Jan 09


FT9 comments • 263 views

Let’s kick the BBC again. For all the rights and wrongs in the current furore over the BBC not showing the DEC appeal for humanitarian aid in Gaza, a key point appears to have been missed. I must admit the arguments over news impartiality, appropriateness of particular cases and so on has passed me by. Sure prime time, post news exposure for a humanitarian appear will raise its profile and hopefully get more people to donate. But surely so will the 1896 news items (and counting) reporting and condemning the BBC. Some might say to the extent that it has much more exposure now than it would have had. After all the BBC are reporting it as news, on the news (with a short clip of the appeal that they will not show), twenty minutes before the slot which they refuse to show the actual appeal. It has been moved up the news agenda.

The only difference as far as I can see is that the appeal would have told you how to donate, where the BBC news item, and unfortunately all the critical news items against the BBC seem to not do this. Sure complaining to the BBC will get your viewpoint across. But giving money to the DEC, well that would be one in the eye for the BBC. Or ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE SITUATION. But wait, what’s that on this BBC Online news story about how the BBC will not show the appeal? Its a link to the Disasters Emergency Committee webpage. Which, in a twist of wonderful synchronicity has on its home page a BBC Appeal for Congo video. And certainly no nose cutting off from the DEC regarding that.

And if you are politically partisan, you can also take heart to the fact that in the reporting of this story of the BBC, one of the premises seems clearly that Israel have created a humanitarian crisis. Something which in plain reporting the BBC have been very careful not to do because it might be accused of – that’s right – BIAS..

Shall we just call time on the BBC News now? I know I have moaned about their self-regarding puff piece tendencies on BBC Breakfast before. But when they constantly become the news over decisions of how they broadcast the news (or other things) it sort of calls to task the very issue this was about. Impartiality.

And if you want to donate, you can do it here.


  1. 1
    Alan on 26 Jan 2009 #

    “The only difference … is that the appeal would have told you how to donate”

    almost – the difference is that they are not running the DECs bit of video that does that. it’s not about not giving the DEC publicity, it’s about not running ‘an open slot’ of work that they have not themselves compiled.

    i’m not of a mind to agree or disagree with how this has worked out, but it does make sense.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 26 Jan 2009 #

    Maybe “the only difference” was a touch hyperbolic!

    I am more sympathetic to the BBC position than it may appear above, but more on the grounds that it is an advert and the BBC shouldn’t run adverts. Again on the previous discussion about keeping news alive, its how the BBC uses its news to involve people in the wider world which should make people wonder how they can help. As you mention, showing an appeal which will be edited and directed to maximise the amount of donations achieved – no matter how deserving – is still an advert competing with adverts for plenty of other deserving charities*.

    *Though if they beat out animal charities I don’t care. The donkeys in Palestine are lower down my list of priorities:

  3. 3
    Ben on 26 Jan 2009 #

    When this story first broke, I heard someone from the Beeb expressing a concern that in the case of this particular appeal, there was a genuine worry that donations would not get through to the people for whom they were intended.

    I speak as a “biased” supporter of Israel, but I’m personally glad that the appeal is not running. It would seem a bit unfair, given the Beeb’s failure to adequately cover the endless convoys of Israeli government aid which have been travelling across the border into Gaza since this latest conflict broke.

    Can’t have one set of rules for one side, and a different set of rules for the other.

  4. 4
    CarsmileSteve on 26 Jan 2009 #

    i think the problem we’ve got here is that the beeb is constantly second-guessing itself at the moment. if they had broadcast it they would’ve got complaints, they havne’t broadcast it so they’ve got some different complaints (although i understand sky aren’t broadcasting it either and no one’s having a go at murdoch…).

  5. 5
    Ben on 26 Jan 2009 #

    Yup, what Steve says is true…. BBC decided not to show it after consultation with ITV and Sky, who also agreed not to broadcast the appeal. So why is the Beeb getting all of the criticism?

  6. 6
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 26 Jan 2009 #

    well, ITV and Sky have no similar public remit for “even-handedness” to be appealed to in the first place

    by which i mean, whatever the BBC had decided, the disappointed faction would be saying “b-but where’s the evenhandedness??” — murdoch can just say “it’s my station” (or cite the bottom line) and there’s no chartered comeback

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 26 Jan 2009 #

    ITV, Ch4 and Ch5 are now showing it (for an extra kick in the guts of the BBC). I get the feeling Sky said no because
    a) They aren’t paying for the adtime
    b) It adds an extra wrinkle to the battle and we can use the phrase The BBC are as bad as Murdoch!

    I believe Sky are showing You Don’t Mess With The Zohan however so that’s OK!

  8. 8
    Mark M on 26 Jan 2009 #

    Thing is, if the BBC had a simple policy that said “we’ll only put one of these out for a natural disaster” (leaving aside all the complicated issues re: Burma etc etc and negligence & so on), then they would not have given anyone a stick to beat them with. But since they put out a DEC appeal for Darfur – which is a complicated, multiple player, political situation, whatever George Clooney says – it is hard to conclude anything other than that the Israeli government have more diplomatic and PR clout than the Sudanese government.

  9. 9
    Pete Baran on 26 Jan 2009 #

    Perzactly. If indeed there was a clear public sector broadcast policy on this kind of appeal (which happens a lot) that existed outside the BBC’s remit to tinker it wouldn’t be a problem.

    As it is the BBC inherently have a problem as an entertainment producer and a news organisation which will always bring in a few basic conflicts of interest. Add to that the clear campaigning side to the BBC from Rough Justice to – er – Children In Need and its already tangled enough without looking for more problems.

    (By the way, I do not mean to suggest that You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is not a sophisticated take on the Israel Palestine conflict. Its not, but it is the closest the US media have had to one in quite some time. But I’ll never be a complete apologist for a film with Rob Schneider in it).

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