcasters are “sometimes right and sometimes horribly wrong” he added that “when the full facts are apparent we’ll always report them” before promising to cover the IDF’S report on the war when it is published.

Defending his decision to consult sources from NGOs whose impartiality is highly questionable, Mr Snow said: “These were the only accounts we could get because we couldn’t see the conflict first-hand”.

Alex Brummer noted that “antisemitic incidents resulted directly from coverage on the ground”, before declaring that more antisemitic incidents took place in the first two months of this year than the whole of 2008. But he also felt that the BBC’s coverage had been “far more balanced” than in the past.

Peter Wilby argued that impartiality in war was difficult as bias tended to be directed to those who suffer most dramatically. “Editors are looking for pictures and numbers involved”, he added, acknowledging that Israel was no longer cast in the role of victim.

Mr Snow concluded that he wished for “optimism and hope for Israel and its neighbours, although I suspect it won’t happen in my lifetime”.

Last updated: 1:20pm, March 19 2009