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Posts Tagged ‘aid appeal

Way back in June 2007, the BBC told us it had commissioned a report which had found that it needed to be more impartial.

Over the weekend, the BBC took the decision not to broadcast a Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for the people of Gaza, a decision which was eventually (after some dallying) copied by Sky.

Why? Because they both want to be seen as being impartial. In their view, showing an appeal for aid to help those suffering in Gaza would have threatened the way people perceived their coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is likely to remain on our screens and in the papers for many years to come.

When you report the news, you need people to trust what you say and value the information you provide. ‘Hard’ news is a product, and accuracy, credibility, objectivity and speed sells. You cannot be seen taking backhanders or skewing the news to favour a political party or organisation, because the audience will not take you seriously.

However, I fail to see how broadcasting the DEC’s Gazan aid appeal would have compromised the journalistic integrity of the BBC or Sky. I can’t help but feel that all their bleating about impartiality was a smokescreen, concealing the real reason they chose not to screen the appeal.

You simply don’t confuse the actions of a person raising awareness of a humanitarian crisis with the actions of a person supporting a terrorist organisation. (Unless you are Hamas.)

Aid appeals aren’t news, and though the situations that bring about the need for aid tend to be political, suffering people are beyond politics. You see a man with no clothes. You give him clothes. End of.

Though the BBC’s and Sky’s efforts to bring people impartial, fair and balanced news to us from the Middle East must continue, they should not close their eyes to news that they fear might make them seem biased. Gazan casualties of the most recent episode of this bloody, chaotic battle outnumber Israeli casualties. The Gazan people are in dire need of aid, teetering on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, while the Israeli people are not teetering on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. Because Israel and Palestine are in conflict, saying that could imply certain things about the political situation, but you can’t shy away from the facts, even if they make uncomfortable reading or raise complicated questions.

Impartiality in this instance is an excuse to disengage from the knotty, tortuous progress of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

More?

Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC – The Editors’ Blog: BBC and the Gaza appeal

Martin Bell – Comment Is Free: The BBC – A Crisis Of Confidence?

The DEC: Gaza Crisis Appeal

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