Yesterday, a four person delegation headed by Stop the War held a meeting with Ken MacQuarrie, Controller of BBC Scotland, Ian Small, Head of Public and Corporate Affairs, and Alistair McLeod, Head of Editorial Compliance, to discuss the BBC's decision not to air the DEC Appeal for Gaza.
My own part in this worthy grouping was primarily motivated by a desire to help our movement keep the issue high-profiled - following our excellent occupation of the BBC - rather than any hope or expectation of serious engagement from Mr MacQuarrie and his colleagues.
As predicted, it was a sham consultation, riddled with prevarications, reiterations and sterile excuses. The most 'earnest' statement was the promise to pass our latest letter to the BBC Trust.
Still, it's always instructive to watch those in service to power act out the sham. Defending the indefensible is actually something of an art form.
MacQuarrie's position was, thus, dutifully made: he fully supports Mark Thompson's decision. And that, when all else was stripped away, was the 'case for'. No rational defence. No personal thoughts. No moral reflection.
MacQuarrie did, of course, repeat Thompson's feeble, and rather insulting, excuse that showing news images of this ongoing conflict while also having those images appear as part of a humanitarian appeal would undermine the BBC's efforts to maintain balance. This rather implies that viewers can't somehow see the difference between the two. We also wondered how the BBC managed to allow the DEC appeals for Darfur, Congo and other places in between those "rolling conflicts" .
Moreover, we asked, did MacQuarrie believe that the DEC-based aid agencies were acting partially in assisting all these suffering people in Gaza? If not, why should the BBC behave any differently in granting them help?
What MacQuarrie can't do - and would have no appetite for, anyway - is to act independently of Thompson in London and screen the DEC Appeal. What he, and his colleagues can, however, do is voice their senior level disapproval of that decision. They could speak out as conscientious directors, alert to the BBC's own Charter which instructs them to recognise and support humanitarian causes. They could also simply speak out as basic human beings concerned to help and protect suffering others.
None of these promptings, made at this meeting, appear remotely on the cards.
MacQuarrie also denied my assertion that BBC staff are working under a virtual atmosphere of intimidation when it comes to speaking out on this and other such issues. One wonders what true understanding of reality he and his fellow executives have in this regard.
But, as I'd already noted, that's not so surprising given the "Alice in Wonderland version of reality the BBC would have us believe". Thus, over 1300 Palestinians lie slaughtered, over 6000 wounded and 1.5 million psychologically injured and the BBC would have us understand that Hamas are the 'militants' while Israel 'responds' in 'defensive' mode.
Although the key aim of our lobby was to push for the DEC Appeal to be shown, nothing of this issue can be understood outwith the BBC's blatant bias by omission, language and context when 'covering' the Palestine-Israel question. So I and others made use of the moment in pointing out instances of journalistic and editorial bias. I told them of my times in the West Bank observing the daily brutality at checkpoints and inside the refugee camps and asked why the viewing public learn so little of all this from the BBC. I related the problems within the BBC's Jerusalem bureau in failing to cover the plight of the al-Kurd family in East Jerusalem, a case reported extensively by Al-jazeera and other international media, yet only given belated attention by the BBC. If all these editors, journalists and directors had been doing their job over so many years of brutal occupation, people would better understand the latest aggression against Gaza.
Mr MacQuarrie seemed somewhat bemused that anyone could criticise the BBC's 'world class' reputation. Mr McLeod, a journalist of 22 years, echoed the point, citing haloed reporters like Jeremy Bowen. How, they wondered, could the BBC be accused of bias having had people like Alan Johnston in Gaza?
The time at hand, alas, didn't allow for a little development of Chomsky's propaganda model and the institutional disincentives to critical output. But I did duly direct them towards Glasgow University Media Group's work, the 2006 study by Loughborough University (commissioned by BBC governors) and multiple Media Lens archives, all carrying clear and documented evidence of the BBC's systematic bias in favour of Israel.
Our able interlocutors made further challenges on gathering licence fee dissent and the failure of Mr MacQuarrie and his colleagues to have full statistical information on the level of public complaints. We tried to pin them down on every technical aspect of the DEC decision, using the BBC's own Charter codes to undermine their case.
Yet, all this remains ancillary to the more fundamental issue of political bias at the BBC. Thus, I invited them to explore what really underlies the politics of this decision: the truth that Britain and the West support Israel, and the BBC follow that same conformist line. That was, predictably, rejected, accompanied by more proclamations on BBC 'impartiality'. My suggestion that there is no such thing, that we all bring value judgements to such situations - as the BBC have clearly done - was likewise refuted.
While pleased to have been part of our lobby group in helping to keep the issue in the media spotlight, this meeting reaffirmed how the BBC and other centres of power use such 'consultation' to enhance their own profile, allowing them to say they've 'listened carefully to our concerns' and will 'take them on board'.
The BBC's decision over the DEC issue confirms the kind of serially complicit organisation we're dealing with here. As viewed at this meeting, the institutional bias is so complete that senior directors are prepared to weather widespread public opposition, including the disgust of many artistic figures, in order to protect established interests. Their silence, I suggested, in putting power and career before human beings is truly shameful.
Mr MacQuarrie had to 'wrap up' the meeting and thanked us for our presentation.
I merely wanted to remind them of this one sole truth:
"The BBC is party to Palestinian suffering."