New Action Alert: CBC Airs Another One-Sided Christmas Report

January 7, 2007

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CBC Airs Another One-Sided Christmas Report

January 7, 2007

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:

This Christmas, for the second year in a row, CBC ignored problems like inter-Arab violence and Muslim persecution of Bethlehem’s Christians, instead using the Christian holy day to portray Israel as the obstacle to Christian pilgrimage in Jesus’ birthplace.

Christmas 2005

Last year, CBC?s Paul Workman (now working for CTV) filed a troubling report from Bethlehem that focused almost exclusively on Israel?s security barrier (see HonestReporting Canada’s critique). Workman invoked the "apartheid" claim and included the obligatory footage of a tourist declaring,  "That’s sad, you know, the wall, like you are in a big jail, really it’s a big jail."


Complaints from HonestReporting Canada’s members resulted in CBC acknowledging that Workman took "poetic license" in stating that "The barrier is meant to keep Palestinians in, but the people of Bethlehem are afraid that it will simply keep tourists out." (The barrier is in fact meant to keep terrorists out, not to keep Palestinians in.)

Christmas 2006

Anticipating similar problems this year, HonestReporting Canada contacted CBC News prior to Christmas and asked them to cover the Bethlehem story more fairly. We wrote:

"We urge you to consider whether there may be more to the Bethlehem story than a simple ‘Israelis vs. Palestinians’ angle. There is much more to the story that we appeal to you, in the name of fairness, to consider when crafting CBC?s report."

We pointed out special measures that Israel took to facilitate Christian tourism in Bethlehem. We also alerted CBC to factors that might impact the celebration in Bethlehem, including the fact that recent well-publicized internal Palestinian violence would likely scare away tourists:

  • In 2002, Palestinian terrorists took over Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, took clergymen hostage, and desecrated the church;
  • Last Christmas, Palestinians stormed Bethlehem’s town hall adjacent to the Church of the Nativity and fired their weapons from the church rooftop;
  • This past September, following Pope Benedict’s comments about Islam, Muslims violently attacked Christian holy sites in Palestinian areas; CBC reported that "Palestinian Muslims firebombed two churches and shot at five others in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protest against the Pope’s comments"
  • Due to recent internal violence between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions, Israel implemented special measures this Christmas to ensure safe passage for Christians, including complimentary shuttles between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

A senior CBC News executive acknowledged receipt of these facts. Other news staff also received the information. And a Dec. 24 report on the CBC website did include (very minimal) recognition of the dampening effect of inter-Arab violence:

"Some have speculated that tourists are wary of recent factional violence among Palestinians, although Fatah and Hamas have not clashed in Bethlehem."

But on December 25, CBC?s Peter Armstrong filed a TV report from Bethlehem that, like last year, was focused on Israel’s security barrier. Click below to watch Armstrong’s report:


CBC’s Never-Ending Story

Like last year’s report, CBC’s TV report this year:

  • Included extensive footage of the security barrier: 17 seconds of continuous footage filmed from inside a moving vehicle.
  • Included the obligatory "giant prison" quote, this time from Bethlehem’s mayor: "[Bethlehem] is surrounded by the wall of separation. It has become a big prison for its citizens."
  • Excluded any Israeli officials who might discuss the purpose and effectiveness of the security barrier, or steps Israel took to facilitate travel to Bethlehem. Instead, Armstrong summed up Israel’s position as follows: "Israel says it was built to keep out suicide bombers, but Palestinians say it simply cuts off the city."

Toward the end of his report, Armstrong speculated that maybe tourists stayed away because "they’re afraid," and showed a tourist saying "There’s a fear in the west, the perception that’s given off in the news and by various governments that this is an unsafe area." But Armstrong never explained why Bethlehem might be considered unsafe, leaving viewers to draw the obvious conclusion in the context of his typical "Israel vs. Palestinians" story.

What do you think of CBC’s coverage of Christmas in Bethlehem? Do you believe Canadian viewers benefit from CBC’s annual ritual of one-sided coverage?

How You Can Make a Difference

Contact the CBC to express your concern about the broadcaster?s one-sided Christmas report from Bethlehem — yet one more example of CBC’s poor Middle East coverage in 2006.

How to contact CBC:

  • Click here to leave your online input on CBC’s feedback page
  • Call CBC Audience Relations at:          1-866-306-4636        

Pointers for contacting CBC:

  • Watch the report before contacting CBC
  • State your position clearly in your own words
  • Remain rational and avoid being abusive
  • Ask for a written reply
  • Contact us at to let us know you took action


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Thank you for your commitment to fair and accurate media coverage of Israel and the Middle East


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