It is unbelievable that the BBC is sticking to its decision not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee’s charity appeal for Gaza.
The decision was met with heavy criticism and sparked debate within the British press on the meaning of impartiality in such cases especially that British channels aired former appeals for the victims of Darfur and the Burma cyclone.
The debates on the BBC’s decision are essential; not for humanitarian reasons only but for professional and moral reasons. The viewer, and more importantly the media, needs a news channel like the BBC which, even if disputes arise about the finer details of its performance, cannot ignore the value and important standards of its foundation and that which it has accumulated throughout its experience.
This is the case regarding BBC World Service but if we look at the role and performance of the BBC Arabic news channel, then the debate is of a different nature altogether.
BBC Arabic recently announced that it had extended transmission from 12 to 24 hours a day after nearly one year has passed since the channel was launched. Those in charge of the channel said that it will work towards in-depth coverage of the region by upholding the distinguished news values associated with the BBC, and its accuracy and impartiality in particular.
As the anniversary of the channel’s launch approaches, the region has witnessed a series of events which, in most cases, News channels wait for in order to establish their presence and professional distinction. The events in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine and the most recent tragedy of Gaza represented an opportunity for the Arab viewer to watch a channel that is considered a reference amid the media contradictions that surround it.
But this was not the case for BBC Arabic. It failed to make Arab viewers feel that this channel had established itself amongst other channels. It is yet to become part of the Arab viewer’s daily life unlike other Arabic channels despite that they have been criticized [for lack of impartiality], which gives BBC Arabic more credibility.
Let us assume that this lack of presence can be attributed to the BBC working in a different way because it looks at events from another angle and therefore is being impartial; in that case, this is negative impartiality and not the objectivity that searches for the truth or investigates the truth.
BBC Arabic didn’t seem to have one exclusive story about the events in Gaza. Nor did it have any exclusives on the events in Iraq or Lebanon. It is not enough to broadcast for longer and to launch methods for audience participation through YouTube so that Arabs can express their views, which hardly gives the impression that the channel has broken molds and taboos.
This article is not calling for BBC Arabic to join in with Arabic divisions but rather calls for the audience to see that the current Arab media is incomplete without the BBC. Without doubt, the administration of the British channel must realize that a practical problem is obstructing its performance in the Arab world and that it is only natural since bias and divisions prevail amongst many of its Arab journalists, and this has stopped impartiality in its path.
Through the performance of some BBC reporters and presenters, it seems that they have failed to follow the standards of the BBC in general. They are like Arab migrants who travel to Europe but fail to integrate into their new societies.