One BBC-related issue which we find ourselves having to raise on these pages with disturbing frequency is that of the inadequate introduction of guests or interviewees linked to political NGOs. In our round-up of NGO contributors to BBC content in 2014 we noted that:
“In some instances an interviewee or contributor to BBC content was presented to audiences by name and with the title of his or her organization, but more often than not the political agenda of that organization and the interviewee’s resulting “standpoint” were not adequately clarified – as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. The same practice was evident when quotes were used from organisations’ press releases without being attributed to a specific person. […]
In other cases, interviewees or contributors were presented by name only and – again in breach of editorial guidelines – BBC audiences were not informed of their affiliations with campaigning organisations or of the fact that their contribution should be assessed within the context of a particular political agenda.”
On at least two occasions last year the ‘Senior Campaigns Officer’ for ‘War on Want‘, Rafeef Ziadah, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4. On one occasion – in a programme about Jerusalem – Ziadah’s employment at ‘War on Want’ and her activism in the BDS movement were not clarified to listeners at all, whilst on the other – in a programme about drones – her position at ‘War on Want’ was mentioned but the BBC did not bother to meet its own editorial guidelines by informing audiences about that organisation’s anti-Israel campaigning.
One recent manifestation of that political campaigning comes in the form of an offer from ‘War on Want’ to supply props to student groups organizing ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ events at UK universities. Students are encouraged to:
“Organise an Apartheid Wall display on your campus to raise awareness about the ongoing destruction and human rights violations caused by the Wall. Props available to borrow are:
Six wall panels. Each panel measures approximately 2 metres x 1 metre and is heavy and must be supported. Your group may borrow some or all of the panels.
One watch tower measuring 2 metres by 70cm diametre. It is very heavy.
Four cardboard/paper mache over sized guns measuring 1.5 metres each (new – not in picture)”
In other words, the BBC has provided audiences with information on Israel-related issues by means of a representative of an organization with a very clear political agenda which has been repeatedly concealed from listeners.
An additional aspect of this issue is the fact that among the bodies funding ‘War on Want’ is the UK charity ‘Comic Relief’ which is supported by the BBC. This year’s annual fundraising drive – known as ‘Red Nose Day‘ – will take place on March 13th, with much BBC One programming devoted to the event. As we noted here two years ago:
“As a publicly funded body committed to impartiality, it is imperative for the BBC to ensure that – via its partnership with Comic Relief – it is not associated with organisations such as War on Want which demonise Israel as part of a racist campaign to deny self-determination to one specific ethnic group.”
Unfortunately, not only has nothing changed on that front since those words were written, but BBC collaboration with the amplification of the ‘War on Want’ political agenda by means of inadequately introduced interviews with its ‘Senior Campaigns Officer’ appear to have become the norm.
If the BBC’s Director of Television is as concerned about antisemitism in the UK as his remarks last December suggest, a serious review of the activities of organisations funded via his programming is just as urgent as examination of the corporation’s failure (despite the repeated lip service paid to that issue) to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when introducing guests and interviewees.