"People will die because of the BBC decision, let me be clear about that" Tony Benn
In the midst of the BBC's latest PR disaster, let's just remember for a moment the noise and sackings surrounding the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand affair. Compare this to the scale of the current situation where the 'increasingly isolated ' BBC Director General turning against the combined opinion of the British Red Cross, Oxfam, Cathod, Tear Fund, Action Aid, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, World Vision, Merlin, Save the Children, Help the Aged and many more, by refusing to show a short appeal film telling people how they can donate to help the humanitarian crisis in Gaza - one described by the Head of the UN as 'heartbreaking.. outrageous and unnacceptable'. In the face of thousands of displaced, traumatised and hungry people, in a devastated region where over half the population is under 16, and where many have been without water or electricity for the past month, and where many argue that poverty is the biggest barrier to peace, Thompson used the immortal defence : "The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story."
Excuse-me-what? Since when has a humanitarian care for civilians been a political position? What political stance does not care about human suffering? Human welfare surely goes far beyond the political - the scream of a hungry child is just as piercing and urgent whether they live next door to a rocket firing militant, war criminal or Russell Brand. And if the relatively impartial bodies of the United Nations, most of the UK Government and opposition, Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5, most of the BBC staff, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (described by the 'impartial' BBC news website as a 'cleric'), and the dozens of charities who make up the apolitical Disasters and Emergency Committee behind the advert think that it is not political, on what authority does an ambitious entertainment executive like Thompson break with 46 years of BBC tradition by suggesting that they are all wrong?
Still, it's all good exposure for the appeal. If only DEC had thought to release the video to YouTube in time, the thousands of outraged blog posts could at least be promoting the film, as the BBC brand gets dirtied while it had, until now, covered the recent invasion better than many news organisations. But instead we get to see the treat of National Hero and Treasure Tony Benn battling to read out the postal address for sending in money on the BBC News, with his 'I'm sorry but I'm a human being' evoking (for me at least) Howard Beale's 'I'm a human being goddamit, my life has value' speach. (it follows a similar appeal on the Today Prgramme )
"You can't let the BBC say we can't help people who are dying because it might be controversial" Tony Benn
To donate to the appeal, please visit dec.org.uk