The BBC, ‘democratic principles’ and the Jihadist recruiter

One of the public purposes defined in the Charter which is the BBC’s constitutional basis is that of “sustaining citizenship and civil society”. According to the BBC Trust’s interpretation of that public purpose, it will be achieved through “high-quality and distinctive journalism that meets the highest standards of accuracy, fairness and impartiality”.

In the opening paragraphs of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality it is stated:

“Due impartiality is often more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints.  Equally, it does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles.” [emphasis added]

Needless to say, it would be perfectly obvious to most licence fee payers that “detachment from fundamental democratic principles” includes the promotion and amplification of the views of people to whom democracy is an anathema to be rejected on the basis of ideology. 

Nevertheless, the BBC once again found itself at the centre of wide-ranging public criticism towards the end of December 2013 when it chose to provide a platform for the views of just such an opponent to “fundamental democratic principles”.

On December 20th 2013 BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme conducted an interview with Anjem Choudary as part of its coverage of the sentencing of the murderers of British soldier Lee Rigby on the streets of London last year.

“When asked by the Today presenter John Humphrys whether he condemned the killings, Choudary said: “I think that to talk about condemnation or to talk about how we feel is not the most important question now, and I’m not going to go down that road. I think that what is important is to learn lessons from what has taken place.

“Whether you agree or disagree with what took place, you cannot predict the actions of one individual among a population of 60 million when the government is clearly at war in Muslim countries. I condemn those who have caused what has taken place on the streets of London, and I believe that the cause of this is David Cameron and his foreign policy.” “

Of course there can be no doubt that the BBC editors who decided to interview Choudary for that programme knew in advance exactly what kind of responses they were going to get from him. After all, like the proprietors of some Victorian freak-show seeking to attract audiences by way of the ‘shock factor’, the BBC has been wheeling out Choudary and his template propaganda for over a decade, including a ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2003 in which he refused to condemn the Mike’s Place suicide bombers, another ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2005 in which he likewise refused to condemn the London terror attacks, participation in ‘The Big Questions’ and ‘Newsnight’ and an appearance on ‘Newsnight’ in May 2013 (also promoted on the BBC News website) in which his stance on the brutal murder of Lee Rigby was made amply clear. 

Beyond his tawdry ‘shock factor’ which is exploited to the full by the BBC, Anjem Choudary does not represent one of those “significant stands of thought” which the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines pledge to reflect and represent. His bigoted rants and apologist attitude to terrorism reflect the views of no more than a minuscule proportion of British citizens and such views certainly are not embraced by the vast majority of people who share his faith. And yet, following the latest round of criticism in December, the BBC felt the need to defend its amplification of the abhorrent views of an anti-democratic supremacist.

“A BBC spokeswoman said: “We have given great consideration to our reporting of the Woolwich murder and the subsequent trial, and carried a wide range of views from across the political and religious spectrums.

“We have a responsibility to both report on the story and try to shed light on why it happened. We believe it is important to reflect the fact that such opinions exist and feel that Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.”

It is of course nothing short of amazing that an organization with such a miserable record on the reporting of terrorism – so much so that it even self-censors the use of the word – believes that it has the credentials to offer its audiences anything which can honestly be described as relevant “insight” into the background to an act of terrorism.

But if that genuinely is the BBC’s intention, then rather than merely providing a sensationalist rating-magnet platform for the propagation of his ample hate, it could of course conduct some proper exposure of the nature of the activities of Choudary and his associates.

In contrast to its valueless amplification of Choudary’s bigoted and undemocratic views to millions, that would go some way towards sustaining the civil society – both in Britain and abroad – to which the BBC is supposedly committed. 

BBC justifies anti-Israel campaign slogans as “a form of expression”

Readers may remember that last month we reported here on the subject of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Tony Greenstein being allowed to take part in the BBC One programme ‘The Big Questions’ on February 3rd whilst wearing clothing and a badge displaying political slogans. 

The Big Question

Tony Greenstein wearing PSC shirt and badge, front row right

A member of the public who saw fit to complain to the BBC on that subject has kindly sent us a copy of the reply received from the BBC complaints department. 

Thanks for contacting us regarding The Big Questions on 3 February.

Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our
correspondents appreciate a quick response and are sorry you’ve had to
wait on this occasion.

We understand you felt contributor Tony Greenstein appeared in this
programme while inappropriately wearing a political campaign jersey
with a political slogan and badges visible.

Tony Greenstein’s background and political stance was mentioned when
he was referred to as: “Tony Greenstein, founder of the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign…”

Although his t-shirt did contain a political slogan and badges, these
were only really visible in passing when the camera was on long shots
or panning around.

It’s important also to remember the programme is a debate programme;
Tony Greenstein was expressing his views on Israel and the
Palestinians, as were other contributors, so his clothing was another
form of expression in this regard.

His views were clearly expressed verbally, and the programme heard
many other views from other contributors.

Nevertheless, we’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This
is the internal report of audience feedback we compile daily for the
programme makers and senior management within the BBC. The audience
logs are important documents that can help shape future decisions and
they ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are
made available to BBC staff across the Corporation.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards

Stuart Webb

BBC Complaints

The BBC must surely be aware of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s record of support for Hamas and other terror organizations, as well as the controversy surrounding members of some of its various branches and Holocaust denial. It must also be aware that PSC officials have collaborated with Interpal (linked to the ‘Union of Good’ which is headed by the virulent anti-Semite and homophobe Yusuf Qaradawi) and that its director Sarah Colborne was aboard the IHH ship the Mavi Marmara in 2010 when Islamist passengers attacked the IDF soldiers boarding the ship to stop it from breaking the naval blockade intended to prevent arms running to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and that Colborne was active in the organization of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ together with members of Hamas and Hizbollah and representatives of the Iranian regime. 

Despite that, the BBC continues to invite a member of the extremist PSC to take part in ‘debate’ and – we now learn – even allows him to wear apparel promoting that terror-supporting organization as “a form of expression”.

Apparently, the fact that such “expression” might be offensive to the many people around the world – not just Israelis – who have lost loved ones in terror attacks perpetrated by the very organisations with which the PSC collaborates does not concern the BBC.

As we remarked at the time:

“..we can perhaps now anticipate seeing guests on BBC programmes wearing Combat 18 T shirts, EDL scarves, anti-Gay badges or anti-Muslim hats.” 

After all, the BBC’s obligation to impartiality would suggest that if members of the PSC are invited to debates and allowed to “express” themselves in this way, then other extremist organisations which also promote the abolition of the rights of certain groups of people on the basis of their ethnicity, colour, gender, religion or sexual orientation should surely also be granted similar access to this “form of expression”.

That, fortunately, is not going to happen, but this response from the BBC complaints department does show the depth of the corporation’s denial regarding the extremism of the PSC and the way in which intolerance which would not be countenanced by the BBC in relation to any other ethnic, religious or national group is promoted and given mainstream legitimacy by a publicly funded organization in 21st century Britain. 

BBC’s ‘The Big Questions’ prompts big questions about its impartiality

On Sunday, February 3rd 2013, the BBC One weekly debate programme ‘The Big Questions’ asked “Is criticising Israel anti-Semitic?”.  Those in the UK can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer for a limited period of time whilst those elsewhere can see a video of the relevant portion of the programme at the bottom of this article.

Beyond noting the sterling contributions of Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet ,Tom Wilson of Stand for Peace and the young man in the beige sweater, I am going to leave commentary on the programme itself to you, the reader, in the comments below.

But what I would like to raise here is this:

The Big Question

The anti-Zionist Palestine Solidarity Campaign founder Tony Greenstein (front row, right) was permitted to take part in this programme whilst wearing a ‘Free Palestine’ T shirt with a clearly visible slogan and a Palestine Solidarity Campaign badge. 

Having participated in this programme myself a few years ago – also alongside Greenstein – I know that the programme’s producers at that time stated very clearly (when Greenstein then tried to get into the studio wearing an over-sized ‘Boycott Israeli Goods’ lapel badge) that clothing, badges or suchlike with a political message were not to be worn by anyone participating in the show. 

It may be that the BBC’s regulations on that subject have since been relaxed, in which case we can perhaps now anticipate seeing guests on BBC programmes wearing Combat 18 T shirts, EDL scarves, anti-Gay badges or anti-Muslim hats. 

If that is not the case, then someone on The Big Questions production team has some other big questions to answer, because the promotion of publicity for an organisation which supports and enables a genocide-aspiring, antisemitic terror group responsible for the deaths, injury and maiming of thousands of Israelis (particularly in a discussion which touches on the Holocaust and antisemitism) on licence fee-funded television is clearly way beyond the pale and severely compromises the BBC’s reputation for impartiality.