Saturday, 24 January 2009

when 'impartial' means 'weak'

This blog has written before about the BBC's misplaced sense of 'impartiality' (9/7/07). Too often, for instance, its coverage of climate change has reflected this binary mindset. This has allowed major pieces of scientific research to be rebutted by sceptics with no qualifications in the area.

It's not always the job of the journalist to present two sides of the story. That can be timorous and irresponsible. It's the job of the journalist to find the most authoritative and accurate information. That's impartial.

During the Live Earth concert, for instance, the Daily Telegraph reported:

'The BBC ordered Jonathan Ross to remind viewers of Live Earth that climate change may not have been caused by human activity, as the broadcaster tries to stay neutral on current affairs.'

How is it neutral to contradict the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

The fake ideal of impartiality has taken a terrific knock with the BBC's decision not to broadcast the DEC's humanitarian appeal* on behalf of the civilian population of Gaza (' to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story').

Tony Benn attacks it here. Ben Bradshaw attacks it here. There's an example of a letter to BBC Complaints here. You can donate to the DEC Gaza Crisis appeal here.

The only good news is that many more people now know about the DEC appeal.

Update: ITV and Channel 4 agree to air appeal.

* The Disasters Emergency Committee is an umbrella organisation which includes Action Aid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, and Save the Children.

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