Friday, April 07, 2017

MEDIA: Watch how BBC Sexes up tensions in its pro-China reporting

Alas, my Canon body died last year and I haven't bought a new one. So no chance to shoot bugs in ages.

First, the excellent news that Reporters without Borders has decided to open its Asia Bureau in Taipei rather than Hong Kong, testimony to the shifting fortunes of the two cities.
“The choice of Taiwan was made not only with regards to its central geographic location and ease of operating logistics, but also considering its status of being the freest place in Asia in our annual Press Freedom Index ranking," said Deloire.
Longtime commentator J Michael Cole and other local media figures played a small role in getting them to locate here, good work, Michael.

Meanwhile, there's @BBCHua

Note the headline first:
Taiwan announces submarine building ahead of Trump-Xi summit
The headline suggests to the reader, falsely, that there is some connection between the Xi-Trump summit and Taiwan's submarine program. The text then reinforces that.
Taiwan has announced plans for eight new submarines, a senior Taiwanese navy official confirmed on Wednesday.

The new vessels will be Taiwanese-made, unlike its current fleet of four, which were bought from overseas decades ago.

The announcement comes the day before Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump meet in Florida.
The text then omits all the relevant information the reader needs to make a decision about what this might mean. Let's check the Straits Times out of Singapore, a paper no one could accuse of being pro-Taiwan:
Taiwan plans to build eight submarines to bolster its current fleet of four ageing vessels, its navy chief said yesterday.

Navy chief Lee Tsung-hsiao yesterday confirmed that Taiwan aimed to build eight of such vessels, after President Tsai Ing-wen announced two weeks ago that it will develop its own submarines.
Note the language in the BBC piece: it wrote "confirmed" as well for the announcement. The writer appears to have known perfectly well that the announcement of submarines did not occur the day before the Xi-Trump Summit, but had occurred weeks before and that the Navy Chief was reiterating old news. The writer even refers to President Tsai's wish for undersea capability, without mentioning any prior announcement of the program (!). Nevertheless, the writer connected it to the Xi-Trump summit and omitted the fact that the program had been public for months.

Sexing up the news to create tension and links where none exist is a vile, shameless ethical violation, but we all know who BBC roots for. Really, I have no idea why BBC bothers to spend money on reporting news out here when it could simply buy news directly from Xinhua, offer the same information, and save a ton of money.

How long has this been known? Again, the Straits Times:
A total of NT$2.9 billion (S$133.7 million) will be set aside from last December to December 2020 for the design of the submarines. The eight locally made submarines will replace Taiwan's four foreign-built underwater vessels. Two of these were built in the United States during World War II, while the other two are Dutch-built submarines, commissioned in the late 1980s.
That's right. The money was publicly budgeted 5 months ago. There have been media reports since then, like this one from March 22 in the Taipei Times ("Homegrown Submarine Plan Launched"). A week earlier this piece on the Quadrennial Defense Review mentioned the indigenous sub program. A week before that the subs were discussed. Oh, and here's one from January. In fact you can go back to the fall: in November the program went out to tender. In October a new commission on shipbuilding to oversee the submarine and other efforts is discussed.

There is no way a thinking ethical human can create a link to the Xi-Trump Summit. The submarine news is not related to it, but has been in the news for months. Either the writer of the BBC piece was an idiot who doesn't know how to use Google, or simply lied to make a more interesting story. Note, for example, that the Straits Times piece did not connect the announcement to the Xi-Trump summit.

Sexing up things to create tensions where there aren't any isn't even the worst thing this piece did. Check out this completely slanted comment:
Taiwan's defence minister has accused China of having more than 1,000 missiles pointed at the island.
BBC presents the well-known fact of missiles aimed at Taiwan as if it were a mere accusation of the Defence Minister rather than a fact in the world. But why stop there, BBC? Do it right:
Taiwan's defence minister has accused China of having armed forces.
The piece ends with the by-now standard erroneous claim that the TRA obligates the US to defend Taiwan (the TRA obligates the US to nothing, it is specifically written that way).
The US is obligated under its own laws (the Taiwan Relations Act) to help Taiwan defend itself.
I specifically discussed this error with a BBC rep before in relation to this post in which BBC adopted a few corrections to its once insanely pro-China China-Taiwan backgrounder. We'll see this error in the future, sadly.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

I'm starting to think Turton doesn't like the BBC that much.

Michael Turton said...

It is hard to think of a major media that serves Beijing more ardently than the BBC.

Anonymous said...

There should be some kind of "BBC Watch" website where problems like this are highlighted.

Anonymous said...

There is and has been for years:

Anonymous said...

The bulk of BBC-branded reporting comes from freelancers who were, are or intend to be working for the print press at some stage. 85% of the UK's print press is controlled by six people - and two of those are identical twins! BBC reporting reflects this dependence of BBC journalists on other sources of income.