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    My complaint to the BBC


    by Sunny on 15th February, 2008 at 8:34 AM    

    Dear BBC Complaints department,
    I’m writing to register a complaint about the BBC’s coverage of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on Thursday 7th February. The complaint refers principally to coverage on BBC News 24 and news bulletins on BBC television and radio on Friday 8th February and the weekend of 9 & 10th February 2008.

    I found BBC News coverage sensationalist and biased against the Archbishop, muddying the waters over what he said in the speech and with no attempt at giving it context (i.e.: who it was aimed at, what the current law is on civil arbitration etc). TO elaborate further:

    1) News hadlines on its website and on TV bulletins claimed: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the adoption of Sharia Law in some parts of Britain is inevitable.” This is wrong for various reasons:
    a) The law already allows for civil arbitration in certain cases.
    b) Sharia law is already allowed in some cases in this country, because the law allows space for third-party arbitrations.
    c) There are similar arrangments already in other communities like Orthodox Jews.
    d) Internationally, countries like India and Israel also allow degrees of sharia to be practiced.

    All this does not mean I endorse sharia or want it to be fully introduced in the UK. I believe in one civil law for all citizens. However, BBC News bulletins did not make any attempts to offer any context to its own coverage.

    2) The Archbishop’s speech, if understood properly, isn’t saying that sharia was “inevitable” but rather that it exists in the UK and secular law needs to figure out how to resolve the conflicts when marginalised minorities like Muslim women are discriminated against.

    Instead, we were subjected to continuous news bulletins with correspondents standing outside the church where the Archbishop was due to give a sermon, declaring that he was “yet to clarify his remarks”. If BBC News editors wanted clarification, why did they not consult someone who could understand the Archbishop’s speech?

    3) BBC News coverage, especially during news bulletins, was sensationalist, simplistic and simply misleading. A headline stating that “Sharia law in UK is ‘unavoidable’” gives the impression it does not already exist in Britain. The Archbishop, in his speech, explicitly states that this issue wasn’t simply about sharia or the Beth Din courts, but about the role of religious law in secular society.

    4) News bulletins constantly referred to two members of the synod who wanted him to resign over his remarks, but there was no attempt to balance that with the vast majority of his synod who did not. Over the period that I watched news bulletins, Saturday morning to afternoon on News 24, not a single person supporting the Archbishop was interviewed or asked to clarify what was said in the speech. Surely this should be the basis of any balanced reporting?

    Other programmes on the BBC may have given more space to explaining the context of his remarks and what he was getting at, but none of the main news broadcasts on BBC television attempted that. Instead, they initially focused on wrongly attributing his remarks (saying it was “unavoidable”) and later focused heavily on the (unsurprising) criticism.

    5) Not long ago the BBC director general gave a speech at which I was present (‘The Trouble with Trust: Building Confidence in Institutions’). Then, he explicitly said BBC News should be less sensationalist and more informative. BBC News coverage of the Archbishop’s speech was not only sensationalist, but it was also biased against him.

    It’s unsurprising he didn’t want to clarify his remarks, given the media response was so superficial, sensationalist and lacking any intelligence. We expect that from the tabloid media but demand more from BBC coverage and yet we have been let down.

    Yours Faithfully
    Sunny Hundal

    ———————

    Ok, so I knocked it out quickly. Going from the various Facebook groups that have spring up in support of the Archbishop, many others also seem to have complained about the treatment he received in the media and the hyper-ventilation of the press. I urge everyone to complain to the BBC, at least about their coverage, from this page.

    Matt Wardman shows quite well how the firestorm was kicked off and framed in such a sensationalist way thanks to the Beeb.


         
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    18 Comments below   |  

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    1. The Bishop’s not for pawning | crowth.net

      [...] Wire and are compiled in the form of a complaint to the BBC by Sunny Hundal, which you can read at Pickled Politics. I really recommend that you do, but obviously I understand that you might not considering that [...]



    1. Letters From A Tory — on 15th February, 2008 at 9:35 AM  

      It is surely no surprise that the quality of BBC journalism is very poor these days, save for a few excellent reporters. The Beeb always have their own agenda.

      Having said that, I heard clips from the Archbishop on BBC News and it seemed to me that he was making remarks that were unnecessary and not something that the Church should be getting involved in. And you’ll notice that Question Time included a panellist who was there to defend the Archbishop.

      http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

    2. bananabrain — on 15th February, 2008 at 9:39 AM  

      goodoh, nice letter.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    3. cjcjc — on 15th February, 2008 at 10:22 AM  

      Very articulate letter - though I disgree somewhat.
      (Please publish the reply.)

      Though, from your point 1, would you have preferred Shariah Law “already here” says Archbishop rather than “unavoidable”?!

    4. MaidMarian — on 15th February, 2008 at 11:04 AM  

      Sunny -

      The BBC, like pretty much all other media organisations were suckered.

      Rowan Williams knew exactly what he was doing and he got exactly what he wanted. By making this case for sharia law, he was bolstering the case for more religion of all types in all lawmaking. We debate on how to remove religion from laws, not how best to accommodate it.

      The complaint you need to be making is about being so easily suckered, not the terms above.

    5. fugstar — on 15th February, 2008 at 11:12 AM  

      dear bbc,

      I found my own coverage of the archbishop affair and my pandering to extremist shariaphobia repulsive to the extreme. Will you take notice of me please, im brown and ive got so many things to say on white issue too? (If not will you just cos we’re mates).

      I think we should collaborate and explore our strange shared religion issue. This way at least we will create some media product with an act of selfservice and public service.

      sunny hundal
      :-P

    6. Spurius — on 15th February, 2008 at 12:01 PM  

      However the words of the AoC’s interview got reported it is reasonable to conclude he foresees things changing, or wants them to change, in relation to Sharia.

      The words “inevitable” and “unavoidable” clearly relate to something which has not yet happened or does not yet exist.

      I wonder too what the other bearded wonder (apologies to beardies who bother to trim their beards), from the MCB meant when he said, on the Channel 4 programme Divorce Sharia Style, he wanted to “offer” Sharia to the Britain. Why would he offer us something we already have? And why did he then extol the virtues of stoning and amputation in other countries?

      The AoC deserved all he got.

      I think there is a case to be made for less allowance and recognition of religion-based legal processes especially those to do with the family. They encourage and support separatism.

    7. Matt Wardman — on 15th February, 2008 at 6:32 PM  

      >The words “inevitable” and “unavoidable” clearly relate to something which has not yet happened or does not yet exist.

      No it doesn’t - it mainly relates to a discussion of a possible recognition of something that is already in place informally, and that a lot of people seem to be in denial about. Unless we are willing to talk about these things (i.e., some elements of Sharia), we are never going to make a rational decision as to what their role may or may not be.

      It’s like men refusing to acknowledge the implications of their gf being pregnant - neither acceptable nor worthy of a liberal society.

      And the Beeb must know that when they put “Sharia” in a headline they are tagging a concept in the population’s mind that includes a good deal of blind prejudice. They also (cf the article on BBC editors blog) that it needed to be handled carefully and that the concept they were tagging was nothing to do with the concept that ++RW was addressing. They chose not to handle their reporting on the web carefully.

      >I wonder too what the other bearded wonder (apologies to beardies who bother to trim their beards), from the MCB meant when he said, on the Channel 4 programme Divorce Sharia Style, he wanted to “offer” Sharia to the Britain

      I think this last comment is logic chopping.

      However, it is probably most people are in denial that Sharia is used in some forms, and perhaps he has an agenda to go beyond that.

      >And why did he then extol the virtues of stoning and amputation in other countries?

      That would be the agenda to go beynod it. I’d suggest he’s advocating those aspects because he is bonkers :-) . AIUI, they tend to exist in Islamic Countries with the more bonkers governments (e.g., Iran, Saudi Arabia) . There are a number that do not use (e.g.,) the death penalty. I have not found figures for the numbers that practice amputation.

      >The AoC deserved all he got.

      I have yet to see a credible argument for this.

      Do you really think it wise to try and silence those who are taking the trouble to discuss and think?

      >I think there is a case to be made for less allowance and recognition of religion-based legal processes especially those to do with the family. They encourage and support separatism.

      So start making it, and we can get beyond hair-trigger assumptions and onto a decent debate. You will not get a better chance in the next 5 years.

      I’m running a Guest Series about Sharia, understandings of it and so on in the next fortnight - do you want to do a Guest Post? Real offer.

    8. Matt Wardman — on 15th February, 2008 at 6:37 PM  

      >The BBC, like pretty much all other media organisations were suckered.

      Citation? Proof?

      >Rowan Williams knew exactly what he was doing and he got exactly what he wanted.

      Evidence?

      >By making this case for sharia law, he was bolstering the case for more religion of all types in all lawmaking.

      You seem to be making an assumption about his intention. Do you have any evidence to support your assumption?

      >We debate on how to remove religion from laws, not how best to accommodate it.

      Looks like an a priori assumption to me (which I am tempted to call a dogma ;-) . You may choose to debate that - why in an open debate in a free society should everyone else obey you?

      Cheers

      Matt W

    9. Spurius — on 15th February, 2008 at 7:27 PM  

      Matt

      Regarding “inevitable” and “unavoidable” I think you and I are using different dictionaries.

      I return to what Dr Hasan, the general secretary of the Islamic Sharia Council, said. Why should he offer us something we already have? I’m afraid I am not familiar with the concept of logic chopping. [I remember “I like water”, “ducks like water”, “therefore I am a duck”]

      I also think he is bonkers but I believe his reference to stoning and amputation was deliberate and cynical. If you keep saying something outrageous people get used to it. Just like the Nazis.

      Yes, I agree using the word Sharia triggers a lot of blind prejudice. But equally, in this case, there was reaction from commentators across the board most of whom, in my opinion, knew what they were talking about.

      I admit my knowledge of sharia is pretty thin, but how thick does it have to be for me to have a worthwhile opinion?

      Thank you for the invitation to post. I will contact you through your website.

    10. Leon — on 15th February, 2008 at 10:31 PM  

      Rowan Williams knew exactly what he was doing and he got exactly what he wanted.

      Yep, it was a calculated move on his part.

    11. MaidMarian — on 17th February, 2008 at 1:48 AM  

      MattWardman

      No, I don’t have any evidence or citations and I am very proud of that. Why?

      Because this is a comment page where people hold forth their views - I am not an article writer and as such don’t need a cast iron case.

      I stand by my views and reject every single one of your non-arguments. Tell me why I am wrong with either evidence or comment and you may have a case. Without either you are faintly ridiculous.

      And yes it is an a priori assumption because it is a statement of a personal belief. I am more than proud to say that I think religion in law making is a very bad thing and I don’t give the product of a monkey’s masturbation what latin phrase you use to describe that.

      Demands for ‘evidence’ on a comment thread is the last refuge of the scoundrel

      Thank you and good night, I hope your sermon goes well today.

      For the avoidance of doubt, the BBC were suckered, the AoC got what he wanted and religion in lawmaking is a bad thing. I have no evidence, just personal belief.

      So there.

    12. Sunny — on 17th February, 2008 at 6:00 AM  

      For the avoidance of doubt, the BBC were suckered, the AoC got what he wanted and religion in lawmaking is a bad thing. I have no evidence, just personal belief.

      So there.

      Umm… I’m not sure this style of debate will get far MaidMarian. AoC was making a speech to law-makers. He was saying sharia exists and we need to recognise that it exists and deal with moral conflict, when it arises. Even if we dis-estbalish the church, it doesn’t mean that sharia courts or the Beth Din will go away - both of them are about a flexible legal system that allows civil arbitration by third parties.

      Matt W’s right - by saying it is inevitable or unavoidable - people are given the wrong impression.

      fugstar - if ‘white issues’ are too complicated for you… then i suggest going back to the village… innit bro. There you’ll find plenty of people suspicious of the big bad white man like yourself.

    13. MaidMarian — on 17th February, 2008 at 10:58 AM  

      Sunny

      To be clear, it wasn’t what MattWardman said that stuck in the craw, it was the very trite demand for, ‘evidence,’ in relation to a comment that was very clearly opinion.

      On your point, no disestablishment of the church does not mean that sharia/Beth Din will go away. That does not however mean that anyone has to take them seriously of afford them first amongst equals status.

    14. cjcjc — on 17th February, 2008 at 8:29 PM  

      He was speaking to lawyers in the evening.
      But *first* he spoke to the BBC.
      That’s what set it off - the “one law a bit of a danger” bit.

      What is the evidence he wants to give religion a special place?
      The fact he wants religious exemptions from equality legislation as well as the “bit of a danger” bit!

    15. Nyrone — on 17th February, 2008 at 10:23 PM  

      LOL @ “innit bro”

      Fugstar got served.

      I don’t care how how long it took you to write Sunny, it’s an excellent and important letter.
      Thanks for putting it up.

    16. Sofi — on 19th February, 2008 at 5:24 PM  

      well done Sunny !

    17. sunray — on 24th February, 2008 at 4:56 PM  

      The BBC Asian Network are just as biased towards Hindus.
      Sunny perhapas you might now understand what I have been going on about all these years.
      To prove another point yet agian.

      I got to hear about the death of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi the world famous Guru at work. So in the evening as I drive my car home I decide to swith to the BBC Asian Network News for details.
      Guess what?
      No News about his death.
      Nothing at 6.00pm or 7.00pm.
      Even Gagan didnt bother to pick it up which Adil tends to miss out.

      Complaint as to why this NEWS was snubbed -after all if the Asian Network doesnt cover Asian News then who will?—fell to deaf ears.

      This is the 100th incident when will someone pick it up?

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