"Hardtalk" too hard for BBC?

Courtesy The Island 01-03-2008

Speculation has been mounting recently as to why the 'Hardtalk' interview that Zeinab Badawi had done on February 4, 2008 with the Sri Lankan Governor of the Central Bank. Nivard Cabraal has not been aired so far. The reason for such non-airing has been given as the tape being erased "accidentally" due to a "technical glitch", according to BBC sources.

The interview of 'Hardtalk' was recorded by the BBC at their plush, state-of-the-art studio at Shepherd's Bush, London, where the Governor was personally present on February 4, 2008, to mark the 60th Anniversary of Sri Lanka's independence. As expected, the questions and the line of questioning was tough and in fact, according to those who were able to listen in, it was even tougher than usual. But, according to these witnesses, the Governor was up to it and his answers had been clear, firm, and revealing.

So much so, that it is now believed that the responses received from him may not have been the type of responses that the BBC was expecting, and in those circumstances the BBC is now not very eager to air the interview. Such speculation gains credence, particularly in the light of BBC's general harsh attitude towards Sri Lanka, which line of reporting would have obviously received a set back in the face of the answers given by the Governor.

So, the likelihood of the BBC taking the easy way out, by claiming that the tape has been erased, pleading technical problems, is fairly logical. The only problem of taking such a stand is that, the hard question now arises as to whether the BBC is actually independent, impartial, and objective.
Media watchers say that, had the Sri Lankan Central Bank Governor bungled his answers, the BBC would have promptly broadcast the interview, and in fact would have even taken some juicy snippets for their news telecasts as well. Unfortunately for them however, because they could not find something detrimental, they are now saddled with a 'Hardtalk' tape, which, if they were to air it, would not be consistent with their line of reporting. So much for media freedom, objectivity, independence, and fair play!!

This fiasco should perhaps open the eyes of the Sri Lankan people as well as the international community as to the partial role that is being carried out by the BBC in respect of Sri Lanka's affairs, where the BBC seems very keen to project Sri Lanka in a poor light, notwithstanding the many successes that Sri Lanka has been able to achieve in many fields. Knowledgeable sources state that the Central Bank Governor, in the 'Hardtalk' interview enumerated the positive aspect of Sri Lanka's economy and political scene, and that he also clarified the true position vis-à-vis many controversial claims and perceptions that have been cleverly put forward and widely publicized by hostile analysts and media institutions. In that context, the fact that a reputed institution such as BBC has thought it fit to state that the interview cannot now be aired because the tapes have been erased due to a technical glitch is, to say the least, shocking and is clearly unacceptable.

It would be interesting to find out whether the British Government would condone this type of action and as to whether they would intervene in some way to ensure impartiality and fair play. But here again, the BBC would probably proclaim that they are independent and they could independently and impartially not air a TV interview if they do not wish to do so, or if, as they say, the tape is erased!

It may also be useful to ascertain as to who in the BBC had reviewed the Governor's interview on 'Hardtalk', and as to who had issued the instructions to trot out the excuse that the tape has been erased due to a technical glitch. Hopefully, such an investigation, if carried out, may throw some light on the wider issue of the BBC's continuous slanted reporting about Sri Lanka and perhaps even enlighten the world about how certain media 'hit-men' act to systematically destabilize nations.

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