Listeners complained chat between Today’s John Humphrys and Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly wrongly implied only Israelis had been killed.
The BBC has ruled that a Today programme misled listeners in a report on the recent period of renewed violence in Israel and Palestine.
It is the second time this year that Today has been found to have breached BBC guidelines in its coverage of the region.
In a provisional ruling, the corporation’s editorial complaints unit said the show had breached accuracy rules by implying that all of the 50 casualities from more than two weeks of violence had been Israeli, when in fact the overwhelming majority were Palestinian.
The BBC received a number of complaints about an on-air conversation between presenter John Humphrys and Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly on 19 October about an ongoing flare-up in violence between Palestinians and Israelis that began on 1 October.
The conversation began with Humphrys referring to the most recent attacks, and summing up the total number of casualties.
John Humphrys: “Yet another attack on Israelis last night – this time an Arab man armed with a gun and a knife killed a soldier and wounded 10 people. Our Middle East correspondent is Kevin Connolly. The number is mounting, isn’t it Kevin? It’s about 50 now, isn’t it?”
Kevin Connolly: “We think about 50 dead over the last month or so, John – this sharp uptick of violence – not just that attack on the bus station in Beersheba, in Israeli itself but also on Saturday a wave of stabbing attacks in Hebron and Jerusalem.”
The BBC head of editorial complaints, Fraser Steel, has written to those who complained saying that while it was clear the reference to 50 dead was meant to take in casualties on both sides, it would be “natural” to infer from the broadcast that only Israelis had been killed.
“In the context of a discussion of attacks carried out by Palestinians, and in the absence of clarification on the point, the natural inference for listeners was that it referred to the number of Israeli dead – which, in view of the actual incidence of mortality, would have been misleading,” wrote Steel. “To that extent, the report did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards regarding accuracy and I am proposing to uphold this part of your complaint.”
In June, the complaints unit ruled that Today presenter Sarah Montague had failed to adequately challenge statements made by Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon during an interview in March.
The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign welcomed the ruling. Director Sarah Colborne said: “Since the beginning of October, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers across the occupied territories, and thousands more have been injured, many with live fire. It is one thing for Today to ignore this high and rising death toll and choose to put its focus on Israelis who have been stabbed; it is quite another for the programme to completely misrepresent the figures and imply that only Israelis are being killed.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has reached a provisional finding that the complaints should be upheld and will be taking comments from the complainants into account before finalising the outcome.”