Thursday, 22 January 2009
Eyeless in Gaza
I was reminded of the lines from Milton's poem, Samson Agonistes, when reading about the following news development today:
Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves ...
The surprising news that caught my eye in the media world was the announcement that the BBC would not be televising an advert by the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Gaza. The DEC is an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities.
The BBC says that it was concerned about how aid would get through to Gaza, and given the fact that the story is still current and being reported on, felt it might damage its impartiality were it to air the ad.
It's a convention that either all or none of the broadcasters carry DEC appeals in the UK, so shortly after the BBC announced it wouldn't be lending a hand, all the other major players fell into line.
I'd like to say I feel disappointment, outrage, or some other meaningful emotion at this decision. But having lived in Israel and visited Palestine on a number of occasions while there, I know that the complexities of the situation are so challenging, that I must admit to a sense of bewilderment.
So what does this tell us about the media, in terms of representation and institutional issues? Probably that nothing is ever as simple as it seems on the surface, and what we see and consume on TV won't necessarily have a logical reason for being there. Just as importantly, it's crucial, as observers of the media, to keep tabs on what gets left out of the schedules. The gaps, the silences, and the omissions, can be as revealing, important and worthy of study and debate, as the programmes we deconstruct and textually analyse.