BBC’s Selective SensitivityJanuary 14, 2004 12:00 by ManagingTeam
Observers have long recognized BBC as one of the worst violators of media objectivity when covering Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Muslim issues. This latest example of BBC corporate policy adds to that mountain of evidence.
On Jan. 9, BBC took Robert Kilroy-Silk’s morning program off the air after Kilroy-Silk made offensive statements against Arabs in a newspaper article. The BBC action followed a complaint from the Muslim Council of Britain.
While one can understand the offense taken by the Muslim community to Kilroy-Silk’s views, HonestReporting is startled by the quick action of the BBC in this affair, in light of the years of BBC tolerance of vicious anti-Israel statements by its on-air personalities ? in particular, poet and frequent BBC host Tom Paulin.
In April 2002, Paulin stated in an interview to the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram that “Brooklyn-born” settlers in the occupied territories “should be shot dead.” “I think they are Nazis, racists. I feel nothing but hatred for them,” Paulin said, adding: “I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all.” Despite complaint from the Jewish community about these statements and Paulin’s other comparisons of Israelis to Nazis, the BBC continued to allow Paulin to be a regular contributor to the BBC Newsnight Review arts program.
A British parliament member, quoted in the Telegraph, questions the BBC’s double standard:
Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP, said he found it hard to understand why the BBC had moved against Mr Kilroy-Silk but had not taken any action against Mr Paulin. “I am not defending anything Mr Kilroy-Silk has said, but I was greatly upset by what Mr Paulin said, and I think the rules should apply to people equally,” said Mr Dismore. “Mr Paulin said awful things about Israel and Jewish people. He should have been kept off BBC screens while his own comments were investigated. I was surprised that that did not happen. It smacks of double standards on the part of the BBC.”
A number of American universities, including Harvard, cancelled planned readings by Paulin after his call to murder, but the BBC never sought to remove Paulin from Newsnight Review. BBC had only this to say: “[Paulin's] polemical, knockabout, style has ruffled feathers in the US, where the Jewish question is notoriously sensitive.”
The ‘Jewish question’? This is the language of official 1930′s Germany, where the Jewish people were considered a ‘question’ to be ‘solved’. And why does BBC consider sensitivity to these issues as ‘notorious’?
BBC was the ignoble recipient of the 2001 Dishonest Reporting ‘Award’, and last year the government of Israel broke all official contact with BBC (after BBC broadcast the false accusation that Israel used nerve gas against Palestinians). And now, the parallel circumstances of Tom Paulin and Robert Kilroy-Silk demonstrate even further that a level of tolerance exists for Israel-bashers that BBC will simply not countenance elsewhere.
How ironic that the Muslim Council of Britain’s complaint to the BBC was worded as follows: “We wonder whether you would consider it proper to give the same kind of prominence to a presenter who was so openly anti-black or anti-Jewish?”
In fact, with Tom Paulin, the BBC is doing just that.
— BBC’s Royal Charter Renewal —
The British public, meanwhile, pays for BBC’s irresponsible journalism: The BBC is largely funded by the 2.3 billion pounds ($3.9 billion US) it receives yearly from a mandatory 116 pound ($213) licensing fee levied upon every UK television owner. In return, BBC’s Royal Charter demands “authoritative and impartial coverage of news and current affairs in the United Kingdom and throughout the world” ? a far cry from what BBC delivers.
It is high time that the BBC be forced to compete in the open marketplace like all other news agencies. In that scenario, the general public could demand journalistic integrity from the BBC front office, editors and reporters.
The time is right to act ? the BBC’s Royal Charter and funding are presently under British governmental review. HonestReporting encourages subscribers to support the cancellation or non-renewal of the charter by writing to UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell: firstname.lastname@example.org
British citizens are further encouraged to support the petition drive to end the TV licensing fee that funds the BBC: just click here.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.