China: BBC lambasted for stock photo inaccuracy

Global Voices OlympicsFollowing the fear-mongering perpetuated this week by (actually pro-surveillance) American senator Sam Brownback that China will be spying on attendees of the Olympics in their hotel rooms, has localized the story by looking at how the BBC covered it in the current anti-CNN front-page exposé post, ‘British Brain-washing Channel [sic] (BBC) Lies again!’


Following a search, we discovered that this photo has been used as “current” to accompany at least six times for news that spans eight years!

So following the one above, the community was able to dig up:


【06.10.25 BBC】异议人士李建平网上撰文被判监禁

Oct. 25, 2006
Dissident Li Jianping locked away for online writings


【06.7.23 BBC】中国建立“互联网黑名单”

July 23, 2006
China establishes “internet blacklist”

【02.09.23 BBC】The cost of China's web censors 中国网络检查的成本

Sept. 23, 2002
The cost of China's web censors

【01.7.20 BBC】China acts on net ‘addicts’ 中国对网络'痴迷者'展开行动

July 20, 2001
China acts on net ‘addicts’

【00.08.26 BBC】China tackles cyber squatters 中国打击“域名抢注”行为

August 26, 2000
China tackles cyber squatters

And one user was even able to find another case, also from the year 2000:

【00.8.21 BBC】Jiang backs China's net growth 江泽民支持中国网络发展

Is this story just a summary? It might not count
Story seven
August 21, 2000
Jiang backs China's net growth

A few cherrypickings of the first of four pages and growing of comments on this thread:


‘China's Big Family':
This really makes a joke of western media journalists’ “professionalism”
Is it me or does this photo just look like two wujing learning how to use the internet


We use LCD screens now, how could a photo with such an old monitor be called news? Do they think we haven't been developing here these past eight years? They can't even make fake news properly!


So in Western democracy's so-called press freedom, is being irresponsible the way to be responsible? Irresponsibility is just freedom? Sure, the West just wants China to be irresponsible, so that when it is, then they'll have their chance

see BBC Recycles Same Photo Over Eight Years, EastSouthWestNorth


  • The photo doesn’t change the content of the stories. I don’t see how this demonstrates bias anymore than would the same picture of a flower being used in different articles on gardening.

    I’m sure than given China’s wonderfully free foreign press allowances, the BBC could have easily taken many photos of the Internet Police.

    Is this really all the anti-CNN crowd can come up with?

  • Every thing on Chinadaily and Xinhue are totally cooked and dressed by Communist China.

    China accusing BB is like Hitler giver lecture on morality and peace to Nelson Mendela.

  • subjectivelistener

    Smith said: “The photo doesn’t change the content of the stories. I don’t see how this demonstrates bias anymore than would the same picture of a flower being used in different articles on gardening.”

    Are you sure the photo doesnt change the content of the stories? Clearly you choose to believe the article content.

    How about those that first time saw the picture? It is easier to get them believe it, right?

    It is always said Picture says a thousand worlds. Clearly to me, this is a credibility issue.

  • Kai

    It is simply ignorance of how stock photography is used in media. For some, it might even be intentional ignorance for the sake of finding fault. It is silly, especially when you have Chinese news sources blatantly photoshopping together the pictures they use.

  • zya

    Chinese edit President’s photo, it is not good, but it do no harm to anyone, I do not care.
    But BBC are attacking another country using a fake photo
    that has nothing to do with olympics, what a freedom and
    democracy? joke

  • Kai

    Sorry, zya, you’re wrong. It hurts the people seeing the photoshops and being deceived by them…just as much as you believe that using stock photography misleads people. The difference is that stock photography itself is not fake, but a photoshopped image is. Either anti-CNN should learn how stock photography is used in media and shutup…or they should avoid being hypocrites, acknowledge, and apologize when Chinese news media use stock photography or, worse, false photoshopped images.

    If you want to criticize, accept criticism yourself.

  • so_damn_lame

    Yo Kai,

    Why should Anti-CNN apologize for anything that the Chinese Media does?

    It is kind of fallacious to link Anti-CNN with the Chinese Media. It is the responsibility of the Chinese media to own up to whatever iffy stuff they did — not Anti-CNN’s. Given that Anti-CNN doesn’t represent the Chinese Media, they don’t have to apologize for anything.

  • charlotte

    sigh….i guess the ppl in the western world just dont get the one most important thing, chinese ppl know all the things too!

    u think chinese ppl dont know china’s not democratic? u think chinese ppl dont get the fact that the internet is monitored and controlled? we r not fools for heavens sake. and so we know it better than anyone else that WHAT BBC IS DOING IS NOTHING BETTER.

    we, chinese ppl r the ones who should care about it, more than you do! it affects our daily life NOT URS! we all know how the government controlls the internet and we r all unhappy about it. STILL THAT DOESN’T GIVE BBC THE RIGHT TO DO IT TOO!

    wat BBC is doing with fake photos to attack china doesn’t make BBC look any better than communist party to chinese ppl, only worse.

    During the tibet riot time the western media was hated by the chinese, but since then we know better, now these media like BBC r just jokes to chinese ppl.

    just stop making us despise u more, thank you very much.

  • Spelunker

    The use of a stock pictures is common media practice when current photos are not available.
    It probably would be extremely difficult for a foreign journalist or photographer to actually get permission to take pictures of the monitors in front of PSB computer monitors doing their monitorial work during the Olympics.
    The possibility also exists that the original photo could have simply been borrowed from a random Chinese website on the Internet. I have used that trick before for military photos of China border areas, but for my own personal use (not to accompany a related news article).

  • Kai

    @ so_damn_lame:

    Yes, you’re right that anti-CNN does not represent the Chinese media. Of course, I think it just slightly amusing that many Chinese are so willing to take Cafferty’s comments about the government as personal insults (so why not identify with the media this time?). Whatever, my point is that anti-CNN, in all their feverish nit-picking-for-the-defense-of-China’s-honor, should be embarrassed when it is pointed out that Chinese media does the same or worse. This is the same as “the West” acknowledging that they, in the past as a society, have committed many of the same crimes that they accuse the Chinese. Surely, anti-CNN is reasonable enough to admit that it is morally indefensible to pretend their own $#!t doesn’t stink, right? The tables are turned in this situation and it is an opportunity for anti-CNN to show that they’re, well, adults.

    Of course, I shouldn’t hold such false hope. Stupidity aggregates and mobs tend to charge forth blindly. This is true of the Chinese as it is true for Westerners.

    @ charlotte:
    The BBC did not use fake photos to attack China. They used stock photography to represent a concept relevant to their news reporting. Stock photography is all about relevance. Photoshopped images is all about deception. Judging by the way you type, you appear to have had significant Western education or influence. Surely, by now, you understand such a simple thing as “stock photography” right?

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.