While the media obsession with Israel seems to go through a little lull right now, and no major issue involving Israel directly, other small voices can be heard. For instance, the former reader’s ombudsman (yes, there is actually such a job!) of Bergens Tidende, took NRK to task for its failure to appropriately assess the critique presented by Cecilie Hellestveit for the NRK Israel coverage public enquiry.
In a rather scathing article in Journalisten.no, he takes the Broadcasting council to task (and in many way reflecting voices we have heard before).
Politics appears to be the key word to look for:
The debate was supposed to focus on journalism, but was limited to pure politics. There was no time for the members of the council the analyze the issue at hand, and very few of them seemed to even want such an analysis. It is a paradox that it is the politicians that dominate the debate on a type of journalism that ought to have been more critical of the same politicians. In her analysis,Hellesveit called for a much more critical attitude from NRK on the prevailing view among Norwegian politicians on the ME conflict. This critique fell to the ground, in an organization so obviously dominated by politicians.
It is revealing and embarrassing that the Broadcasting Council is unable to perform a professional assessment of such a complex and conflict ridden topic such as the coverage of the ME conflict. In my view, the council is now left without credibility as a body to complain to. As long as it continues to be dominated by politicians without any particular competence to assess journalism, but with clear political overtones, the verdicts reached by this council are worthless.
The feedback comments are just as revealing, mainly made by a handful of very professional journalists who were present on the day, and who made an effort to bring across professional viewpoints on the contents of Hellestveit’s critique. These comments can be summed up thus:
The experts that Norwegian politicians and journalists consult on Israel is a very narrow minded elite where dissent is not looked benignly upon, this creates a false impression of consensus. Leading journalists and media experts are interested in debate, analysis on NRK performance, whereas politicians appointed to sit on the broadcasting council mainly engage in party politics. This is bad for everybody, since it tends to cement the view that the conflict is NRKs “property”. This weakens the transparency this institution [NRK] it ought to commit stronger to.
But what stands out as truly shocking here, is that the conflict in Norway is not so much about the Middle East itself, but on the DOMESTIC coverage of it.
In fact the conflict in itself is of no consequence here, rather it is the domestic agenda – even on far away and tiny island communities – that drives our obsession with Israel.
It is for the purely ego-centered needs of people who otherwise would not have a name, a picture in the paper, even a good seat a local community events that we have landed ourselves in this truly bizarre pickle.
Meanwhile, more than a third of our fellow humans on this planet live in squalor, die of malnutrition, or in pointless wars. Millions are denied basic rights, while we, the overfed and over-privileged, tolerate their deaths and demise all too easy, while we squabble here in our luxury sand-box: The domestic conflict of the coverage of the ME conflict.