Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Why Gaza matters more than Jimmy Savile

The Jimmy Savile affair has caused some people to extrapolate bizarre conclusions about the BBC. The scandal revealed weaknesses in BBC news management but is no basis for an overarching critique of public broadcasting.

The BBC’s reporting of the conflict in Gaza is no basis for destroying public broadcasting either. As this piece on the Electronic Intifada makes clear, however, the BBC’s obligation to provide ‘balanced’ reporting can lead to distortions when this obligation is interpreted as a requirement to present Gaza and Israel as equal protagonists. And the goal of balance is not served by a failure to provide context.

This isn’t a question of siding with either Israel or the Palestinians, but providing news that gives us an accurate understanding of the situation.

News reporting of this region is never easy when every media outlet is put under intense pressure by the pro-Israel lobby, and anyone who doesn’t toe the line is automatically accused of anti-semitism (a threadbare technique of intimidation that is overdue for retirement). The BBC should be able to stand up to such bullying.

I have no interest in hearing Israeli propaganda (or Hamas propaganda for that matter). I also have no interest in the conflict being reduced to a meaningless sequence of whoosh-bang explosions. The current conflict deserves more thorough scrutiny than it is getting.

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