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Politics and the BBC
With news yesterday that the head of the IAEA has refused to do an interview with the BBC, as he is boycotting them over the BBC’s decision not to show the DEC Gaza charity appeal, it makes me think that the BBC were wise not to show the film; anything that is controversial enough to lead people to protest could undermine their editorial independence.

Yes, I know the BBC have shown plenty of controversial programmes in the past, but there is a big difference between showing and standing by their own programming, and being pressured into showing an advert that was not created or commissioned by them.

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'Moral cowardice' is more the phrase I would use. They've run appeals by joint charities for civilians in other war zones.

I would suggest that ‘moral cowardice’ is an extreme description to use! All the BBC have done is chosen not to show an advert. Surely that is no moral obligation for them to advertise charities? Otherwise the airwaves would be full of campaigns.

The BBC is very sensitive about the tone of its coverage of any stories involving Israel; it has had received widespread criticism in the past about the anti-Israeli bias of its news reporting, and it has put a lot of effort and money into keeping the Balen Report (2004) out of the public eye. I think nowadays the BBC is going out of its way to be as balanced as possible in its news and documentary coverage of Israel and Gaza, and is happy to avoid the issue entirely elsewhere.

Other channels have shown it. It's a joint effort involving the Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian Aid and other well-known bodies. If I recall correctly there have been similar appeals for Dafur, Congo, and Rwanda. It's not a matter of taking sides, but about delivering help where it's needed. Why should the opinions of any foreign country that's involved in these situations affect what can be broadcast about them here?

And the Beeb makes a big deal of its own charity-fests. It also used to show charity appeals regularly on a Sunday evening (that's where I first heard about one of my pet charities, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture), but no longer seems to do so.

Other channels may have shown it, but the two broadcasters with a significant international presence — Sky and the BBC — have chosen not to. They have a reputation to lose; ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 don’t.

The head of Sky News said, “…the nature of an appeal is that it sets out to provoke a specific response from the viewer. We don't believe that broadcasting such an appeal on Sky News can be combined with the balance and context that impartial journalism aims to bring to the highly charged and continuing conflict in Gaza.”

Sounds fair to me.

One problem here - and apparently the motivation for the BBC's decision - is that the appeal appears entirely one-sided, seeking support only for one party to the conflict (not to mention that side being the aggressor) - worse, in this particular situation, any aid distributed will be controlled and used as additional leverage over the population by Hamas, the group most responsible for the conflict and damage in the first place. To put it in historical context, how many appeals did the BBC broadcast raising funds to help Argentina during the Falklands, or North Korea, North Vietnam, Japan and Nazi Germany?

If the appeal were to guarantee that aid distribution would somehow be independent of Hamas influence, exclude their membership from the benefits and give an equal share to the victims of the conflict on both sides of the border, I might support it - but instead, there are already news reports of the international aid falling into Hamas hands.

Aid should go where there is greatest need. And your analogies are spurious, given that the UK is not a participant in this conflict, any more than it is in Darfur or Congo or Rwanda. I hold no brief for Hamas, but denying aid to civilians because there is a risk of misappropriation (which also happens in other conflict zones, but again does not prevent appeals being made) only plays into their hands because they can then pretend they are the "only people who can help".

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