Monday, 26 January 2009

BBC and Sky have every right not to broadcast the DEC appeal

The Disasters Emergency Committee is an invaluable organisation that helps co-ordinate the fundraising efforts of leading charities during natural disasters and famines. Its efforts in Darfur or after the Asian tsunami ensured more aid got to where it was most needed. There is also clearly a humanitarian need for aid and rebuilding in Gaza after the recent conflict. And the DEC is right to want to help co-ordinate such efforts. Indeed, I would encourage people to donate to their appeal using the embedded link here.

But it is wholly wrong to seek to bully broadcasters like the BBC and Sky, with large international audiences, into running the Committee's advertisements where to do so could damage the perceived impartiality of their news operations. Gaza is patently not a situation about which there is a clear consensus. Indeed, as Andrew Roberts pointed out this morning, some of the DEC charities have taken very clear sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I would argue that it is their right to do so, within the bounds of charity law, but it is most certainly not the role of news organisations.

So, I think Douglas Alexander and his Tory counterpart Andrew Mitchell were wrong to join the likes of George Galloway and Tony Benn in denouncing the BBC. And Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, was absolutely right not to intervene. Of course, the BBC has a bigger problem when it comes to impartiality in the Middle East, as its reports from the region sometimes show (exemplified in a piece by Tim Llewellyn yesterday, as noted by Danny Finkelstein).

But on this occasion it has taken a difficult but principled decision. And it has no reason to apologise for making it.


Chris Gale said...

I agree.
It is disturbing how some people on the left are so ready to protest about Israel but not against the rockets of Hamas, every one of which is a war crime.

bigbluemeanie said...

Almost nightly during the three weeks of the assault on Gaza I heard statements broadcast by the BBC from people (Israeli spokespersons) arguing that I should have no sympathy for the Palestinians under attack in Gaza. They deserved it. They had elected a nasty bunch of people as their government. It was due to circumstances that they were themselves responsible for. And somehow, it was added, even if the ordinary Palestinians weren’t responsible then the nasty people that they elected should be held accountable for the civilian deaths as these nasties had been hiding among the civilians and shooting rockets at Israel.

This is the "impartiality" that the BBC defends. An impartiality that doesn't distinguish properly between civilians and combatants. An impartiality that gives daily voice to Israeli fears and concerns but seldom voices those of ordinary Palestinian victims. Thompson disgusts me.

Yes, Chris Gale, the rockets of Hamas are a war crime. If they had caused a humanitarian crisis then we would all expect the BBC to broadcast a humanitarian appeal.

Two wrongs have never made a right I'm afraid.