I get emails from people who support both sides of the Israel – Palestine conflict alleging that the BBC is biased against “their” side and minimising violence by the other side. This reflects the importance of this issue and the deep emotions on both sides of the debate concerning the ongoing violence, injury and death.
It is not for me as a Member of Parliament to set or pressure the BBC on its editorial line. I trust BBC journalists and editors to be fair and observe OFCOMs rule on impartiality for news broadcasters. I accept that the BBC does not always succeed in this regard, but that is a matter for individual complaints and OFCOM rather than for a Member of Parliament to try and dictate individual news pieces. There will always be decicions made about which stories to cover, and this will not always please everyone.
The BBC faces a very difficult job trying to maintain its world class news service in the face of budgetary pressures brought on by the Tory Government’s enforced austerity and approach to the licence fee settlement. This has led to the scaling back of many aspects of its World Service and News output. Despite these constraints, when I scrutinise the BBC Chair and Director General as a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, particularly on the BBC’s Annual Report, I have been impressed with its ability to continue deliver good quality news content. The BBCs Foreign Affairs team has produced BAFTA winning journalists like the former Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, and on the whole their coverage reflects the non-partisan nature of the institution.
That said, the Labour Party has recently announced policy changes relating to the BBC and Parliament’s role in how it funded and its governance. These reflect the feelings of some of the public about the BBC. One policy proposed is the election of lay members onto the board of the BBC to give licence fee payers a direct voice at the top of the BBC.
With regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I remain completely committed and the Labour Party remains completely committed to a two state solution along the lines laid out in the Oslo Accords, and it is deeply disturbing that we remain almost as far away as ever from a permanent peace. I will continue to urge both sides to re-open meaningful talks on a long term peace solution which is the only sustainable way to resolve this terrible conflict.