Friday, January 30, 2009

A correspondence

In case you need any background to the following exchange of emails:
Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza aid appeal video
BBC refuses to air humanitarian appeal to save lives in Gaza
Martin Bell (former BBC journalist)

January 26th: Me to the BBC
Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to strongly protest about the BBC's decisions not to show the humanitarian appeal for Gaza. Over the course of the last few years the BBC has, fairly clearly, taken on a less and less objective stance on the Israel Palestine issue, to the point now where it just seems to be a mouthpiece for Israeli government pronouncements. However, the decision not to show a humanitarian appeal is taking this to a new and despicable level. A friend of mine works for a charity and has over the years been involved very heavily in working with relief moneys collected through the DEC. I hope you don't mind me quoting his email to me on this subject:

"I have worked with a large and a small charity either in the field or at HQ ensuring that DEC money is spent properly and accounted for. There was never any question of taking sides by supporting the people affected. Obviously not in the Indian Ocean Tsunami or Pakistan earthquake (natural disasters), but also in Kosovo and more importantly with Hutu refugees from Rwanda.

After the Rwandan Genocide, the perpetrators, along with millions of other Hutus with various degrees of complicity fled to Eastern Zaire (now Congo) and Tanzania. They arrived in countires unable to support them and very, very quickly cholera broke out: the monthly mortaility rate reach 30 per thousand. Now these people were the 'baddies' the people who between them had the blood of 600,000 Tutsis and moderates on their hands. It was not an easy moral decision at first sight, but the agencies decided that stopping people from dying was a humanitarian imperative. And the BBC was there, supporting us with Kate Adie being rushed around to film it."

The obvious question is - what has changed? Why are the people of Gaza undeserving cases when previously the logic was that dying people were dying people and needed help?

I am disgusted by this whole episode and extremely unhappy at (a) the BBC's lack of compassion, and (b) its increasing pro-occupation political bias.

I hope that something can be done to make the BBC actually take some notice of the disgust that myself and many thousands of others feel about this horrific anti-humanitarian decision

Yours Faithfully
Andy H

January 28th: The BBC to me

Thank you for your e-mail.

We note your disappointment at our decision not to broadcast an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee to raise funds for Gaza.

We decided not to broadcast the DEC's public appeal because we wished to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of covering a continuing news story where issues of responsibility for civilian suffering and distress are intrinsic to the story and remain highly contentious. We also could not be confident that the aid resulting from audience donations could reach those it was intended for at a time of a fragile ceasefire and sporadic border access. We will of course continue to report the humanitarian story in Gaza.

The BBC's director-general Mark Thompson has therefore explained the decision in more detail in a number of television and radio broadcasts and online at our Editors' blog. Please follow the link to read his explanation in full:

Please be assured that we have registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us.


January 30th: Me to them

I recently made a complaint about the BBC's decision to refuse to show the humanitarian appeal regarding Gaza. It was a long and considered complaint and referenced a number of other times when the BBC has (correctly) formed the opinion that humanitarian concerns should be above political ones. In response I received a standard letter summarising Mark Thompson's comments and basically ignoring all my questions and points.

I realise that the BBC employees charged with dealing with these complaints are overworked and overstretched, and it is of course not their fault that the easiest way of responding is just to cut and paste the standard non-answer. But if you offer the option of receiving a response it at least ought to reference the complaint in question.

I am still awaiting a response as to why the humanitarian appeals after Rwanda and Kosovo were broadcast, despite political concerns, whereas this was one was not.

(I would also like to know why the editorial policy of the BBC these days on the Israel/Palestine issue is to merely parrot the Israeli government line at all times, but I don't expect I'll ever get an answer to that questions)

Yours Sincerely
Andy H

Jan 30th(within about 25 minutes): Them to me

Thank you for your further email about the BBC's decision concerning the DEC Gaza Appeal.

The Director-General has explained the BBC's position and is the BBC's Editor-in-Chief so this cannot be considered at a higher level by the BBC's Executive. We cannot therefore add more to our previous response but if you wish to take the matter further you can contact the BBC Trust about the decision. For details of how to do this please see the information on the BBC Trust's website at:

Thank you again for your email.

BBC Complaints

I have, of course written to the BBC Trust. Don't expect much more from them, but you never know.

In case you haven't yet complained, and want to:
BBC Complaints
BBC Trust

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