Tuesday 27 January 2009

BBC’s Gaza decision awash with contradiction

So, again we find the BBC dominating the headlines for reasons of controversy. Unless you have been doing a Rip van Winkle impression this past week you will have seen the news that both the BBC and Sky have refused to air a DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) appeal for aid to help the people of Gaza, following the Israeli withdrawal last week. ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five all aired the appeal on Monday.

Without getting too embroiled in the politics of the appeal, it is worth considering the implications for the media. The BBC has argued that to show it would impinge on their impartiality. It could be suggested that not showing it does this even more so. Tony Benn, appearing on BBC News 24, voiced his disapproval vociferously and defied the host’s wishes by reading the address of the appeal a number of times.

Tony Benn on News 24:

The BBC position, as voiced by the host, was that there could be no guarantee that the money would get to those it was intended for, i.e. that Hamas would use it for military purposes against Israel. This is a dubious reason at best and one which could be used against any appeal to a war ravaged region. Michael Palin, for example, did an appeal regarding Rwanda for the BBC in 1994 and that was OK.

The Beeb has left itself open to the criticism which has followed this decision. As recently as November 2008 the it aired a DEC appeal for the Democratic Republic of Congo, fronted by Juliet Stephenson, which begs the question: Why did this appeal not impact on the BBC’s impartiality? In the Rwanda appeal Palin asks for the aid to help the "ordinary people of Rwanda" - what about the ordinary people of Gaza, or does the BBC consider them all Hamas militants?

The BBC's Congo Appeal in Novemebr2008:

Further more, does the BBC, as the UK's national broadcaster, not have a responsibility to show this type of appeal, regardless of the politics of the situation? And does this say something fundamental about those in charge of the mainstream media that such politically biased decisions can be made and maintained?

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