Glasgow University Media Group have frequently accused to BBC ofright wing bias. In this issue they examine the somewhat different view taken by Norman Tebbit.
N orman Tebbit has put the news in the news, but has he added anything to our understanding at news processes? The BBC ottered, according to Tebbit ‘a highly tlavoured editorial view.’ He teels justilied in coming to this conclusion on the basis at his sample which covered only tour bulletins on BBC1 and ITN and these not even on consecutive nights (15 and 17 April). A larger sample would have revealed BBC news coverage which showed a clear anti-Libyan stance. For example, a journalist on 8802’s Newsnight on 29 July 1986 stated that ‘whtever damage the raid did itdid not topple Gadatli. He is still in charge despite the rumours, still the desert Arab, shrewd and cunning, plotting and planning, lorthe time being lying low. But the homespun philosphy at his little green books looks more and more threadbare, out at touch, even as he struts Libya’s tiny stage dreaming his lancilul dream.’
The Tebbit report criticises the BBC lor not emphasising that tilming in Ripoli was ‘Libyan controlled’. It states that ‘in countries which exercise tight control over the activities of journalists (the) media have ample opportunity to tilm what is lavourable to the regime and are barred trorn the rest— in this case the damage to military and terrorist installations’. But is there any country in the world which allows journalists tree access to its military installations, let alone live hours after they have been bombed? How much access is there in our country? Will the BBC, ITN (and Libyan) cameras now be allowed into GCHO Cheltenham or Faslane nuclear base? By these criteria
all news is state controlled.
Tebbit’s report sees the American bombing as ‘one at those events open to two quite opposite interpretations.’ One a ‘vicious and illegal attack by a militaristic super-power on a small nation, killing civilians and children with callous disregard lor human lite.’ And the other a ‘legltimate and necessary detensive action against a military dictator who was using the resources of his state to carry out acts at barbarous terrorism against innocent people in toreign countries.’
This position takes no account ot the wide range of views that actually existed. For example, it is quite possible to condemn the bombing without approving ol Gadatti. Indeed, in the above BBCZ report, which is absent lrom Tebbit’s sample, a journalist stated that the American air raids had shown that Gadatti was ‘isolated and lriendless abroad’ (Newsnight29 July 1986). But by creating a huge category at pro-Libyan coverage the Tebbit report can assert that everything — lrom concern about innocent deaths to the views at world leaders— can count as being ‘in lavour’ ot Gadatti.
According to Tebbit’s report, Libya’s interests are served by coverage which suggests that ‘the raid would result in a tundamental realignment of Arab sympathies behind Libya’ orthat ‘America would be isolated by world opinion.’ the implication seems to be that coverage in Libya’s interests should not be heard on TV news. The problem with this is that in this case civilians were killed, there was worldwide condemnation at America and a rallying ol support lor Gadalti, even amongst his erstwhile critics such as Egypt. But are these unpleasant ‘lacts’ simply to be left out at the news? It this is what MrTebbit wants then his argument is not lor balanced reporting. It sounds more like the MOD otticial during the Falklands war who told journalists ‘we only want you to print the good news.’
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“HANGING in THE
Richard Demarco is threatening to quit Scotland‘s art world. On the threshold of his most adventurous project to date. the full realisation of the new galleries and performance space in the converted Blackfriars Church. in Blackfriars Street. Edinburgh, Demarco may be forced to close the Gallery. ‘There is no way I can continue in Scotland on a smaller scale — it would be beneath my dignity.‘ Demarco told The List. Even now he has major international artists lined up for the new gallery but unable to confirm bookings.
The move to the Blackfriars site has been fraught with financial difficulties despite the Edinburgh District Council‘s willingness to drop £40.()()() on the purchase price. so allowing the Church to be bought by Demarco for£10.000. rather than to go ahead with selling it to a commercial concern.
The latest cash crisis stems from withholding ofthe Gallery‘s Scottish Arts Council Grant. The annual grant of£26.000 was due to be paid in April. ‘Throughout the year we have been having discussions with the Gallery,‘ Scottish Arts Council Arts Director. Lindsay Gordon explained, ‘but the gallery has been unable to come up with financial plans that have struck us as being viable.‘
The discussions have reached a new level of urgency as Demarco. in hilest year in Edinburgh. finds himselfwithout gallery space. The lease on the old Jeffrey Street gallery expired at the end of last month. The finalisation ofthe purchase of Blackfriars is dependent on an appeal to raise £49.000. That will pay for the purchase price and for the first stage of restoration already completed. Demarco believes that only with the building as ‘eollateral' will the SAC grant be made available. Already the withholding of the grant has caused ’severe cash flow problems‘ according to Demarco. but. more seriously.
without the grant. basic running costs will not be able to be met. which will jeopardise three exhibitions planned for December. The SAC have now taken the unusual step of setting up a special working party to examine in detail the current financial position ofthe Gallery and the future programmes. The committee will meet with Demarco and his supporters this weekend and report to the full committee on 28 November. Lindsay Gordon hopes to be able to make a swift decision after this meeting: ‘()f course in theory the Blackfriars Gallery is a wonderful idea and Ricky Demarco is a fantastically dynamic guy. but that is not the problem. We have to be sure that at the level ofsubsidy available the Gallery will actually work.‘
Even if the grant for this year is finally approved. Gordon says that the SAC will be unable to make any commitment for future years: ‘That will be impossible until we know what total ofspending from the Government will be available to us.‘ Demarco is adamant that 126.000 is not enough and not a fair reflection of the work he has done for art in Scotland: ‘I think I have served the Arts well — I am. lthink. the longest serving arts administrator in Scotland. Compared to what the Fruitmarket Gallery gets for instance it‘s odd that I only get £26000 and have to raise money from other sources.‘
Demarco‘s appeal is going well, but is unlikely to reach the required “9000— the report of the SAC working party will inevitably be taking a risk if it recommends that Demarco‘s grant should be released but there is much evidence that the Gallery has popular and artistic support as well as the support of the architects ofotherbuilding projects in the immediate ()ld 'l‘own area of Blackfriars. The District Council has already demonstrated its support by allowing the special purchase price.
‘Do they want Ricky Demarco in the most beautiful exhibition space in Edinburgh." asks Demarco. ‘lfl don‘t get the grant it will be like saying you can drown. I‘ve had thirteen years in a dingy; nowgive me the boat.‘
SITE F R ORE EYES Famouss sith in§oth Glasgow and Edinburgh are the subject ofa competition organised by Television South West and South West Arts (TSWA). The nationwide project. scheduled to run next May asks artists to submit new ideas for unusual sites. The chosen Glasgow location is the famous Finnieston Crane and. in Edinburgh. Calton Hill. Andrew Nairne of Glasgow‘s Third Eye Centre who is co-ordinating the event in conjuntion with Clyde Port Authority said: ‘We need somethinll
2 The List 14 - 27 November