The other week through Tearfund’s Superdager application in Facebook i sent the following message to the BBC’s Director General Mark Thompson in relation to the BBC decision i force George Alagiah to resign as Patron of the Fairtrade Foundation:
Dear Mr. Thompson,
Regarding the forced resignation of George Alagiah as Patron of the Fairtrade Foundation, the BBC is concerned that Fairtrade causes a ‘potential conflict of interest’ and ‘could undermine [his] impartiality’.
But Fairtrade is not controversial. The Fairtrade mark has become mainstream – more than 70 per cent of the UK population recognise it, and Fairtrade goods are on every high street. Worldwide, consumers spent over £1.6 billion on Fairtrade products in 2007 – that’s over 1.5 million producers and workers in 58 developing countries now benefiting. Who can say this is controversial?
Surely criteria could be agreed that will serve to ensure that both the integrity of the BBC and Mr Alagiah’s enduring service to the Fairtrade Foundation are effectively safeguarded.
Please reconsider Mr Alagiah’s forced resignation from the Fairtrade Foundation and allow him to continue acting as Patron.
This week i received the following response from the BBC:
I understand that you are disappointed that George Alagiah had to step down from his role with the Fairtrade Foundation.
On its website http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved/donate/ the Fairtrade Foundation asks its supporters to help fund its “lobbying and influencing key players across society in commerce, government and campaigning groups” and that the organisation will “continue to push the Government to ensure that all aspects of the global trade system are fair and supportive of development”. Other leading charities have said that The Fairtrade Foundation seeks to “transform trading in favour of the poor and disadvantaged”. Such an ambition is the prerogative of the charities. Many may find it admirable though others may take a different view of global economic priorities.
It is not the business of BBC journalism to take a view on this or to be perceived to take a view. We are committed to due impartiality which means we don’t take sides on issues of controversy. Our job is to represent all sides in an argument accurately and fairly and test them as rigorously as we can to allow our audiences to reach their own judgements. And it’s not enough for our journalism to be impartial. We must also be seen to be impartial. That’s why it’s inappropriate for a BBC journalist to take a high profile, public role representing an organisation which, as the charity makes clear, takes a very particular view of the controversial issue of global trade.
Thank you once again for taking the trouble to share your views with us.
This response from the BBC is shocking because it legitimizes the argument for un-fair trade! Proverbs 28:5 springs into mind: ‘Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.’ In the name of impartiality the BBC have in reality made their stand by tolerating injustice.