Israel/Palestine,  Media

BBC made the right call

Neil posted earlier on this, but I wanted to put forward something in defence of the BBC which I think has made entirely the right call. This is supported by Sky News doing likewise. The BBC should stick to the decision it has made and not be brow beaten into changing its mind.

Gaza is a highly emotive issue, everyone knows that, but it isn’t the BBC’s job to broadcast charity footage seeking to raise funds for the DEC emergency appeal. Furthermore it doesn’t need to.

Broadcasting the appeal would put the BBC’s impartiality at risk and no matter how much groups march and MPs attack it should not back down.

The BBC’s job is to report the news and to cover the story in Gaza as it continues to unfold. It will as a matter of its ongoing reporting give airtime to the humanitarian dimensions of what is a complicated and contentious story. That is its job.

That alone gives easy access to information to those who might choose to donate to the DEC appeal. It is not as if the issue is hard to miss. It is everywhere. People can not fail to be informed or find information easily online.

That to me suggests quite strongly that this issue is not really about the appeal itself, but about political bullying which the BBC should not give into.

We can see more of that bullying in the people who are pressing the issue most keenly. These people are themselves not impartial. The Labour MP Richard Burden who is putting forward an early day motion, supported by more than 50 MPs, is chairman of the House of Commons Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary group. He campaigns tirelessly and in a one sided fashion on this issue.

Other Parliamentarians supporting his cause include Jewish Labour MP Gerald Kaufman who spends his time, equally tirelessly, attacking Israel at any opportunity. His choice words for this issue? The BBC is worrying about “nasty pressure” from some pro-Israeli lobbyists. He has a history of this and recently compared the actions of Israeli troops in Gaza to Nazis who forced his family to flee Poland. He’s a man in need of a level head.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has said that the BBC can not give the impression it was “backing one side” over the other. That is exactly right. Many already suspect that this is the case anyway – although I am no one of them.

He is entirely right in doing so. Whatever else you think about the decisions he had made recently this is the right one and he deserves some support for this.

If it is to broadcast the footage of Gaza then what about the victims in Israel as well? It is not the BBC’s job to broadcast charity appeals whatever the merits, but particularly when it comes to issues like this that are so divisive.

I don’t believe that he BBC’s arm has been twisted by pro-Israeli lobbyists, but then I am not some conspiracy minded loon either. Health minister Ben Bradshaw’s comments, highlighted by Bertie,
that Israel has a long reputation of bullying and cowing the BBC, are ludicrous and should not be allowed to stand.

I also find it bizarre the argument that the BBC must give in and broadcast the appeal less it give rise to the argument that the corporation will be seen to be under the influence of “Zionists”. That is one hell of a slippery slope.

If that argument is used as even part of the thinking for the broadcast to go ahead then that would be entirely shameful as it is nothing short of appeasement and giving into the worst kind of bullying. And that can not be allowed to stand under any circumstance.

The truth of the matter several days into this storm is that the row alone has achieved more publicity than broadcasting the appeal ad ever would. Job done. Now let’s more on.