The British Broadcasting Company has managed to put itself in a no-win position regarding the current escalation of the conflict in Gaza. Asked to broadcast a message from British charities urging citizens to contribute to aid for victims in Gaza, the BBC refused, citing a need for impartiality.
By doing so, the BBC has come under heavy attack from several sides: the British charities who asked them to air the message, other major British media outlets, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a large number of British citizens among others.
The BBC is completely justified in this stance; it is important for any news outlet to remain as unbiased and balanced as possible. It is especially important to the BBC for reasons I‘ll elaborate on in a moment.
That said, the BBC being justified does not change the fact that there are thousands of people suffering in Gaza right now that are in dire need of humanitarian aid. With thousands dead, including hundreds of children, the conflict has reached a truly horrific scale. If peace talks cannot be brokered, something must be done to alleviate suffering in the region.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the organization that approached the BBC, states that “after an 18 month blockade of Gaza and three weeks of heavy shelling the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now completely overwhelming,“ according to their website.
This contentious situation between the BBC and, well, most of Britain, could seemingly be alleviated if the aid were guaranteed to go toward civilians injured in the Middle East region. The handful of Israelis injured in the past three weeks of shelling could request aid, the bulk of it could go to the homeless and bleeding in Gaza and the BBC could point out that since both sides of the conflict were receiving aid, it was unbiased in airing the message.
Some critics have pointed out that other British media outlets, while initially citing reasoning similar to that of the BBC, have since reversed their decision and broadcast the appeal.
Unlike its commercial cousins, the BBC is funded by a license fee paid by every British household with a television. As a result of this public funding, the BBC’s charter contains a strict stipulation that the network remain unbiased.
Other critics, including an editorial by British newspaper The Observer, have suggested that by pleading impartiality, the BBC is giving civilians caught in the crossfire standing as combatants.
“An alternative interpretation [of the BBC’s decision] … is that any humanitarian intervention in Gaza, by definition, expresses a political position in the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” reads the editorial. “In other words, collecting charity for Palestinians is a kind of hostility to Israel. By that logic, there can never be victims in a war zone, even among civilians, since to designate anyone as such would offend one of the combatant sides. That is patently absurd and inhumane.“
This is a logical, compelling argument, and one that begs the question as to why some kind of compromise has not yet been reached.
The BBC is justified in its stance and it is unfortunate that a position consistent with the network’s journalistic values has made it the object of much scorn and hatred.
Just because a decision is justified, however, does not mean that it is the right decision.
Below is a list of charities that are collecting aid for those in need:
RICHARD PROCTER was going to write this column about the future of college journalism, but every other UC editor-in-chief failed to respond to his inquiries. Maybe they’ll find some time to do so in the next week. While we wait for them, please donate to some of the above charities. Tell him why you did or why you didn’t at firstname.lastname@example.org.