The intent of the Taube Media Monitoring Project, begun in September 2006, is to examine Polish newspaper and television coverage related to Israel for factual accuracy, interpretation and balance. On the basis of these examinations, weekly reports are issued to the media involved, pointing out inaccuracies, misinterpretations, omissions or imbalance. The goal is to obtain published retractions and/or corrections, as well as to effect changes of editorial policy to ensure that similar mistakes are not made in the future. Longer term, the goal is to produce an overall analysis of the portrayal of Israel in the Polish media.
From September 2006 to September 2007 a team of monitors scrutinized the coverage of Israel in three newspapers, three main State TV and two main private TV news programs, as well as the daily dispatches of the Polish Press agency. Weekly reports in Polish were sent to the media involved. The monitors mission was to track down and describe errors of fact, misinterpretations of fact, imbalanced coverage and serious omissions of fact.
The main findings for the first monitoring year were as follows:
Newspapers. Though omissions, errors and distortions in the coverage of Israel were found in about half of the news articles monitored, the overwhelming majority of those referred to issues of low importance: most of the coverage was found to be balanced and fair. In particular, with the exception of one daily, the faulty coverage did not warrant the assumption that hostile intent was to blame: almost all of the questionable statements were attributed to faulty editing or lack of sufficient background knowledge. In the case of the one daily where coverage generated concern, the monitors were unable to decide whether the issue was due to hostile intent or to lower levels of professionalism (this newspaper was generally considered the most inexperienced and least professional of the three). This same daily was also most unreceptive to the reports, while the other two acknowledged them with appreciation, and changes in editorial policy due to issues identified in reports were clearly visible. However, no corrections or retractions were ever published, a fact attributable to the extreme unwillingness of Polish media to do so.
Television. Coverage of Israel was very sporadic; there were months in which only one Israel-related item was broadcast. This is due to the general and serious underreporting of international events on Polish TV. The monitors had critical comments on some of that coverage, but not enough material was available to substantiate any general claims. The reports remain unacknowledged, and no retractions were made.
Polish Press Agency dispatches. A consistent pattern of anti-Israel bias was found in the Agency's Israel coverage, including gross distortions of facts, imbalanced coverage, and at times outright false presentations of events. Monitoring reports remained unacknowledged and unanswered for two-thirds of the duration of the project, and no retractions, corrections, or amendments to editorial practice were made. Things changed dramatically, however, when the head of the monitoring team made these findings public in a respected media journal. Within two weeks, the questionable practices had all but disappeared, and this effect remained constant, with only occasional and minor issues of concern, until the end of the monitoring period.
Conclusion: The project's findings tend to support the position that coverage of Israel is much more balanced in Poland than in comparable Western European media.
The Media Monitoring Project will recommence in September 2008 and follow Polish press and television coverage of Israel for another year.