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Researchers at the University of the West of England, UK, have exposed ongoing and systematic bias in the BBC's news reporting on Venezuela. Dr Lee Salter and Dr Dave Weltman analysed ten years of BBC reports on Venezuela since the first election of Hugo Chavez to the presidency in an ongoing research project, and their findings so far show that the BBC's reporting falls short of its legal commitment to impartiality, truth and accuracy.
The researchers looked at 304 BBC reports published between 1998 and 2008 and found that only 3 of those articles mentioned any of the positive policies introduced by the Chavez administration. The BBC has failed to report adequately on any of the democratic initiatives, human rights legislation, food programs, healthcare initiatives, or poverty reduction programs. Mission Robinson, the greatest literacy program in human history received only a passing mention.
According to the research the BBC seems never to have accepted the legitimacy of the President, insinuating throughout the sample that Chavez lacks electoral support, at one point comparing him to Hitler (‘Venezuela's Dictatorship' 31/08/99).
This undermining of Chavez must be understood in the context of his electoral record: his legitimacy is questioned despite the fact that he has been elected several times with between 56% and 60% of the vote. In contrast victorious parties in UK elections since 1979 have achieved between 35.3% and 43.9% of the vote; the current UK Prime Minister was appointed by his predecessor, and many senior members of the British cabinet have never been elected. It will come as no surprise that their legitimacy is never questioned by the BBC.
Of particular note is the BBC's response to the military coup in 2002. BBC News published nine articles on the coup on 12th April 2002, all of which were based on the coup leaders' version of events, who were, alongside the "opposition", championed as saviors of "the nation." Although BBC News did report the coup, the only time it mentioned the word "coup" was as an allegation of government officials and of Chavez's daughter.
The "official" BBC explanation was that Chavez 'fell', 'quit', or 'resigned' (at best at the behest of the military) after his 'mishandling' of "strikes" (which, as Hardy  reminds us, were actually management lockouts) and demonstrations in which his supporters had fired on and killed protesters. In reporting this latter, Adam Easton, the BBC's correspondent in Caracas wrote 'Film footage also caught armed supporters of Mr Chavez firing indiscriminately at the marchers' ('Venezuela's New Dawn'). The footage in question was broadcast by an oligarch's channel that had supported the coup and was shown to have been manipulated.
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