Friday, January 27, 2006

Taboos: You can trust the BBC

There are taboos in the media, and the BBC usually observes them all. One of those is to undermine the credibility of the false premise that in the economy the only two uncomfortable choices are higher taxes or cuts in services. Years back I telephoned after Jonathan Dimbleby’s Any Questions on Radio Four to make the point that the third, and sensible, option was monetary reform and government issue of credit, breaking the monopoly of banks to debt-finance our money supply. The BBC team told me that they already had too many callers on this subject, whilst Dimbleby announced on air that there were no callers on this issue and he was therefore moving on to the next topic.

Another taboo is discussion of the Holocaust. People have been imprisoned for demanding proper historical research of the facts. On the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day I received a phone call from one of the producers of BBC Newsnight. They were interviewing someone promoting the Holocaust memorial day in schools and, given that Muslims refused to take part in the commemorations last year, were looking for an opposing view. I told them that we had no objection to people remembering the crimes of the past, but that declaring human suffering as the prerogative of one particular group was unacceptable as was the political exploitation of that suffering in order to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine.

We spent about half an hour on the phone discussion various aspects, including the Iranian president’s recent call for a conference on the holocaust, and concluded the conversation by the producer stating that my views were “too sophisticated” for his programme. I retorted by saying that I had always thought that Newsnight was a sophisticated programme and that I was very sorry if I could not provide them the emotional or outrageous sound bites they were looking for.

The next day the producer rang back whether I was still willing to take part as the angle of the programme had changed. I agreed and we arranged to meet for the filming. We spent a good two hours during which the interviewer was asked to cover every perceivable aspect of the story. The programme was to go out the following day. Half an hour before the show the interviewer rang to apologise that the item had been put back to the next day’s bulletin. Fine by me, I said, better late than never. But never it was: Today I received another call that the programme had been taken out altogether.

So the BBC can be trusted to keep to the taboos established for public discourse in society. An outrageous, easily dismissed opposition voice may be acceptable, but a proper discussion of sensitive issues which have become the cement of Western ideology will not be permitted.

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