Everybody who frequents this site will know that the BBC has spent lashings of our telly tax on legal fees to safeguard the secrecy of a report they themselves commissioned. The subject was their coverage of the Middle East, and the question was: is the BBC biased against Israel?
The legal battle took many twists and turns, and Steven Sugar, who steadfastly fought for the release of the Balen report, very sadly and inopportunely died at the age of 60, shortly before another stage of the unfolding court case was due to be heard.
No-one knows whether Malcolm Balen’s findings confirmed the BBC’s anti Israel bias, but one thing’s for sure, the battle to keep them secret certainly gives the impression that they did. So, in some ways, the BBC’s intransigent refusal to let us take a peek works against them almost as much as the revelation of its contents might have done.
One slightly ironic bonus of this ongoing legal tussle is that the public gets to discover a bit of extra information for free, namely that the BBC is virtually exempt from the obligations of the FOI act, because of a cunning exclusion clause concerning ‘journalism art or literature,’ for the purpose of, yer honour m’lud.
Anything in that category is ‘out with’ the FOI act. In other words the entire BBC output can, if it likes, shelter under the same get-out umbrella.
So are we up in arms at the arrogance of the BBC for wallowing in a unique all-embracing exemption from scrutiny, which flies in the face of the ultra desirable, most-wanted virtue du jour – *transparency* – the essential quality that all organisations long for, and the one thing that makes everything come good? (WikiLeaks, anyone?)
Bear with me.
As well as (and to a large extent because of) the media – the dinner-party set, socialists, trade unions, celebrities and the Muslim community – all currently bask in a toxic climate of pro Palestinian advocacy and anti Israel activism. It’s a kind of global man-made antisemitic climate-change, and it is alive and well, flourishing even, in our universities. You can virtually get a doctorate in hating Jews.
The Arab sourced funding that some of our universities currently rely on has led to the alarming ascendancy of Islamic studies departments set up by Saudi Princes at places like Exeter, where anti Israel polemicists Ilan Pappé and Ghada Karmi prevail, and the LSE, Oxbridge and various other renowned academic institutions. I vividly recall reading with dismay this 2008 article about Aberystwyth University. It implies that if a student won’t toe the line they will probably fail their degree.
So here’s my point.
I found a FOI request that I am glad the BBC refused to deliver. It’s in the public domain, and there’s no super injunction preventing me from knowing about it. I found it on Google, by accident, as I was looking for something else.
I have no idea what this Palestinian gentleman from Strathclyde University intended to do with the information he requested. Ideas that ran through my head ranged from: *write a learned dissertation on Hasbara, *organise a troll blitzkrieg on B-BBC, and sadly, but inevitably, *kill infidels.
Why would I be grateful that the BBC refused to give details of the complainants and complaints about anti-Israel reports to a post graduate student who might be doing some important academic research? Because the student is a Palestinian activist with links to some very hostile people. Because we live in a culture of intimidation. Because B-BBC is number 12 on the list. Because because because.
I hesitated before posting this. I sought advice. They said “publish!” which I hereby do, sincerely hoping that B-BBC and I won’t be damned. What a sorry state I’m in to have such worries. It’s regrettable that some of us, because of our particular circumstances, are conscious of the need to take limited steps to preserve our anonymity, just because we dare to defend Israel.