Wednesday 4 February 2009

The BBC and impartiality

The BBC seems to be very unwilling to answer questions about its impartiality in relation to the recent Israeli aggression in Gaza. In response to emails about the BBC's refusal to air the Disaster Emergency Committee's appeal for aid for Gaza I got a reply which referred me to comments by Mark Thompson, in which he made clear that the only justification for not airing the appeal was that broadcasting the appeal would run the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story. (my emphasis)

I then wrote back to challenge this claim to impartiality as the BBC's coverage has always seemed to me to be very pro Israel. The latest reply came from Nick Tarry of the BBC Management Team which was very terse: Peter Horrocks has given his response to your email, explaining the BBC's position. If you remain dissatisfied and would like to pursue your complaint it is open to you to appeal to the BBC Trust.

I was somewhat surprised that the BBC had made no attempt to answer either of the substantive points I made in my email. I have now written to the BBC Trust in the hope that someone there will give me some answers.

In my emails I raised two aspects of the BBC's coverage which to my mind showed clear partiality in favour of Israel. The first related to the seemingly daily appearance on radio and TV of Mark Regev the spokesperson for the Prime Minister of Israel. If the BBC had covered the conflict in an impartial way then I would have expected that more or less equal air time would have been given to the spokesperson(s) of the Hamas leadership. I appreciate that due to the Israeli bombings it was difficult to get access to Ismail Haniya, Prime Minister of Palestine and Hamas leader in Gaza. However, the leader of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khalid Meshal, is based in Damascus in Syria, and therefore there would have been no difficulty in interviewing him or his spokesperson(s). I did not watch every BBC broadcast so I do not know how many times Hamas leadership spokesperson(s) appeared during the conflict. I therefore asked the following question: Could you confirm that as part of the BBC's commitment to impartiality, that Hamas leadership spokesperson(s) did in fact appear approximately as often and in equally prime time broadcasts as Mark Regev? If not, could you explain how this demonstrates the BBC's impartiality?

The second aspect of the coverage that I raised was the choice of Israel as the base for the BBC's correspondents. As they could not get people into Gaza, due to Israeli refusal, why did the BBC not base its team in a third country in order to demonstrate its impartiality? Jordan, for example, where reasonable facilities for broadcasting are available in Amman. My final question was: Could you explain how the decision to base the BBC's team in Israel, one party to the conflict, demonstrates its commitment to impartiality?

I am not confident of getting much of a reply.

No comments:

Post a Comment