Channel Four's Circus Tour

In the course of this long talk show on Sri Lanka, only one side of the story which comfortably glossed over the unrelenting terrorism of the LTTE and its destructive path of “national Struggle” was portrayed.
by S.M.M.Bazeer

‘ We have to keep them out of the public arena because they are too stupid and if they get involved they will just make trouble. Their job is to be "spectators," not "participants."
-  Noam Chomsky
What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream- Z Magazine, October, 1997

(July 06, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Channel Four’s footage on Sri Lanka broadcast on the 14th June 2011 , created a sanctimonious ripple effect which still has not precipitated from the media. An inward reaction to the Channel Four broadcast in the UK enabled some disgruntled viewers to lodge their complaints with The Broadcasting Complaint Authority’s ( Ofcom ) and its weekly Report covering the period from 14th June 2011 to 20th June 2011 indicates that there were 105 complaints from those who found the Channel four Documentary entitled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” loathsome and not in compliance with the Broadcasting Code in the UK. Nevertheless, the complaints are yet to be assessed against the broadcasting code and the complaints’ list published by Ofcom (office of Communication), and does not include complaints that are based on issues of fairness and privacy. In the backdrop of this footage on Sri Lanka , it is interesting to note that Channel Four also broadcast a programme entitled “Embarrassing Bodies” on the 15th June 2011, a medical programme dealing with child birth issues which also attracted 12 complaints although it was said to be dealing with natural child birth issues. Despite being smaller in number, UK viewers’ complaints were indicative of their sensitiveness to programmes that may display human bodies in an unsightly fashion.

Despite Ofcom being a post regulatory authority it has its inherent acceptance and reviewing of complaints prior to broadcast. However, 105 complaints against Channel Four, is not indicative of any investigation unless the complaints raise potential breaches against broadcasting Codes , once the complaints are identified as breach of codes the Ofcom will start an investigation. Channel Four has already showed most of the clips on their news bulletins and according to Channel 4 News's Foreign Editor; Ben de Pear, the Sri Lankan government claimed the video was faked and made a series of formal complaints through the regulator Ofcom, all of which were rejected.It is yet unknown whether Ofcom has considered any of the complaints lodged after the “ Sri Lanka’s Killing Field” documentary, merits any investigation on the basis of potential breach. It seems that wider and prolonged broadcast of this programme on the internet and private showings and its ramifications beyond the shores of the United Kingdom backed up by International human rights organization’s may exempt Ofcom's remittal. 

Channel Four's senior presenter; Jon Snow, international correspondent; Jonathan Miller, ITN Productions and the Director Callum Macrae , head of current affairs at Channel 4 Dorothy Byrne were in the limelight all over the media for a short epoch. Jonathan Miller stepped out of his studio to stage a protest at Gatwick Airport against Sri Lankan deportees. Chanel Four became a mobile media from Gatwick to USA, the British parliament and the media personnel associated with Channel Four's footage became human rights activists. This media circus has never been performed before when innocent people were bombed in Iraq and Afghanistan or of late in Libya. They did not stage any protest out of their precincts nor did they show documentaries on the atrocities committed by the British, the USA and their Western allies. In respect of Libya the “unblemished” western media took cover under the Arab League support.

In the wake of Channel Four's footage on Sri Lanka , some listeners of the pro-LTTE radio in the UK , suggested that LBC Radio (London Broadcasting Corporation) should be encouraged to talk on the Channel Four Programme. On the 18th of June, an LBC mid-day talk show focused on national issues but also allocated time to discuss Channel Four's programme on Sri Lanka. As usual, the presenters of the programme were Former Mayor of London; Ken Livingstone and David Miller, the former Minister in the Conservative Government of John Major . It was the first follow up programme on Sri Lanka and Ken Livingstone was prejudicial in his opinions as he had been once alleged as a sympathiser to suicide bombers for his participation in a LTTE event in Zoroastrians Centre in Rayners Lane. However his colleague Mr. David Miller struck a balance with his parliamentary skills of diplomacy when he introduced, the foreign affairs correspondent of Channel Four, Jonathan Miller.

“ Johnathan Miller the foreign affairs correspondent of Channel 4 news. Jonathan thanks for coming on. This is not an easy issue to ever get the truth because obviously the Tamils have one view and other Sri Lankans have others and we have to stand somewhere in between and listen to all of this stuff. But what is the reality of this as far as you as an experienced veteran correspondent are concerned.”

In the course of this long talk show on Sri Lanka, only one side of the story which comfortably glossed over the unrelenting terrorism of the LTTE and its destructive path of “national Struggle” was portrayed. LBC grossly failed to explore the dichotomy of listeners' views with the exception of David Miller's impartial introduction.

Jonathan Miller took advantage of the chat show as a vendetta against Sri Lanka on the issue of Sri Lankan refugees (Failed asylum seekers and immigration offenders) that were to be deported in a couple of days.

He remarked that “I hope some may question whether they ought to visit Sri Lanka on holiday in such circumstances”. Jonathan Miller also blamed the British government for failing to protect the Sri Lankans who were to be deported as they would face persecution in Sri Lanka. However they landed safely on their own soil where they would have had no fear if they had some immigration status in the UK and would have frequently visited Sri Lanka on holidays. Jonathan’s chimerical circus did not go well despite his vocalisation and exploitation of the media merry-go-round.

On the contrary to what these internationally renowned media correspondents blabbered on LBC; Mr. Alistair Burt, Foreign Office Minister for South Asia has published his editorial opinion on Sri Lanka on the British high Commission website:

“ Let there be no doubt that for the UK the end of the military conflict, and the removal of terrorism as a daily threat to the lives of the Sri Lankan people is without question a good thing.

I visited Sri Lanka in February and saw for myself the undeniable progress that has been made since the end of the war, including the construction of new roads and bridges to help open up the North. In Jaffna I saw the efforts being made to resettle those displaced, including the practical challenges which they are overcoming, such as the need for infrastructure and livelihood support. Whilst there is still much to do in a number of areas, there is no doubt that the future of Sri Lanka is hopeful, if the present opportunity is fully grasped.”

A discerning observer of international events will no doubt make his own judgment on diplomacy amidst this media blitz.

To be continued,,,

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