erasing clouds

Book Review: Greg Philo and Mike Berry's Bad News from Israel

by anna battista

There are many books out there about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but none of them approaches this topic from a media perspective better than Greg Philo and Mike Berry’s Bad News from Israel, which contains consistent research, the result of surveys and public debates.

Bad News from Israel opens with a section containing a precise history of the conflict in the Middle East, written in a clear and readable manner starting from the first wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine through to the Oslo and Wye Accords and the intifadas. In the second section the authors analyse the TV reports about the conflict and explain the readers their findings: following BBC One and ITV News from the start of the current Palestinian intifada, Philo and Berry discover that the news on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do often simply confuse the viewers without providing a historical background about this issue. The authors also underline that it is the Israeli perspective which predominates in TV news, on one hand because the Israelis have well organised media and public relations operations, on the other because of the closeness between America and Israel and of the consequent relationship between America and Britain. Philo and Berry actually discover in their research that there is a wider range of arguments in the Israeli media than there is on the BBC.

The language in which the events from the Middle East are reported is also analysed to prove how there is a strong emphasis on Israeli casualties on the news and how the word ‘terrorist’ is often used to describe Palestinians by journalists. The third section of the book includes interviews with groups of people from different backgrounds, which show how TV news can confuse the viewer and often contribute to give an incorrect version of reality and to spread ignorance.

Greg Philo and Mike Berry examined around 200 news programmes and interviewed and questioned over 800 people over a two-year period while researching for the volume. The study brings together professional journalists and ordinary viewers who discussed about the content of the news in research groups. Among the others taking part in the research there are also George Alagiah and Brian Hanrahan from the BBC, Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 news and the film-maker Ken Loach.

Bad News from Israel is not only directed to people who work in the media business: the general public will find it helpful to understand better the reasons of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the chronology of the events that started it, but also to realise that not every piece of information reported by the media machine is often unbiased, impartial and neutral.


Issue 29, December 2004

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