The BBC and Sky TV are continuing to hold the line that broadcasting a humanitarian appeal for aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip would compromise their journalistic credibility and their ability to objectively report on the Middle East conflict.
Overnight (Kiwi time) a group of protestors staged a sit-in at the BBC HQ in London and burned their TV licences. Meanwhile a group of British MPs is backing a motion in the House of Commons that would attempt to force the BBC to broadcast the appeal.
Meanwhile the appeal has already raised in the vicinity of $NZ 1.6 million.
The refusal of Sky to broadcast the appeal makes some sense, it is, after all, owned by Rupert Murdoch who is very pro-Israel and regularly feted by the Zionist lobby in the USA. Sky, like Fox in the US, is still neo-con in outlook and would never compromise Murdoch’s links with Israel.
However, the BBC case is more nuanced and I’m still struggling with the issue of credibility and compromise.
In a post earlier this week I pointed out that there’s a certain level of hypocrisy in the BBC’s position, given that it regularly devotes airtime and the names of its “star” on-air staff to charity appeals. It seems that I might now be accused of siding with the British Tory press, given this editorial in the Telegraph:
We applaud Mr Thompson’s recognition of the importance of impartiality, and his eagerness to try to ensure that the corporation is not perceived as pro-Palestinian. His adoption of this stance would carry more conviction, however, if the BBC had maintained that line consistently in the past. But it has not. [Telegraph editorial 24 Jan]
The editorial points out that a number of charity appeals previously supported by the BBC including “Make Poverty History” are clearly political and controversial.
VIENNA (AFP)–The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, has canceled planned interviews with the BBC in protest at the U.K. broadcaster’s refusal to air a Gaza charity appeal, the IAEA said Wednesday.
Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the “director-general has canceled his scheduled BBC World Service TV and radio interviews because of the BBC management’s refusal to broadcast the DEC’s (Disasters Emergency Committee) humanitarian appeal for Gaza.
“He believes this decision violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong.” [CNN Money]
A group of protesters set fire to their television licenses in a sit-in at the BBC broadcasting centre in London yesterday evening, as complaints continued about the Corporation’s refusal to show a Gaza charity appeal.
Students occupied the reception area of the White City building, chanting “shame on you” and other slogans. One of them, Chris Nineham, said” “We want the BBC to reverse its decision.”
Hundreds of people have also posted their licenses to the BBC to demand a refund. It is a legal requirement for people in the UK who own a television to have a license, the public proceeds of which fund the BBC.
Meanwhile the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), which is a recognised agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has expressed its disappointment that the BBC and Sky are not showing the DEC’s charitable appeal for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The aid organisation said in a statement: “It is of great regret that we will unfortunately not be getting our humanitarian message out to potential supporters through this avenue. [ekklesia.co.uk]
As the Gaza appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee was broadcast on ITV and Channel 4 and Five last night, the refusal of the BBC and Sky to do so remained puzzling. If Mark Thompson’s core objection was that it would have compromised the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting of the conflict, then what of the other appeals DEC has mounted and the BBC has screened with no qualms? Congo, Darfur and Chad, Liberia, Kosovo, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were all man-made disasters for which DEC launched major appeals.
Even the cyclone appeal for Burma had profoundly political implications, as the military junta blocked access of aid agencies to the Irrawaddy Delta. DEC’s campaign formed an open and unashamed part of a wider international effort to get the junta to open up an area of the country that it was initially determined to keep closed. And yet the BBC had no qualms about its editorial stance then. Mr Thompson claimed yesterday that his decision on Gaza was not a first and was in line with previous decisions. But the consistency was difficult to spot. What qualifies appeals on Darfur or Burma, but not Gaza? [Guardian 27 Jan]