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4 Thoughts on The BBC Brouhaha
The BBC's in hot water because it's refusing to broadcast an appeal for Gaza by an umbrella organization of humanitarian organizations. The Disasters Emergency Committee requested the broadcast appeal, which is being aired on other UK channels.
BBC boss Mark Thompson posted an explanation on The Editors blog, offering two reasons for the refusal:
One reason was a concern about whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground. You will understand that one of the factors we have to look at is the practicality of the aid, which the public are being asked to fund, getting through . . . .
After looking at all of the circumstances, and in particular after seeking advice from senior leaders in BBC Journalism, we concluded that we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story. Inevitably an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations. The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story.
Israel was unfortunately dragged into the backlash when Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said:
". . . this nervousness about being biased - I am afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally."
The Independent suggests why the Beeb is taking this tack:
Why critics accuse the BBC of losing its nerve is because, several times during the present conflict, almost as much airtime has been given to the chief Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev, as if by allowing him his say, the BBC is supplying the necessary "balance" to the images of Palestinian victims. A live "two-way" between Mr Regev and Jon Snow of 'Channel 4 News' became a shouting match, but this has never happened on the BBC.
My four thoughts on the sorry situation:
- Israel's already allowing aid into Gaza; as long as the assistance doesn't reach Hamas, Israel isn't the least bit interested in this affair.
- Bradshaw's insinuation that Israel can pressure the BBC is ridiculous. There's no evidence Israel did so, and I highly doubt any Israeli officials had advance knowledge. Bradshaw's comments are just a twist on the old "Zionists control the media" canard. Since when has the BBC ever shown concern for its standing vis-a-vis Israel?
- If the BBC has info that aid isn't reaching the intended people, then I applaud the Thompson for standing firm, and I can't wait to see a story about it.
- It's a tremendous shame that the shortcomings of BBC coverage have come to this.
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I think this is the cleverest coup pulled off by the BBC yet.
Just look at the publicity that has now come to the fore.
Not just for the "Cause" but for the BBC.
Not only does the BBC give maximum publicity by placing not one but two links on its International version homepage (More Top Stories and More Top Stories UK) but when you follow the link you reach a page with the following box.
Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza humanitarian appeal:
Launched by UK charities on 22 January to raise money for Gaza aid relief and reconstruction
Participants: Action Aid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision
Information on 0370 60 60 900 or at DEC website
It is difficult to see how the BBC could have given more publicity.
A quick Google shows 1,210 references from bbc.co.uk over the past week for the words: pressure, BBC and Gaza.
In other words the BBC has referred to the story on its own website more than one thousand times, usually giving as much detail as if it had publicised it. Sometimes as well as listing every charity in DEC the BBC obligingly supplies the DEC phone number.
"Dear Aunty, I am considering opening a business. Please refuse to advertise said business as least as vigorously as you refuse to advertise DEC. Phone number and website details on request."
And The Independent shows its true colours and lack of objectivity by complaining that the BBC gave Mark Regev the opportunity to give its viewers an Israeli perspective on the conflict.
So much for expecting any objectivity from The Independent!