Sunday, April 29, 2007

Beeb on Torch and China-Taiwan Forum

The BBC reports on the Torch Relay Row and the recent China-"Taiwan" Forum...offering a peek at how the news is constructed. The Beeb opens with the following two sentences:

Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for closer economic and cultural exchanges between China and Taiwan.

Mr Hu was speaking at a China-Taiwan forum in Beijing, aimed at improving ties between the two rival neighbours.

Is the forum really aimed at improving ties between the two nations? It would have been great if the Beeb had qualified that statement with a "China claimed" or "Beijing said" so that it was reporting, and not constructing, facts. If China was serious about building ties with Taiwan, then there are many steps it could take....

In both this article and the previous one on the torch, the Beeb faithfully reported China's claim:

The executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), Jiang Xiaoyu said he was "surprised by [Taiwan's] attitude and comments".

BOCOG believes the current attitude of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and its authorities... breached the principle of separating sport from politics as enshrined in the Olympic charter," Mr Jiang said.

Amazingly, the Beeb's reporters failed to note that the torch route was politicized by China and that Taiwan's rejection was a response to that politicization. Methinks we're going to see a lot of reports like this in the international media, in which articles present the Chinese response, unchallenged by either Taipei or reality. The first torch article quotes from the Taiwan side, but the second article is entirely China-centric. A quote from Taipei would have added balance -- there was plenty of space, since the article managed to find room twice to describe that China sees Taiwan as part of its territory. Just in case readers had forgotten by the end of the article what had been said at the beginning, I suppose.

The article also observes that China expressed its surprise at Taipei's decision to reject the torch route.

But Taipei said the plan was unacceptable and compromised the island's sovereignty.

In response, China expressed its surprise over Taipei's rejection of the plan.

What if the BBC had qualified that by pointing out that Taiwan had long threatened to reject the route if it placed Taiwan in a position subordinate to China? It's an old complaint, but of all the news reports I read, the BBC's consistently offer the least context. I guess they had to save room to tell us twice that China sees Taiwan as part of its territory....

The Beeb has a pithier formation of the island's history than some:

Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

...which isn't too bad, all things considered.

Trivia: The article notes that 30 MPs (that's British English for legislator) from the KMT stopped by to kowtow to Hu. Isn't it time the Beeb stopped calling them MPs? I think readers of BBC are well enough educated to know that a legislator is a person in the legislature and that both those refer to members and representative bodies. Isn't it a bit silly to refer to Taiwan's legislators as MPs? Does the Beeb refer to the US Senate as the House of Lords?

1 comment:

Eli said...

It is interesting what the Chinese official said about not injecting politics into a sporting event, because Chen Chu said the same thing last week about China. She was complaining about the fact that Kaohsiung's deputy mayor was denied a visa to go to China. He was planning to attend a sports conference in Beijing to promote the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung.