"It's About Humanity" The BBC's Day of Shame
By DEEPAK TRIPATHI
January 26, 2009
The BBC finds itself in a serious controversy every few years, but this is the mother of all. The essence of the latest storm is this. A few days ago, the Disasters Emergency Committee of the
The refusal, and the reasons given, by the BBC have infuriated many people in
The Archbishop of
Not one BBC journalist I know agrees with the decision.
Writing in the Observer newspaper on January 25, 2009, the respected former
During my 23 years as a BBC journalist, there were many occasions when the corporation stood up to outside pressure. During the
The corporation refused, despite a real risk that it might be shut down. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of
In 1985, a month after the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had proclaimed that 'terrorists should be starved of the oxygen of publicity', she learned that a BBC documentary had interviewed a senior figure in the IRA, which was conducting an armed campaign against British rule in
Why is today's BBC so timid? Not only is it due to the relentless pressure on journalists and researchers since the launch of the 'war on terror' by George W Bush and Tony Blair. The failure of leadership at the BBC has also played a part. The corporation, under its charter, broadcasts in the national interest. It does so at its best when this obligation is interpreted in the widest possible sense, meaning the 'national interest' is served by providing accurate, authoritative and the most wide-ranging perspective on world events that the audiences will trust. The current leadership of the BBC has failed in this important task. The refusal to broadcast an appeal from the country's leading charities for funds for humanitarian work in Gaza, to which the British government itself will contribute, is difficult to understand for most people.
Editorial independence is about resisting the bully. It requires protection against susceptibilities to pressure from the powerful in the interest of objectivity and the need to give proper coverage to the weak. Some years ago, for expediency and in the name of efficiency, the BBC embarked on a drive to set up large news bureaus in a number of big cities around the world. One such bureau is in
While the BBC, once the world's best broadcaster and still a good one, fights for its reputation, other British news outlets have decided to broadcast the appeal for Gaza. They have accepted the assurance from the Disasters Emergency Committee that it is the committee's job to see the aid reaches the right people. The Charity Commission supports this assurance.
And the BBC Director General stands isolated. Senior executives congratulate themselves for their 'excellent coverage' on their own channels. But the corporation has been found deficient when compared to new media players like Al Jazeera English and Press TV. With the latest storm over the
Deepak Tripathi, former BBC journalist, is a researcher and an author. His works can be found on http://deepaktripathi.worpress.com and he can be reached at: DandATripathi@gmail.com.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs