Is the caller there?
The juxtaposition of two seemingly very disparate articles in the newspaper this morning provide a window into where the whole TV news business is headed.
First, there is a massive controversy building in the UK today over The BBC’s refusal to air a charity appeal to help the stricken people of Gaza.
The Corporation’s Director General was on BBC radio this morning (which we can get via the web), to defend his rather isolate position. ITV and Channel4 are both carrying the appeal progrm, which is being produced jointly by 13 British charities. The BBC feels that carrying the show will taint their ability to cover news in the region objectively.
It’s a difficult position for the BBC’s DG Mark Thompson to take, but an understandable one. The charity appeal will doubtless contain endless heart rending scenes of children maimed for life by the Israeli incursion. The Guardian itself carries such a heart-rending article on pages 8-9 titles ‘Among Gaza’s Craters Lie Those Who Need That Aid”.
Objective? Well, that’s certainlyl arguable.
Shocking, riveting and revolting, absolutely. Gaza is a terrible place, particularly now.
The curious juxtaposition is an article in The New York Times today, explaining that Obama is going to circumvent conventional news outlets and TV networks to use video to go directly to the people. Instead of the traditional weekly radio broadcast, used by US Presidents since Roosevelt, Obama is going to blog and upload his videos to Youtube, as well as whitehouse.gov.
His first vlog apparently was seen by more than 1 million people, which I will venture to guess is a far greater number than those who have heard Bush on his weekly radio broadcasts.
There are also now close to 250,000 people following Obama on Twitter!
What does Obama on Twitter and Youtube have to do with Gaza?
The reason that The BBC, (and now SKY also, apparently, as of a few minutes ago) will not carry the Gaza Charity Appeal is that the images are just too disturbing. They will be a PR disaster for the Israelis, no matter how much the broadcast is couched in ‘charity’ clothing; no matter how valid that couching.
Obama has decided that he can now bypass the traditional media and use video and the web to go directly to the people.
Which he can.
And if Obama can bypass the traditional media, then so too can Hamas.
Or anyone else.
If the images from Gaza are so powerful that The BBC is afraid to show them, then good.
All the more reason that Hamas can and should bypass conventional media.
They have a powerful story to deliver, but they don’t need The BBC or Sky or CNN or anyone else to get it out to the world.
This is a sea-change in the relationship between subjects of stories and the old media.
For more than 20 years, to use Gaza as an example, the living conditions in Gaza have been just apalling. Terrible. Criminal.
Yet there has been virtually no media coverage what day to day life is like in Gaza.
And having this terrible life inflicted on the inhabitants of Gaza makes them angry. Very angry. So they strap explosives onto themselves and walk into Israeli cafes, or they lob rockets into Israel.
They don’t do this because they want to destroy Israelis cafes, nor do they do this because they believe that their rockets will bring Israel to its knees.
And they won’t.
But they do know that enough suicide bombers or lobbed rockets will bring in the crew from CNN or The BBC to do a news story.
They are ‘making’ the news.
But now, if they are smart, (and I have no indication that they are), Hamas can bypass the rockets and the suicide bombers and CNN and use video as a tool to make their case to the world. Directly.
Just like President Obama.
Gandhi didn’t organzie nonviolent resistance in India to protest the salt tax per se. He did it because he knew that the British police would beat the unarmed Indian protestors, and that the public knowledge of that unarmed beating would, in the end, shame the British into leaving.
Hamas, if they are smart (and again, I don’t think they are), could use video to shame the Israelis publicly. But they won’t, even though Israel, like Britain, is a nation that is uniquely vulnerable to public shame.
Mao used to say that power flowed from the end of a rifle.
Today it flows from the end of a video camera.
If you know how to use it.