Yom Kippur update: TV boss attacks his own station

September 20, 2002


1. "Totally unrealistic and factually incorrect"
2. "TV chief attacks 'one-sided' Palestinian documentary" (Guardian, Sept. 20, 2002)
3. "Carlton chairman criticises its own documentary on Israel" (Independent, Sept. 20, 2002)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to Tuesday's dispatch On Yom Kippur, British TV screens a particularly harsh attack on Israel.

The head of Britain's biggest television company, Carlton Communications, today took the extraordinary step of disowning the programming of his own station. (Carlton had made the program for ITV.) Michael Green said of the documentary "Palestine Is Still the Issue," broadcast on the day of Yom Kippur: "It was totally unrealistic, it was factually incorrect, and historically incorrect."

Below are articles from the "religion" section of today's (UK) Guardian and the "media" section of the Independent. While a number of television executives and newspaper owners have admitted in private in recent months that their journalists are unfair to Israel, it is extremely rare for them to do so in public.

-- Tom Gross



TV chief attacks 'one-sided' Palestinian documentary
Is Green right to criticise his programme makers?
By Stephen Bates
The Guardian
September 20, 2002

Michael Green, chairman of Carlton Communications, has disowned a John Pilger documentary on the Palestinians, made and transmitted by his own company and condemned as one-sided by the Israeli embassy, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Conservative Friends of Israel.

The late-night documentary by one of journalism's best-known polemicists, broadcast on Monday, was seen by about 1 million viewers. The company said yesterday it had attracted viewers' complaints and praise in equal measure.

But Mr Green, who is Jewish, told the Jewish Chronicle he had been "extremely unhappy" with the programme and was actively seeking to balance it with another documentary putting the Israeli point of view. "I entirely agree with what is being said. It was one-sided, it was totally unrealistic, but it was John Pilger ... it was factually incorrect, historically incorrect.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this programme is a tragedy for Israel so far as accuracy is concerned. What I am doing right now is to make sure there is a programme that shows the Israeli point of view.

"I agree with the board of deputies that what is terribly important is to try to get balance and redress."

The documentary Palestine Is Still the Issue, broadcast on the day of Yom Kippur, the holiest in the Jewish calendar, condemned Israeli injustices towards the Palestinians and argued that they were at the root of the Middle East conflict. It interviewed Palestinians, Israelis and an Israeli government spokesman.

The embassy claimed that the programme was a wilful distortion and offered a "dehumanised portrayal of the Jewish people, exemplified by regular insinuation and comparison to the holocaust (which) was wholly offensive". The board of deputies said it made no effort to provide context or provide any kind of Israeli perspective.

A spokeswoman for Carlton said there was no confirmation that another film would be made. She added: "Notwithstanding the chairman's views the documentary was not prevented from being shown."

John Pilger was not available for comment.



Carlton chairman criticises its own documentary on Israel
By Paul Peachey
The Independent
September 20, 2002

The chairman of Carlton Television, Michael Green, has strongly criticised one of his company's documentaries on the Middle East made by the award-winning journalist John Pilger.

Mr Green said the programme, Palestine Is Still The Issue, was one-sided, totally unrealistic and a "tragedy for Israel so far as accuracy is concerned". He told the Jewish Chronicle that he had seen the programme before it was broadcast on Monday and was "extremely unhappy" with it. He said he was "focused" on getting the network to make a programme from the Israeli point of view.

"I fully accept that we are a public-service broadcaster and that it is the opinion of John Pilger," he told the newspaper. "That is the nature of our remit. We do present programmes that give differing points of view. It was factually incorrect, historically incorrect. Unfortunately, you can't always agree with him. He [Mr Pilger] has a huge reputation but consistently my views are very much opposed to his views."

Last night Mr Pilger told The Independent: "What this fuss is about is that a mainstream documentary has described accurately and fairly the great injustice done to the Palestinian people and it has done so by using both Palestinian and Israeli witnesses.

"To the pro-Israeli lobby, the broadcast of this basic truth is unacceptable." The programme, which followed up a documentary on Palestine Mr Pilger made 25 years ago, has stirred strong passions and Carlton was inundated with complaints and praise in equal measure, according to a spokeswoman. About one million people watched the programme.

A spokesman from Carlton factual programmes, said the views expressed by Mr Green were his own and that he was in no way involved in the programme or its transmission.

He added: "John Pilger's programme and its accuracy went through normal procedures of editorial scrutiny prior to completion and senior executives both at Carlton and the ITV network approved its transmission. The film dealt with a sensitive subject and was bound to be controversial."

The Israeli embassy said it would be demanding ITV schedule a programme that "presents an objective and honest version of this complex and multifaceted conflict". The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also complained to the Independent Television Commission.

Carlton said it could not confirm another documentary would be made. Mr Green had no say on scheduling.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.