In an inexplicable move, citing issues of impartiality and in contradiction with previous policy on humanitarian appeals, the BBC has refused to provide free airtime for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s apolitical appeal for aid for stricken Gazan people.
But the BBC made a rare breach of an agreement dating to 1963, saying it would not give free airtime to the appeal. Other broadcasters followed suit. Previously, broadcasters had agreed on the video and script to be used with the DEC, to be shown after primetime news bulletins.
The BBC, which has been criticised in the past over alleged bias in its coverage of the Middle East, said it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality. A BBC spokesperson said: “The decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of [a] news story.”
The DEC’s chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said: “We are totally apolitical … this appeal is a response to humanitarian principles. The BBC seems to be confusing impartiality with equal airtime.”
Why is the alleviation of the suffering experienced by Gazan people unworthy of BBC assistance? what is partial about humanitarian aid? are there lobbyists with dark agendas working on the old Beeb?
Register your complaint with the BBC now.
Direct donations to the DEC, a group of 13 aid charities, to help the people of Gaza can be made here.
Protests against the BBC decision are underway –
The BBC’s chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson, said it had to be “very careful” over the broadcast of such appeals.
“It’s important to remember that broadcasting appeals like this is a unique thing we do,” she said.
“And we have to be very clear about two things when we do it – firstly, that that money will go to the people it’s intended for.
“But secondly, that we can do it within our own editorial principles and without affecting and impinging on the audience’s perception of our impartiality.
“And clearly – in conflicts as controversial as this – that is a real issue for us.”
Mr Bradshaw said the BBC’s reasoning was flawed.
“First, the one about delivery – the British government is giving £25m to Gazan relief, we don’t have a problem getting it in. There’s no reason why there should be any problem getting the relief in.
“Secondly, this nervousness about being biased. I’m afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally.”
Mr Benn will address the pro-Palestinian rally called by the Stop the War Coalition, and is expected to say the BBC’s refusal is a “betrayal” of its obligations.
Mr Benn will say: “The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, which has left aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations, is a betrayal of the obligation which it owes as a public service.
“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.”
Mohammed Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, said turning down the appeal was a “disgraceful decision”.
He added: “The BBC should be ashamed for its coverage of the Israeli aggression which failed to address the catastrophic suffering on the Palestinian side, and now it’s concerned about its impartiality.
“Never was the BBC impartial throughout this crisis”.
Following Mr Benn’s speech, the demonstrators intend to march to Trafalgar Square via Downing Street.
Significantly, the web page above contains a small ad for the DEC appeal – good work, BBC web team!.
A little recent history – the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli massacre of the Gazan people has been described as weak.
With some honourable exceptions (a post-holiday Jeremy Paxman and Newsnight), the questioning of Israeli spokespeople has been weak. Compare, for example, Channel 4 News’s grilling of Mark Regev, the Israeli government’s chief spokesman, on 8 January, with much of the BBC output. Alex Thomson asked Regev “in the name of humanity” to apologise for the refusal of the Israeli army to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to get to “starving children”. Thomson put it to Regev that the Red Cross workers had to “walk one kilometre” to reach the scene. Regev stonewalled, but Thomson did not relent. It was good, objective, non-hedged questioning.
Compare that with various BBC outlets, including similar allegations put on The World at One on 9 January to another Israeli spokesman, Yigal Palmor. Palmor was allowed to fob off the charges with relative ease in an interview with the usually rigorous Brian Hanrahan. These spokespeople, along with Major Avital Leibovich of the Israeli army, have been ever present on the news channel, but rarely have they been truly pressed.
During the massacre, the BBC operated out of Jerusalem:
[Jeremy] Bowen is now operating out of the BBC office in Jerusalem, writing in his online diary that this made it easier to co-ordinate newsgathering and talk to people.
This has meant Abu, who is a familiar voice on the BBC Arabic radio service and worked alongside correspondent Alan Johnston before his kidnap in 2007, has become the unlikely face of the BBC’s Gaza coverage.
The IDF did allow a BBC cameraman and three Israeli journalists to accompany one if its patrols into Gaza during the lull last Wednesday.
“This is one of those stories where putting the global pieces together helps tell the story better. It is one of those stories that plays to the strengths of the BBC,” Jon Williams, the BBC’s head of world news-gathering, told MediaGuardian.co.uk.
The BBC continues to hold out on humanitarian for the Palestinian people, despite Channel 4 and ITV now offering free airtime.
The management of that once august organisation has now been embarrassed and exposed as subject to the influence of the Israeli Lobby.
Director general Mark Thompson last week decided not to allow a broadcast by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group of charities, calling for donations to its Gaza relief fund. His reason, supported by chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, is that such a broadcast would risk undermining public confidence in the corporation’s impartiality.
That might feasibly be true if it could be shown, or even credibly argued, that the broadcast was anything other than a genuine humanitarian appeal; if there was evidence that the DEC was intent on mobilising people’s charitable instincts for some covert political end. But there is no such evidence.
An alternative interpretation, and one that is ultimately much more damaging to the BBC’s reputation, is that any humanitarian intervention in Gaza, by definition, expresses a political position in the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In other words, collecting charity for Palestinians is a kind of hostility to Israel.
By that logic, there can never be victims in a war zone, even among civilians, since to designate anyone as such would offend one of the combatant sides. That is patently absurd and inhumane.
Mr Thompson’s decision is also quite insulting to the BBC’s audience. It implies that viewers might fail to distinguish between a charity appeal and a political message, so it is best not to broadcast the former in case it is mistaken for the latter.
Maintaining impartiality in the Middle East conflict has never been easy for the BBC. Israeli and Palestinian groups both regularly accuse the corporation of institutional bias, which is probably a crude indication that, in its journalism, the BBC gets the balance about right. But the decision over the DEC appeal was taken not by journalists, but by managers.
If the BBC now shows the appeal, as it should, it will doubtless be accused of caving in to political pressure. Thus, not for the first time, the corporation has manoeuvred itself into controversy where, whatever its next move, it cannot win. And, not for the first time, the fault lies not in bad journalism, but weak management.
From Tim Llewellyn, on the Guardian:
This pusillanimous obeisance to some imagined governmental threat has aroused unprecedented anger across the BBC. Reporters and correspondents still on the staff, and who will not name themselves, are beside themselves with rage against a corporation that is traducing the very ideals it is supposed to uphold, and for which the director-general seemed to speak in Westminster Abbey.
This is what one former BBC World Service current affairs producer wrote to his colleagues yesterday: “… I am rarely moved to comment on aspects of the BBC I can no longer influence. But I confess I am deeply saddened and confused – and frankly pleased to be distanced from such decisions – after listening to Caroline Thomson’s obfuscating defence on Today of the refusal to broadcast the joint charity appeal on behalf of the suffering in Gaza. The question of partiality is a red herring. It is for the general public to respond to a humanitarian disaster as they choose.”
Having dealt with different news managers at the BBC over the past 30 years or so, I can safely say that the modern BBC has become a body of lions led by donkeys. Reporters of the calibre of Jeremy Bowen, David Lloyn, Lyse Doucet, experts in their field and brave people all, will be appalled by the directions they are being given. Edward Stourton and the Today programme rightly produced Tony Benn yesterday morning because they knew he would articulate what their bosses have failed to: reason and humanity.
The big question that remains is this: what are the suits scared of? Why do BBC managers try to second-guess our government and even outreach it in grovelling to the United States and Israel?
BBC journalists, extant and retired, not the “usual suspects”, not disaffected radicals and high-octane lefties, are incandescent with rage over this extraordinary piece of institutional cowardice.
The episode makes a travesty of the institution’s posturing in Westminster Abbey last week, and discredits the honest reporters the BBC still has on its books and in the field.
And still more from the Guardian:
The BBC was in crisis tonight as politicians including government ministers, religious leaders and senior members of its own staff condemned the decision not to broadcast a charity appeal to help the stricken people of Gaza rebuild their homes.
The corporation’s director general, Mark Thompson, was left isolated as rival broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 agreed to put out the plea for aid made jointly by 13 British charities. The BBC has decided the broadcast of the appeal might be seen as evidence of bias on a highly sensitive political issue.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has accused the broadcaster of “taking sides”. He said yesterday: “This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity.
“This situation is akin to that of British military hospitals who treat prisoners of war as a result of their duty under the Geneva convention. They do so because they identify need rather than cause. This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief. By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality,” the archbishop added.
Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: “The BBC’s decision should not discourage the public from donating to this important appeal. I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision.”
Jon Snow, the journalist who presents Channel 4 news, said the BBC should have been prepared to accept the judgment of the aid experts of the DEC. “It is a ludicrous decision. That is what public service broadcasting is for. I think it was a decision founded on complete ignorance and I am absolutely amazed they have stuck to it.”
Snow said he suspected a BBC bureaucrat had “panicked” and he called upon Mark Thompson to put the situation right. Martin Bell, the former BBC foreign correspondent, said the BBC should admit it had made a mistake. He claimed “a culture of timidity had crept” into the corporation. “I am completely appalled,” he said. “It is a grave humanitarian crisis and the people who are suffering are children. They have been caught out on this question of balance.”
But Greg Dyke, Thompson’s predecessor as director general of the BBC, said the issue put the BBC in a “no win situation”. He added: “Outside of Iraq, the single biggest issue that caused complaints was the coverage of Israel. I can understand why the BBC has taken this decision, because on a subject as sensitive as the Middle East it is absolutely essential that the audience cannot see any evidence at all of a bias.”
Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, who has attacked the BBC’s decision, today welcomed commercial broadcasters’ decision to break ranks and urged the BBC to think again. “I welcome this decision. The DEC appeal is crucial to help alleviate the suffering of people injured, displaced and hungry in Gaza.”
The BBC also faces demands for an explanation from within the Commons international development select committee.
Further updates in the Independent:
Channel 4, Five, ITV and al-Jazeera English announced they will be airing the DEC appeal tomorrow, after initially falling in behind the BBC. Sky News was considering its position last night.
The health minister Ben Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist, said the decision was “inexplicable” and called the corporation’s justification “completely feeble”. The Communities and Local Government Secretary, Hazel Blears, added: “I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision.”
A motion has been tabled in the Commons for tomorrow expressing astonishment at the corporation’s judgement in blocking airtime from the coalition of major aid charities, including the British Red Cross.
It is understood that it was Mr Thompson’s decision, and chief operating officer Caroline Thomson was ordered to go on radio – initially on Friday on Radio 4’s The World Tonight – to defend the position. A source close to the row said: “Because she [Ms Thomson] has gone so strongly on editorial independence, it is very difficult to see how they can back down.”
Ms Thomson said yesterday: “It is important to remember that broadcasting appeals like this is a unique thing we do and we have to be clear about two things when we do it. First, that that money will go to the people it is intended for; but second, that we can do it within our own impartiality principles and without affecting and impinging on the audience’s perception of our impartiality.”
Protocol dictates that the BBC leads the way on deciding a consensus on DEC appeals with other channels. But rival channels allege the corporation made an announcement on Thursday before consulting them, forcing them to break with the convention.
The DEC is an apolitical umbrella organisation made up of UK major aid organisations ActionAid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.
Mr Alexander welcomed the move by rival broadcasters to air the appeal: “The DEC appeal is crucial to help alleviate the suffering of people injured, displaced and hungry in Gaza.”
The BBC is used to being accused of anti-Israel bias, but in 2004 it was jolted by a study that said BBC1 and ITV news were guilty, if unthinkingly, of under-reporting the Palestinian cause. Worse, the Glasgow Media Unit found viewers thought the “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza referred to the Palestinians, not Israeli settlers.
At the same time, the BBC fell foul of the Israeli authorities over an interview with the nuclear whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu, released in 2004 after 18 years in prison, which was smuggled out of Israel. The BBC’s then deputy bureau chief, Simon Wilson, had his work permit withdrawn and was barred from the country. He was allowed back in after the BBC bowed to demands that he make a written apology to the Israeli government for dodging its censors.
The BBC appointed a senior broadcaster, Malcolm Balen, to “take stock” of Middle East coverage, in his words. He drew up an internal report that has never been released, but one result appeared to be the appointment, in mid-2005, of Jeremy Bowen as the BBC’s Middle East editor. His stated role was to supply context amid the footage of bloodshed and mayhem.
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.
Jeremy Bowen’s diary entry from Jerusalem is insightful:
It allows Israel to say that one of its main ceasefire demands has been satisfied. Add that to the army’s conviction that it has done serious harm to Hamas, and they can tell themselves they have a convincing basis on which to declare victory.
Israel doesn’t want to bestow any legitimacy on Hamas by making an agreement with it. But to me that smacks of spin control. The reality is that Hamas is part of the Palestinian landscape. It has played a full part in the ceasefire talks that have been mediated by Egypt.
Cairo has passed on the views of Hamas to Israel. When this is over, and when Israeli troops pull out, Hamas will still be in charge in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has its own demands for a ceasefire. It wants Israeli troops out within a week and the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza which destroyed the economy long before the war started.
Balen’s appointment received mainly positive acclaim from Israeli representatives:
Welcoming the BBC move, an Israeli embassy spokesman declared: “It seems that the character of our recent relations with the BBC has had its impact. Maybe it means that they understand that there is something in our claims of bias and that they really need to monitor what they do.”
Lee Petar, acting director of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre, said: “It seems the BBC has finally acknowledged the coverage issue. It is a positive first step.” Board of Deputies director-general Neville Nagler termed the appointment of Mr. Balen “interesting, but overdue.”
In his view, the BBC “must have been rattled by the criticism they have received.” Zionist Federation director Alan Aziz supported “any move that could lead to more accurate reporting” of the Middle East.
Meanwhile, there appeared to be further evidence of thawing relations. A BBC World TV inteview with Deputy Premier Ehud Olmert last week was the first time that an official Israeli spokesman had appeared on the BBC since Israel announced it was “withdrawing co-operation” four months ago.
Jews sans Frontieres reported at the time:
Yesterday’s Jewish Chronicle. opened in high spirits in the (probably justified) belief that the BBC will be even more pro-Israel in future than it has been in the past. This follows the completion of Malcolm Balen’s (the BBC’s Zionism tsar’s) report into BBC coverage of the Middle East. The report is secret, that is, it is being kept from the public, but the JC. has been crowing for months about what it clearly sees as a Zionist victory by having the tsar imposed on the Beeb in the first place. The BBC itself has done nothing to distance itself from the Zionist belief that the recruiting of Malcolm Balen has been a victory for Zionism in the UK. For its part, the BBC has announced, somewhat enigmatically, that it is to “enhance” its coverage of Middle East issues. What the JC. has been hoping for is that any Israeli atrocity will either not be reported at all or will be put into “context”. What “context”? Well they want any report on Israel to be accompanied by reports on suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Now, there should be a problem here. If they report the suicide bombing, what about the context? If the bomber comes from Jenin will the BBC say that Jenin is a refugee camp? If they say it’s a refugee camp, will they say where the refugees came from? The answer to that one is Haifa. Will they say that Haifa was ethnically cleansed in order to give Israel a Jewish majority that it wouldn’t have without said ethnic cleansing? Would the JC. be so thrilled with the appointment of Malcolm Balen and the proposed “enhancement” if this was the case? I think not.
Balen’s report was covered up:
The Beeb has spent an estimated £250,000 in licence-fee money to cover up the report. HonestReporting’s Freedom of Information request for a copy of Balen’s examination of the BBC’s Mideast coverage was also turned down
Numerous appeals have been made to reveal the contents of the report which Israeli pundits claim will prove anti-Israel bias in the Beeb.
.Pro-Palestinian groups on the other hand found the BBC to be more sympathetic to the Israeli narrative.
This is a vast topic with various, equally valid theories which could fill an entire book. As such, I will not delve into it, but instead direct readers to a chapter entitled “Why the BBC Ducks the Palestinian Story” by Tim Llewellyn, a patron of AMW and former BBC Middle East correspondent. The chapter is available on the internet and contained in an excellent book published in January this year entitled “Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq”, which is available at a 20% discount on the AMW website.
What I can say for certain, however, is that the BBC cannot claim it has not been told. AMW members – including Llewellyn – have been highlighting their concerns to the corporation for years, and since last October we have had
several meetings with senior BBC officials and sent them periodic summaries of trends in the corporation’s coverage, which highlighted the same problems illustrated in this article.
However, at one such meeting Richard Sambrook, then head of news and now director of the World Service and global news division, stressed the importance of both sides maintaining open channels of dialogue, and then failed to reply to several of my subsequent e-mails and monitoring summaries.
BBC chairman Michael Grade replied in May to a letter by AMW director Judith Brown that “since the views of your organisation are well known to BBC News, I hope you will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to fulfil your request for a meeting.” We have yet to understand.
Greg Philo & “Bad News From Israel”
Our findings echo those of a major three-year study by Professor Greg Philo, research director of the Glasgow University Media Group, into British people’s understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the output of
the UK’s broadcasters, including the BBC. His findings, contained in his book “Bad News from Israel”, published on June 22 this year and available on the AMW website at a 30% discount, are shocking: Only 9% of people knew that the Israelis were the occupiers and settlers – 11% believed it was the Palestinians! Only 30% knew that the Palestinians had suffered more fatalities than the Israelis, and 80% did not know where the Palestinian refugees had come from or how they had become dispossessed.
After Israel’s last Lebanon debacle, Israel formed its oily hasbara machine, the National Information Directorate, to insert whinging points, distorted narrative and outright barefaced lies into existing tentacles of the Israeli media octopus in an attempt to polish up Israel’s media image. Correcting supposed anti-Israel ‘bias’ is part of its mandate.
The body, known as the National Information Directorate, was set up eight months ago following recommendations from an Israeli inquiry into the 2006 Lebanon war. Its role is to deal with hasbara – meaning, in Hebrew, “explanation”, and referring variously to information, spin, and propaganda.
The directorate’s chief, Yarden Vatikai, said: “The hasbara apparatus needed a body that would co-ordinate its agencies, coordinate the messages and become a platform for co-operation between all the agencies that deal with communication relations and public diplomacy.”
The directorate acts across ministries and decides key messages on a daily basis.
The hasbara directive also liaises over core messages with bodies such as friendship leagues, Jewish communities, bloggers and backers using online networks.
However as we’ve illustrated several times on this blog, the hasbara machine has proved inept in defending its distortions and lies in the face of new social media.
The fight by Steven Sugar to gain access to the Balen Report continues:
A lawyer is considering the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as his last legal option in a two-year campaign to force the BBC to publish its 2004 report investigating its Middle Eastern coverage.
Steven Sugar is waiting to hear the House of Lords’ judgement on his latest attempt to force publication of the Balen Report, written by BBC senior editor Malcolm Balen.
But if the Law Lords reject his appeal, the Putney solicitor says he “will certainly consider” taking the case to Strasbourg.
Mr Sugar said: “There is every indication that the BBC wants to fight this,” adding: “Parliament might want to re-consider its freedom of information laws.”
The BBC has spent up to half a million pounds of licence payers’ money on lawyers in its determination to keep the report secret, while Mr Sugar has spent two years working on the case. The significance, he says, is that it might reveal a BBC anti-Israel bias.
The corporation has so far relied on a legal loophole in the Freedom of Information Act, which says information does not have to be shared if it is for “journalism, art or literature”.
Might the above be a contributory factor as to why the BBC is so reticent, citing grounds of ‘impartiality’, to air the DEC appeal? or has the BBC really rolled over with its legs in the air for the already exposed hasbara machine?
The Archbishop of Canterbury today added to criticism of the BBC
Dozens of protesters who occupied the BBC’s Glasgow headquarters over its refusal to air an aid appeal for Gaza have left the building.
The corporation has said it has received “approximately” 1,000 telephone complaints and a further 10,000 by email.
Rival broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five have now agreed to air the appeal. Sky is still considering its position.
At the heart of BBC row, the homeless of Gaza
BBC ‘open to Gaza appeal rethink’
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has said it is open to reconsidering its earlier decision not to telecast a charity appeal for funds for Palestinians in Gaza.
The chief operating officer of the BBC, under fire for its refusal to air the appeal, said a reversal of the decision was possible if another request to air the appeal was made.
“We never say never and clearly, if the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) came to us with another request when things have calmed down and we didn’t have the same worries about the controversial nature of this, we would look at it again in that light,” Caroline Thompson told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
Jillian C. York: BBC: “Just trying to stay neutral”
The BBC has long kowtowed to pressure; As Nigel Fountain points out in an otherwise unintelligible Guardian op-ed, the BBC has been here before. Fountain reminds us of a 1974 airing of a South African apartheid propaganda film on the BBC.
Fundamentally, the problem here is the BBC’s impression that their desire is to remain “neutral.” By implying that they must ignore the humanitarian crisis and the victims in Gaza in order to err on the side of neutrality in fact implies that not offending Israel is more important than helping the over 5,000 injured, and countless who have lost homes or livelihood thanks to Israel’s massacre.
Questions have been raised about BBC Director General Mark Thompson’s bias toward Israel.
That Mark Thompson has been supporting Zionist leaders is no secret. In fact, Mark Thompson’s wife, Jane, is Jewish and a fanatic supporter of Zionist policies. Is Mark simply trying to appease his wife? If he is, then this has to be one of the most outrageous acts in the history of British media. The glaring disregard for human suffering, however, can only be explained by Mark Thompson’s close relationship with Israeli leaders. In 2005, Mr. Thompson broke all rules of independent journalism when he travelled to Jerusalem and met former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in order to “build bridges” between the BBC and Israel. This unprecedented move was not covered by Western media, but the Israeli press gave it significant importance.
More evidence of Sharon’s influence over Mark Thompson and thus the BBC is coming to light –
I have no doubt that the decision by the BBC to pull their Middle East correspondent Orla Guerin out of the region and send her to South Africa was part of the normal rotation of BBC news correspondents around the world. However it was pretty bad timing to announce it within days of Director General Mark Thompson’s visit to Israel where he had a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Sharon has never hidden his intense dislike of Guerin or the BBC’s reporting of the Middle East and Guerin was recently accused of being “anti-semitic” and of “identifying with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups” by a former Israeli minister.
At the very least the BBC should have foreseen the suspicions that would arise from the two events – Thompson’s visit and Guerin’s departure – and separated them by several months. As it is, the timing of the announcement to move Guerin inevitably raises the question of how much pressure the Israeli Government put on the BBC, which in turn allows some to question the BBC’s impartiality.
Lenin’s Tomb unearths more relevant history:
“The BBC is often accused of an anti-Israeli bias in its coverage of the Middle East, and recently censured reporter Barbara Plett for saying she ‘started to cry’ when Yasser Arafat left Palestine shortly before his death.
Fascinating, then, to learn that its director general, Mark Thompson, has recently returned from Jerusalem, where he held a face-to-face meeting with the hardine Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Although the diplomatic visit was not publicised on these shores, it has been seized upon in Israel as evidence that Thompson, who took office in 2004, intends to build bridges with the country’s political class.
Sources at the Beeb also suspect that it heralds a “softening” to the corporation’s unofficial editorial line on the Middle East.
‘This was the first visit of its kind by any serving director general, so it’s clearly a significant development,’ I’m told.
‘Not many people know this, but Mark is actually a deeply religious man. He’s a Catholic, but his wife is Jewish, and he has a far greater regard for the Israeli cause than some of his predecessors.'”
Barbaric Document follows up on what happened to Orla Guerlin after Sharon’s fingering of Mark Thompson:
What’s missing from this is what happened to BBC correspondent Orla Guerin just days after Mark Thompson had his cosy tete-a-tete with that obese blood-drenched old brute Ariel Sharon. Before Thompson took up his position as Director General of the BBC, the Guardian had reported on the ferocious pressure being exerted on news organisations by the Israeli government, including complaints about individual reporters:
The Israeli government has written to the BBC accusing its Middle East correspondent, Orla Guerin, of anti-semitism and “total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups”.
Orla Guerin’s offence was to run stories not just about the grief of Israeli families who had lost family members to suicide bombers but also stories about the grief and suffering of ordinary Palestinian families. As one blogger put it at the time:
Guerin’s real sin, of course, is to show some sympathy for the victims of the Israeli bombing (that’s enough to brand her a “terrorist”).
Within days of Thompson meeting Sharon, Guerin was sacked as BBC TV Middle East correspondent and transferred to Africa.
Mondoweiss has yet another theory on the BBC’s reticience to participate in the aid appeal for the people of Gaza.
Second that BBC is reliant on American advertising and therefore… Well, I don’t know.
A movement builds against Israel’s apartheid
STUDENT ACTIVISTS in Britain have occupied 16 universities in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and antiwar forces are pressuring the BBC for refusing to air an emergency appeal on behalf of Palestinians.
BBC staff are expressing their ire still at Mark Thompson’s refusal to broadcast the Gaza humanitarian appeal:
At least three BBC NUJ workplace branches have passed motions calling on the BBC to transmit the Gaza aid appeal. A petition is circulating within the corporation which concludes: “The victims of Gaza deserve the aid appeal like any other victims of humanitarian crises. The conflict they are caught in is as controversial as any other armed conflict in the world and singling them out is what harms the BBC’s reputation of impartiality.”
The latest issue of Ariel, the BBC’s internal staff magazine, carries 10 letters on the BBC’s refusal to air the Gaza appeal – all are critical of the decision.
Some of the choice quotes from staff:
The flaw in this argument is that we are allowing the combatants (or their allies) – in this case Israel – to define whether or not an appeal for aid is legitimate.
The BBC has decided not to broadcast the appeal because it believes impartiality would be at risk. I believe the message the BBC is sending out is clear. And it is not impartial.
The decision not to broadcast the appeal opens the BBC up to justified accusations of bias towards Israel and implies that the people of Gaza only have themselves to blame for what happened.