Monday, July 04, 2005

Make the BBC history

In all of this euphoria over the Live 8 concerts around the world, I feel compelled to point out something that may seem obvious. Live 8 was a political event. It was not, like its predecessor Live Aid, a charity event. It was conceived, planned, and executed precisely with a political dimension in mind, and to achieve certain political ends. Again, this probably seems obvious, as even the media got the idea.

The BBC: The world's biggest music stars have united in concerts around the globe to put pressure on political leaders to tackle poverty in Africa.

The Guardian: Unlike the original LiveAid concerts held 20 years ago, today's performances are not about raising money. Instead they create a visible symbol and a message to politicians that poverty is a meaningful issue right across the world.

And, lest there be any doubt, read Bob Geldof’s own words on the reason for the occasion.

So, having established beyond doubt that this was an event in political advocacy, aimed at pressuring politicians to adopt certain policies towards Africa, I have a sacrilegious question to pose:

Why was Live 8 broadcast live by the BBC as if it were entertainment instead of simply covered on the 10 pm news like any other political protest?

The BBC’s values say that it is “independent, impartial, and honest”. Is it now a mark of “impartiality” and “honesty” to broadcast live, for over 10 straight hours, both on TV and on radio, political advocacy on a narrow issue with few, if any, dissenting voices to be heard?

It is not as though the political point of the event was not controversial. If it weren’t there would have been no need and no point to the event in the first place. And it is not as though there were no sensible critics to be found.

The BBC did, at least, admit that broadcasting the event raised questions about its impartiality, although not until after the fact. And of course it claims to have issued special guidelines to the producers and presenters of the broadcast, to help them stay impartial. But the notion that the BBC “cannot be seen to endorse the Make Poverty History campaign” when, as it openly acknowledges, it is the major broadcast “partner” of the event for which the “rallying cry” is precisely that, is simply laughable. The very effectiveness of the political intent of the event was dependent upon the BBC being that “partner”. Refraining from using the term "we" when speaking about the event hardly absolves the BBC of the central role it played in selling the politics of it.

We have long known of the agenda driven journalism and advocacy practiced at the BBC. TAE was born partly out of an attempt to highlight that very fact. But rarely has the BBC engaged so blatantly and shamelessly in political advocacy to so little comment or objection. Is it somehow acceptable now for the BBC to take the license fee that TV owners are forced by law to pay into its coffers and use it to give almost a whole day’s worth of free advertising to a political lobby? Sadly, as long as it is packaged up along with the dulcet tones of Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox, the answer appears to be yes.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Refraining from using the term "we"

The BBC in common with other broadcasters do not feel obliged to us "we" even when talking about our troops in combat.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous republicans suck said...

by impartial you mean in favour of a "fuck africa" and "who cares about global warming" agenda, right? thats really cool.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Democracy Rules said...

Republicans suck.
"by impartial you mean in favour of a "fuck africa" and "who cares about global warming" agenda, right? thats really cool"
If by 'fuck africa' you mean thinking that Africa's problems are African's problems I can live with that. Last time I heard the continent had millions of square miles of the best agricultural land on the planet plus the most extensive mineral reserves available - coal, oil, copper, iron, you name it. If anyone other than the current inhabitants were living there it'd be the most productive place on the globe - for a couple of hundred years a few hard-working Europeans proved it. Now we're supposed to dig them out of their own sh*t yet again..? I'd prefer to see my foreign aid go somewhere it'll do some good.

6:59 PM  

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