the politics of appeal

There is considerable furore over the BBC’s decision to not air a public service spot. The two-minute piece calls for aid to help those people of Gaza who are suffering in the aftermath of a violent three-week conflict. The Beeb’s decision is based on their commitment to impartiality, and the desire to not appear to be supporting ‘one side’.

It’s a sign of our times, amongst other thing, that a humanitarian appeal to help hungry, injured and suffering civilians can be construed as any sort of political statement. That such a spot could have political implications, maybe even nudge people toward a certain perspective on this issue, is hard to deny. However, there can be no hesitation in accepting the intentions of the groups behind such a message (the group is the Disasters Emergency Committee, representing multiple aid organisations in the UK).

Which brings us to what the perceived intentions of a channel airing this message can be. The BBC doing so will portray them to be on the side of the Palestinians, a concern that would seem to be predicated on a belief that victims make statements by their very existence.

Yes, they do. But the statements are their own, made by their circumstances (albeit circumstances inflicted on them by ‘the other side’). Neither their circumstances, nor their statements, nor the reasons for them, can be dumped onto the channel’s position as medium for humanitarian appeal. It would take a cynical mind to claim that a television network carrying a genuine message for helping innocent victims is in actuality, a political statement by it.

But we live in cynical times.

Here is the spot. It might, at times, be trying a bit too hard, but that’s an aesthetic or creative opinion on its messaging, not an indictment of its message.

update: the BBC's editor has this to say on his blog.

...we concluded that we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story.
I'm sorry, but is the viewer so confused and partisan that he cannot separate a humanitarian appeal from the blame game?

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