Up until Monday evening, I was comfortable in the assumption that the BBC’s decision not to air the DEC’s Gaza appeal was being sufficiently fought by various journalists, politicians, pundits and the public. I figured that every intelligent, non-partisan person could see that the BBC were being completely idiotic in their decision, and hence felt no need to actually do anything about it myself.
On Monday evening, however, one of my (intelligent, non-partisan) friends vehemently defended the BBC’s decision. This completely bowled me for six – as said above, I figured that any reasonable person could see that the BBC were wrong. My friend said that the Gaza crisis was “man made”; a result of a conflict rather than a natural disaster and therefore the BBC would be compromising its impartiality.
I kept crying Vietnam at him (the BBC aired the DEC’s Vietnam appeal, which read: “No politics. No boundaries. Send us money now. We’ll rush your aid to the people of Vietnam”) but he maintained that the BBC’s decision was right. In addition to Vietnam, I believe the BBC has aired appeals for Darfur, Burma and Congo – all results of “man made” conflict. With that in mind, is it not hypocritical to veto the Israel/Palestine conflict?
Yes, this conflict is particularly complex but the point is, the politics shouldn’t matter in this case. The DEC appeal is purely humanitarian with no political overtones. It aims to take food, water, shelter and medical aid to children who are dying in Gaza. Humanitarian aid is inherently impartial. If anything, the BBC is compromising their impartiality anyway in wishing not to offend Israel.
A number of journalists and public figures have spoken out against the decision including Jon Snow (a personal hero) and Rageh Omar. I also give kudos to actress Samantha Morton who said she will refuse to work for the BBC again if it does not reverse its decision. Unfortunately, most BBC workers don’t have the same luxury. Many of them are reportedly furious about the decision but cannot speak out about it. I do bits and pieces of work for the BBC (e.g. I’m scheduled to guest on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine shower later today) and as a freelancer, I’m grateful for the income they provide, but I feel kind of dirty now.
At least I, unlike in-house journalists, can speak out about the decision. I truly believe that the BBC bottled it. They got it severely wrong and are stubbornly refusing to back down. I just wish I had the courage, like Tony Benn, to read out the appeal address while on air later today. In lieu, I will add my complaint to the thousands already received by the BBC. I won’t rely on other journalists and members of the public to fight the decision. I will add my voice to the dissent and I urge you to do the same:
- Watch the appeal: www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2009/jan/26/dec-gaza-appeal
- Donate to DEC: www.dec.org.uk or call 0370 60 60 900
- Complain to BBC: www.bbc.co.uk/complaints