This political correctness has to stop. The BBC is now so paranoid about being seen as anything other than ‘inoffensive’, ‘balanced’ and ‘impartial’ that it’s failing in its prime social responsibilities. They have decided not to broadcast a new advertising appeal for aid to support the relief effort in Gaza, and have been criticised by pretty much everyone. First off the government:
Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, yesterday rebuked Britain’s broadcasters for refusing to air an emergency appeal for Gaza by Britain’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).
In a letter to the BBC, Sky and ITV, Alexander expressed his “disappointment” that the appeal would not be broadcast.
Today the health minister Ben Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist, described the decision not to screen the appeal as “inexplicable” and dismissed the corporation’s explanation for its position as “completely feeble”.
Tony Benn, the President of the Stop the War Coalition, will today add:
“The human suffering that the people of Gaza have experienced over the last few weeks has appalled people who have seen it for themselves on their television screens.
“To deny the help that the aid agencies and the UN need at this moment in time is incomprehensible and it follows the bias in BBC reporting of this crisis, which has been widely criticised.
“I appeal to the chairman of the BBC Trust to intervene to reverse this decision to save the lives of those who are now in acute danger of dying through a lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies.”
Benn has already said:
Mr Benn told the Today programme: “I never thought I would live to see (the BBC) refuse to broadcast a humanitarian appeal on the grounds that it was controversial. I know why it is – because (Tzipi) Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, has said there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“The BBC raised £10 million for the Congo and £18 million for Burma. That decision is denying the aid agencies money they desperately need. People are dying in Gaza. There’s an absolute crisis in Gaza.”
I couldn’t agree with him more. It’s a complete disgrace and indeed follows on from the BBC’s and other western new agencies’ bias in their reporting of the crisis. The BBC however disagrees:
But the BBC head responded, saying the Gaza issue was a “highly controversial news story within which the human suffering and distress which have resulted from the conflict remain intrinsic and contentious elements”.
Mr Thompson also questioned whether the aid would get to those in need in Gaza.
In his reply he wrote: “We concluded that to broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully couched, ran the risk of calling into question the public’s confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in its coverage of the story as a whole.”
I think it’s an outrage that the BBC’s Director-General should set himself up as a judge of the value of the appeal. Whether or not it gets to those in need in Gaza isn’t a consideration for him as a broadcaster. The aid organisations within the DEC have a remarkable track record of getting aid past the most monstrous regimes and to the people who need it. To patronise the entire British public by suggesting that we’d conflate the BBC’s support for an impartial aid effort with support for one of the sides in the conflict, opens his own judgment to question. We already know from the Brand/Ross affair that Thompson has next to no spine, but to have his shortcomings affect the lives of innocent people is unthinkable.