Verdict of the Week
BBC Refuse To Broadcast Gaza Appeal
The Governors of the BBC have been under pressure to broadcast an appeal to help bring aid to the devastated region of Gaza. The other terrestrial broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five have all agreed to show the advert although Sky News has decided against showing it.
There is now even an appeal by 50 MPs to try and make the BBC reverse its decision. Meanwhile, the head of the Anglican Church has piled pressure on the BBC to screen the appeal. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, joined a chorus of prominent public figures and celebrities who called for the BBC to reverse its decision.
There are some very emotive words being used about this decision including an appearance on BBC News by Tony Benn who made an impassioned plea for the BBC to change its mind and even gave the appeal a plug on BBC air time. He claims that people and children will die if the BBC continues along this line and accuses the BBC Director-General Mark Thompson of pandering to Israeli pressure by not showing it.
This is a horrible decision for the BBC to have to make, they are in a lose, lose situation whatever they do. If they don’t show it they risk further attack for flying in the face of what is obviously a good cause, by obstructing a reputed charity trying to assist a war ravaged region in dire need of help.
On the other hand, if do show it they risk claims of bias, Middle East reprisals, reporting blockages, and they may even be putting the lives of their own foreign reporters at risk by appearing to take sides in a highly emotive political arena which they can ill afford to do. If you are responsible for sending people into a war zone you have to feel confident that all nations see you as a company they can trust because you unbiased and independent.
The difficulty arises because the BBC is funded by public money and so the British public feel they have a right to have their say, we have a proud history of freedom of speech in this country, and long may it continue.
One possible solution might be BBC programme like Question Time and invite the pro and anti lobbies from both sides to deliberate and debate the subject openly. There should also be representatives from both sides of the Israel and Palestine and let the individual decide for themselves, with an audience and viewer phone-in to decide the issue. If after hearing both sides of the debate there is a movement to show the appeal then it is shown.
What is clear is that it is absolutely wrong for MPs to try and persuade the BBC show it. You simply cannot have parliament dictating what the BBC can and cannot show. As for the church becoming involved in the row, it is understandable that they should want to be seen acting in such a humanitarian way and assisting in such a crisis. As for the celebrity figures, that is a matter for their own conscience to decide, they can use their fame for such causes and it can be very constructive in raising funds.
Why not click on the link below and watch the Gaza Appeal advert and decide for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/user/DECcharity.
The eCourt Verdict then is that the conflict in Gaza is one of the most challenging and contentious issues of our times with thousands of lives hanging in the balance, but the BBC must be allowed to make these decisions as an independent body and should not be bullied by political correctness or feel pressured by public sentiment to act in a way that it feels might endanger its impartiality as an independent broadcaster or act in a way that might risk the lives of it’s foreign reporters.