Straitjackets and flak jackets: the BBC, ‘boundary work’ and the failed 2009 DEC Appeal for Gaza

Patrick McCurdy, Jiska Engelbert

Abstract


This article, which is part of larger research project, considers the justification discourse of BBC Executives following the public outrage over the BBC’s decision not to air the 2009 DEC Appeal for Gaza. The BBC’s justification is characterised by a recurrent conceptualisation of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as embedded in an ‘ongoing news story’. The article analyses media interviews with BBC Executives together with relevant BBC documentation is applied to consider three affordances used to justify the controversial decision. We argue that the discourse of ‘ongoing news story’ allows the BBC to situate itself as a key agent in the Middle East conflict which necessitates invoking journalistic impartiality to all BBC output; facilitates boundary work between journalism and humanitarianism and thus allowing discourses of impartiality to unfold strictly in journalistic terms. This leads, we argue to the construction of ‘journalistic inviolability’ whereby the pursuit of principled journalism is presented as a greater humanitarian achievement than airing the DEC appeal.

Keywords


1)British Broadcasting Cooperation; Disaster Emergency Committee; Middle East; humanitarianism; journalism; public controversy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15847/obsOBS622012566