Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Questioning the BBC

The BBC is taking emailed reader questions that they'll pass on to Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez. I'll save my opinion of Chavez for another time; this entry is meant to serve another purpose. Ostensibly, the BBC (in this particular article, at least) takes no stance on either side of the debate regarding whether or not Chavez is doing good things for his country and Latin America or if he's an autocrat masquerading from behind a veil of socialism. The question from the article:

Is President Chavez the voice of the poor? Or is he an autocrat? Is he a hero or a villain? What do you think of his attitude to the USA?

Hmm. . . a balanced series of questions that seem perfectly reasonable. But is the BBC truly unbiased toward Hugo Chavez? Out of the 16 questions that readers have submitted and the BBC has seen fit to post on their website, only one, in my opinion, does not engage in the shameless stroking of Chavez's ego:

What is the main goal of the government for the year 2006?

Gotta love those questions that aren't open-ended, eh? The rest of the questions to Pres. Chavez read more like these:

Honourable Mr Chavez, I salute you for your admirable stand with the people of the third world. Your courage in drawing a line between Venezuela and the powerful arrogant superpower is encouraging to others! God bless. Would we see a unified front from the third and developing countries on the international issues?
President Chavez: I think you are a bright light amongst an otherwise dim group of world leaders - a Bobby Kennedy for Latin America. [...] What actions are necessary to establish or maintain a healthy middle class as the predominant political power of a country?
As a socialist, I constantly bemoan what seems to be the inability of progressive governments to enact long-term institutions that will create permanent change. I worry that after your time in office is over, Venezuela will cease to be a guiding force of progressivism in Latin America. What will you do to ensure that your legacy remains beyond your tenure?

This is my favorite one, though:

President Chavez I like your policy in south America, you are about bring a great change in Latin America, they need a men like you to transform south America into a new world of equality. I hope others look into your leadership and learn from it. [sic]

For Pete's sake, that's not even a question! One would think that such an institution as the British Broadcasting Corporation, when requesting questions, would post actual questions rather than shameless pandering. Bah! Back to my point.

Taking questions from their readership to put to such a personage as Hugo Chavez is certainly a good thing for the BBC to do, but is seemingly every reader who put forth a question either a socialist or otherwise a fan of Hugo Chavez? The BBC says that the "comments reflect the balance of opinion [they] have received so far." Is it really possible that a news and media organization with such a large reader base doesn't have one reader who submitted one question that puts Chavez and his policies in a negative light? Or if they're looking for a balance of opinion, then does that mean that an overwhelming majority of submitted questions are unquestionably "pro-Chavez?" I seriously doubt it. To believe that there weren't enough questions that were "anti-Chavez" for the BBC to post at least one of takes some serious twisting of logical thought. I know that at least
one blogger, who is, unlike those who have their questions posted on the BBC website, actually from Venezuela, has submitted a series of questions for Chavez:

What about separation of power as the basis for democracy?
Why is it that in Venezuela 99% of public officials in the courts and elswhere, but more notably in the courts, swear allegiance to you?

Why has it been years since you have not given a real press conference to ALL of the Venezuelan media to account for your actions? I mean a real press conference where you MUST answer the questions, not one with only sycophantic journalists to interview you.

Why is it that your administration is blocking REAL investigation to a whole list of political murders, including to people that were following your leadership such as Danilo Anderson?
Why is it that we cannot have a real auditable tax return from any of your ministers?

Why have you not launched a serious investigation on this modern apartheid/fascism that is the Tascon list who segregates 3 million of Venezuelans to a second class citizen status just because they disagree with you?

Last but not least, how long do you think you will be able to keep fooling the people that support you overseas without knowing what is really going on inside Venezuela? In other words, what are you going to do to hide the mess you are creating in Venezuela once Bush and Iraq are not around anymore to serve as convenient whipping boys?

Heh. Do you think the BBC would notice if I just cut and pasted some of those into the BBC's question box? So is the BBC unbiased toward Chavez and his socialist policies? Or are they merely paying lip-service to the ideal of an unbiased and apolitical media?

(ok, so maybe my opinion of Hugo Chavez is somewhat apparent)

UPDATE: For more on the BBC's bias check out this article at the National Review Online and especially check out USS Neverdock for a comprehensive list of the BBC's sins.

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