Was It Okay for U.K. Journalist to Make Emotional, Personal Video About Gaza Children?

Video by Jon Snow, news anchor for Britain's Channel 4 News, went viral. BBC chief says presenters must retain image of impartiality.

Media executives differed widely this week over whether it was acceptable for a British news anchor to make an emotional video about the children of Gaza that went viral in July, during the Israel-Hamas fighting, with the BBC chief saying it was inappropriate because news anchors must retain an image of impartiality.

"If one of our presenters had done something like that in a private capacity on YouTube, I'd have had to have said, this isn't really appropriate in terms of your public role as an impartial presenter of BBC news programs," BBC News' deputy chief Fran Unsworth said in London on Tuesday, during a session at the Royal Television Society's conference on power, politics and the media.

The video, by Britain's Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow, was filmed in the Channel 4 News studio and posted on YouTube and the Channel 4 News website but not broadcast on TV, the Guardian reported.

Unsworth's comments, quoted by Huffington Post U.K., come amid accusations of bias against the BBC during and after this summer's Israel-Gaza war. Like some other media outlets, the BBC has been accused of having both a pro-Palestinian slant and a pro-Israeli one.

In an emotional appeal made in a video blog, Snow called for an end to the violence that caused the deaths of many Palestinian children and appealed directly to viewers to take action to stop the conflict. He recorded the video after spending a week covering the war. The video was viewed more than 770,000 times.

"We cannot let it go on," Snow said in the video. "If our reporting is worth anything, if your preparedness to listen and watch and read is anything to go by, then together we can make a difference."

Another broadcaster said at the conference that the video's acceptability depended on the medium, saying it was fine for the Internet but would not be appropriate for television news.

"That would never constitute anything we'd put on broadcast news," said John Hardie, chief executive of ITN News, which produces news packages for broadcasters and websites including Channel 4. "We don't open up television broadcast news to that kind of sentimental expression."

All the same, Hardie said, Snow had a right to vent online, the Huffington Post reported.

"Jon had spent a week in Gaza, and it basically expressed his despair in what he'd seen," said Hardie. "Was there a bias in it? It was a bias in favor of finding a peaceful outcome, and against the killing of children."

The video might have made an appearance on Sky News if Snow had been working for Sky and the video was appropriately signposted, the report said.

Though many people expect broadcasters to "neuter and cauterize their own emotion," said Sky News chief John Ryley, "Jon has seen a lot of suffering around the world in the last 40 years, and we should respect that emotion."
 

AFP