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Gaza: Should TV Media Coverage Always Be 'Impartial'?

08/08/2014 15:24 BST | Updated 07/10/2014 10:59 BST

What Israel is doing to Gaza is sickening. This civilised, westernised, democratic state is lobbing bombs into a city centre packed with people, with seemingly little regard for who dies: little children, disabled people, old ladies, pregnant women - anyone is fair game.

If this slaughter was happening anywhere else in the world, the US, UK, Europe or the UN would already have sent troops in on the ground to stop the bombing. But this is Israel, who for some reason is the world's perpetual 'special case'. They can basically do what they want and no nation on earth will ever lift a hand to stop them. And yes, before anyone asks, I support a two-state solution, can understand how vulnerable the average Israeli citizen feels, and am not anti-Semitic. But I don't support the Israeli government and their murderous regime, nor their flagrant and multiple breaches of international law.

Imagine if Britain had decided during The Troubles in Northern Ireland to dispense with all the talk and just start chucking bombs into Dublin city centre. We would not have expected the world to say: "Oh dear, that's not very nice is it. But we understand. You've had quite a tough time in the past and there are probably a couple of IRA blokes hanging around in Grafton Street. And by the way, we're doing a great deal on sidewinder missiles this month."

I can say all this because I'm not a TV news presenter. I don't have to be impartial. I can say what I what and what I believe. I can express my anger, horror and frustration. But when Jon Snow went only half way to saying what he believed and recounted what he saw in Gaza, there was a huge outcry. He's supposed to be impartial. He's supposed to sit on the fence and act like he didn't see with his own eyes the suffering caused to small children by indiscriminate Israeli bombing.

The video Jon Snow recorded was not aired on Channel 4 News because the regulations for TV media coverage state that: "news, in whatever form, [should be] reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality." And for some reason it must have been deemed that Jon Snow's broadcast was not 'impartial' enough. I thought it was particularly well-controlled considering what he must have experienced in Gaza.

The thing is, newspaper journalists can (as long as it's not libellous) write whatever the hell they want - and regularly do. They have opinions on all sorts of things and quite rightly so. They are, after all, human beings with thoughts and emotions, just like the rest of us. So why can't broadcast journalists have opinions?

The reasons for the strict impartiality regulations are becoming more and more of a mystery as every year goes by. It's getting to the point where they are frankly well out of date. Let's think about it. You can't give an opinion if there are moving pictures to accompany the story. Are we saying therefore that because there are pictures on the TV news that makes the news itself different in some way? Or are we really just saying that people who watch the TV news rather than read a newspaper are too stupid to filter opinions from facts? I suspect the latter.

In my view, we're underestimating people. We're patting them on the head and telling them we think they need protection from, of all things, other people's opinions. Do we really think that just because a TV news reporter gives an opinion then everyone will, without exception, believe that opinion to be the absolute truth? Times have changed. In this Post-Hutton, post-financial crash, post-expenses scandal, post-Leveson Twitter-enabled world, people are born cynical. They believe nothing they're told by the media or politicians. They are more well-educated on current affairs than ever before and they are more than capable of filtering opinions from facts. Hence the problem governments around the world are currently having with the Gaza situation.

People are not happy with the way governments are dealing with Israel over Gaza. In fact, many politicians are not happy with their own governments either. The idea that Israel is a 'special case' is out of date and it does not reflect public opinion. Jon Snow's report does.

Sooner or later, we're going to have to trust broadcast journalists to give a personal opinion because let's face it, everyone else has one.