Letters: BBC and Gaza

BBC stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exposed
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The Independent Online

Public confidence in the impartiality of the BBC rests entirely upon the gross widespread ignorance of the historical and current context of the inhumane and illegal Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories, and that ignorance is a consequence of the consistent failure of the BBC and ITV to present an impartial account of events.

In 2004, the Glasgow University Media Group published Bad News from Israel, a study of TV news coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of how this coverage relates to the understanding, beliefs and attitudes of the television audience. The impartiality of the BBC is no longer a matter of debate. Their shameful and compassionless pro-Israeli stance has long since been laid bare.

Jimmy Powdrell Campbell


If the BBC really insists they should remain impartial about Gaza, I suggest they run two appeals in tandem. One for the Palestinian victims of the conflict, and one for the Israeli victims. Then the viewers can decide. Hopefully, the results will be published as a useful guide to what this nation, which the BBC supposedly represents, feels. Alternatively, the BBC can start to rediscover its moral fortitude, just as they have done over the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand affair. Oops, I forgot. They didn't, did they?

Paul Dunwell

Alton, Hampshire

The argument by the BBC that to broadcast an appeal for the people of Gaza would undermine BBC impartiality is itself undermined by their aired appeals, for the people of Darfur, for example.

Alastair Levy

London, N7

Academy will be a backward step

Academies may have replaced "some truly awful schools" (leading article, 16 January), but the decisions that result in the creation of an academy are not always taken in the best interests of children.

I teach at Haling Manor High School in Croydon, which has an intake skewed towards the least advantaged. Last summer, 25 per cent of our Year 11 students achieved five or more A*-C grades at GCSE, which might seem dismal were it not for a CVA (Contextual Value Added) score of 1037.2 that puts us in the top 2 per cent of schools relative to our intake; in other words, we do exceptionally well with the students we teach. Our CVA score is higher than those of local academies, and higher, even, than those of nearby grammar schools. "Awful" we are not.

Now, far from being congratulated on our success, and despite the widespread and vociferous support of the community we serve, we are to be turned into an academy from September 2009. How will this academy be able to achieve better results without introducing some form of selection?

An increase in the number of good GCSE grades can happen only at the expense of the less able, those students who benefit most from the accumulated knowledge and skills of a dedicated staff. It is hard to understand what possible educational purpose is being served here.

Nearly every secondary school head in the borough has signed a petition demanding that the council reverses its decision on Haling Manor.

Philip Foyle

Wallington Surrey

Your leading article, "The value of a good teacher" (14 January), is right to be sceptical about government plans to give "good" teachers an incentive to work in the worst-performing schools.

Nobody sets out to be a poor teacher. Unless the working conditions are right, even the most inspirational and dedicated recruits will be broken down by the system. Teachers who can spend their career working in their speciality, in congenial surroundings, with supportive management and with children for whom the curriculum is appropriate, are indeed fortunate. These teachers will be "good".

Put these teachers into a poor environment with chaotic management, unclear aims and an inappropriate curriculum, which may not be in their speciality, and they will struggle. Their pupils will also struggle.

David McKaigue


There is no point encouraging state school pupils to apply to Oxbridge, if, when they get to the interviews so many are at a disadvantage. The fundamental problem is the vast gap between private education and state school education.

I attended a well-respected state school which produced brilliant results, but at the Oxford interviews I was at a disadvantage because I had not received anywhere near as much contact time nor advanced grammar classes as the privately educated applicants. State schools cannot compete when they have one teacher per 30 at A-level standard. Until you change this you cannot have a fair Oxbridge system.

Siobhan McGurk


Brown is treatingus as idiots

Am I the only one who feels patronised every time the Prime Minister describes our recession as "global"? I wish I had £1 for each utterance and I would even settle on 50p for each time a cabinet minister has used the same adjective. I feel I am being treated as an idiot.

Of course the recession is world-wide, but I regard Gordon Brown's repetition of the word "global" as a pitiful attempt to say, "Nowt to do with me", Of course it's to do with him, because he was Chancellor over the "boom" period when he could have cut out the waste and made our economy lean and fit. Mr Brown should take some responsibility.

Anthony Steel

Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway

Changed days for student rugby

I read the article on the behaviour of the students at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, with their vomiting and initiation rites (19 January). Frankly, I am appalled. They are not nearly bad enough, and I am beginning to wonder what today's students are coming to. In my university rugby club days, we were far, far worse and, what's more, took our behaviour well beyond the locality and all over the world.

Our all-conquering team of nearly 30 years ago developed into several world-class university professors, a couple of QCs, captains of industry, and general pillars of the establishment. None of this would have been possible without the character-building exploits that go with being a proper student.

As a sign of the times, I was in London the other Wednesday evening and, being near Gower Street and wishing to partake of some late-night, sub-continental fare, I nipped into what I remembered was the UCL Rugby Club's favourite Indian restaurant. As Wednesday is games day, lo and behold, there was the rugby club out en masse.

It was pathetic. There was one bottle of beer on the table being shared between eight members. What was even worse was the fact that there was a girl there too.

Richard Free

Neen Sollars, Worcestershire

Cyclists are danger to the blind

In response to the article "I was handed a £30 fine for riding on the pavement" (17 January), although the writer may be a very responsible cyclist, there are thousands in the UK who are not.

Increasing numbers of obstacles on the streets – wheelie bins, advertising boards, litter – makes it more and more difficult for blind and partially sighted people to safely navigate. If you add to that cyclists who, even if considerate, can be extremely intimidating for a visually impaired person, then we are creating scary and daunting streets for thousands of people all over the UK.

Unfortunately, collisions between cyclists and pedestrians are usually not reported, and there are no statistics on the number of blind and partially sighted people who are scared to use a street because they fear being hit by a cyclist; the law is there to help prevent this.

Carol Thomas

Access and Inclusion Manager, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Reading, Berkshire

Bafta and the Golden Globes

I read with interest your coverage of the Bafta film nominations for 2009 (20 January) for which I was interviewed, and would like to clarify a couple of points. First, I have enormous respect for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, and am indeed a proud recipient of a Golden Globe as one of the producers on Shakespeare in Love. Hence, while I was quoted as saying the Golden Globes are decided by a "bunch of foreign hacks" it was very much meant tongue in cheek.

What was not mentioned is that I said Sally Hawkins had more chance of being nominated for a Golden Globe because they have a separate category for comedy performance, and, as such, Golden Globe voters have an additional category to recognise performances in, compared to Bafta voters who were accused of delivering a "snub".

Second, the British Academy has huge respect for Mike Leigh and his work, which has had 12 nominations and three wins, including the Michael Balcon Award for Achievement in Film. Also Mike has been very supportive of us. We had a successful "Life in Pictures" event with him in Brighton, attended by 1,600 people, and hope to do other such events.

More than 400 films opened in the UK last year, of which 200-plus were considered for Baftas. In each category, our 6,000 members vote for a longlist of 15 followed by the five nominations. Inevitably, some titles won't make the nominations list, and we would never say which came close.

David Parfitt

Chairman, BAFTA, London W1

Singing alongwith 'Oliver'

Pandora (19 January) refers to Lionel Bart's propensity for "Picking a Pocket or Two". To put the record straight, I endorse Rita Wagland's recall (I know her well). Lionel and I worked closely together at the start of our careers at Unity Theatre. We both contributed to a satirical revue called Turn it Up, then went on to write all the lyrics and music for Cinderella, a political pantomime.

Two songs in Oliver, "Come Back Soon" (originally, "Be a Man, John Bull") and "Boy for Sale" (originally, Green Jungle) were my tunes and I have the programmes to prove it. Incidentally, Joan Clark, correct name Joan Maitland, wrote the book for Oliver and may have contributed to the lyrics. If the question of royalties ever arose, they should go to Unity Theatre Trust, to which both Lionel and I owe our careers.

Jack Grossman


Presidential vote

A brief note of congratulations and thanks for "The lives of the Presidents" series. Superbly done. Unfair as it seems to single out any piece from this fascinating collection, Norman's Stone's insightful, funny and high-octane dash through the life and times of JFK was superlative.

Mike Lethby

Horsham, West Sussex

Dogged by strays

In David Grant's "First Person" (17 January), he says Battersea Dogs & Cats Home can no longer take in "Staff-type" dogs. We do not select which animals to take in; we aim to take in any dog or cat in need of our care. Last year, we had an 18 per cent increase in stray dogs over 2007, an extra 1,105, of which a large number are Staffies and Staffie types. Some 35 per cent of the dogs in our kennels are Staffies.

Jan Barlow

Chief Executive, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, London SW8

No glow, just show

Your photography of Obama's inauguration was awe-inspiring. Equally awe-inspiring was two million people being marshalled by 40,000 security people and not a single one of those security people, apparently, in sight. Imagine here in the UK; that shot would include 40,000 luminescent yellow jackets with "Police" glowing on them. For the most security-conscious of nations, America also allows itself to be one the most photogenic.

Martin Lythgoe

St Albans

Life at a gallop

I despair. Am I the only reader of The Independent who, being a non-vegan, a horse rider, a dog and country lover, a keeper of poultry and a rat hater, sees no logical reason in not taking pleasure in good company, the thrill of riding an enthusiastic horse in beautiful countryside in pursuit of an elusive quarry? Well, sadly, it seems, I am.

P A Reld

Wantage, Oxfordshire

Looks pretty fishy

In this year of celebration of the life and works of Charles Darwin, I think he might have been pleased to hear of the discovery of an entirely new species. At the supermarket, I noticed that they were selling prawn fishcakes. I wonder what those looked like when they were alive.

Robert Smith

Merstham Surrey

This is not healthy

The Government has devised a constitution for the NHS, yet it still thinks it acceptable for the country to limp along without one. Why is this?

Nigel Scott

London N22