Help needed…

_45349100_006677635-1 The conflict in Gaza is going to be our main story for the forseeable future.

That means trying to fairly and impartially hear the views of both sides even they both have their own distinct narratives and (in the main) absolute conviction that they are right and that’s the only truth there is.

This means a lot of people appearing on air who have no interest in a conversation, they want to make speeches and certainly don’t want to answer direct questions.

It’s as frustrating for you as it is for us.

Indeed, quite a few of you have contacted us with the “plague on both your houses” argument as they grow angry about listening to two seemingly intractable sides who believe in the certainty of their cause.

The comments that come into us are at times, vicious and intimidating in tone. Of course, the “delete” button is there to help us, but it’s not so easy on air.

What would you have us do ?

* Some of you say we should just ignore it and use the time to talk about other issues in the world..

* Some of you have suggested we limit contributors to , say, 3o seconds a time to answer..

* Some of you say we should just let them be hoisted by their own petard as it were, and you can judge why the guest chose not to answer the question but made a speech instead…

So let us know how you think we should deal with it – we’ve tried reiterating the rules on air and before the guests come on air, and it doesn’t work.

Oh, and i won’t post stuff here that simply blames the other side, let me know what you’d like to hear..

39 Responses to “Help needed…”

  1. 1 Hari.K.G.
    January 6, 2009 at 12:31

    It should be the policy of the BBC to screen the opinions of speakers even before they are allowed on air, and see whether the point s they want to make iare contextual and eligible to be aired.
    Hari, K.G., Kerala, India

  2. 2 Mark Sandell
    January 6, 2009 at 12:45

    Hari, we do. before i put a caller on i usually remind them of the “no speeches” rule but during this conflict some people still abuse it.

  3. January 6, 2009 at 13:11

    Mark, if you can solve this one you should leave the BBC to become “special envoy to the middle east”.

    Seriously, it’s a difficult story for a programme like WHYS to cover and you’ll never keep all the people happy all the time. The sense I have is that there has been a slight shift in attitude this time with more people than previously seeing the futility of violence and condemning both sides in the dispute. Certainly over on the “After the Show” forum there are more people expressing a general frustration than there are supporting one side or the other.

    Perhaps your on-air policy should reflect this by being a bit more proactive in challenging anyone expressing blind support for either antagonist. Ideally on WHYS this would come from another listener…but if that’s not forthcoming then perhaps the presenter needs to make a few more “yes, but what about….” comments and questions.

  4. 4 gary
    January 6, 2009 at 13:14

    Well Mark, you certainly seem to have your hands full on this issue. I believe Israel often finds it useful to project a “David versus Goliath” sort of image to the world. Unfortunately, with respect to the Gazans, it appears to be on the wrong side of the picture. This of course means the US looks exactly like the hoard of Philistines in the background… A good bit of me wishes to ignore this conflict as absolutely intractable. Unfortunately for everyone concerned (that is; all of humanity), nasty conflicts like this one gather mostly innocent victims on both sides.
    So, what help might I give? Only meager advice, I’m afraid: Continue giving a voice to ordinary folks on both sides of the wall. The propagandists’ words will fail only when the victims find common ground. And of course, keep up the good work.

  5. 5 Mark Sandell
    January 6, 2009 at 13:28

    Gary and Bob – thank you.
    I know this is my job to solve this one (and many other editors too) but i just wondred if someone was sitting out there listening and saying ” i know what they should do….”
    Gary, we will of course keep going in that direction and Bob, you’re right about getting a bit more challenging with the “absolute certainty” brigade.

    Oh, on a separate note ; i made a grammatical apostrophe howler on the headline of yesterday’s post, thanks for pointing it out and i’m sorry. Also eating a lot of humble pie as i keep banging on at my team about grammar. Pride comes etc etc etc…

  6. 6 Nelson
    January 6, 2009 at 14:42

    Stick to the guidelines as laid down in the contributors charter.

  7. 7 Count Iblis
    January 6, 2009 at 14:43

    You should make a program in which you put this particular conflict into a wider perspective. E.g.,, instead of talking only about the events in Gaza, you could also focus on the way the international community deals with such events. Gaza is then one particular case. The recent war between Russia and Georgia is another case, the 2006 Lebanon war is yet another case.

    The question that can be addressed is how the international community decides who is the aggressor, what amounts to provocation that would justify military action and if there are double standards here.

    If you discuss things like this from such a wider perspective, people are forced to step back from a very specific narrow minded perspective on only one particular conflict.

  8. January 6, 2009 at 14:52

    maybe you should employee a delay feature. then when a speech insues, they can be turned off. I believe in free speech, but on a discussion program, you dont need dominance of a particular point of view.

  9. 9 Ramesh
    January 6, 2009 at 15:17

    Mark, The problem was more apparent to me when Victoria Derbyshire ran a similar program on Radio Five Live. The reason for such a problem is the interviewer and the interviewee being at different places, I guess. What I suggest you is to have a couple of people as guests in the studio and ask them to talk on what the caller was trying to say(after disconnecting the caller, of course). I know it is not an easy task.

  10. 10 Anthony
    January 6, 2009 at 15:40

    It seems like this is pretty much a debate, so why not instate some of the same rules as a formal debate, like alotted times, sticking to topics, and taking turns.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  11. 11 Mark Sandell
    January 6, 2009 at 15:47

    Hi Ramesh, thank you for the suggestion. We always strive to hear everyone in studio quality but in the end, if the only way i can hear authentic voices in the places we’re talking about, and that’s got to be on the phone, then so be it.
    Normally, this is fine but with this issue, it’s a lot harder. Even the stating of “facts”, which everyone likes to do at times like this , are open to debate.
    And Mandie, thanks too ; a delay only puts the speaker off a bit (most delays are 7-10 seconds) so you just end up with a bit taken out. It’s the same with the blog, Nelson, – 9 days out of ten everyone sticks to the rules, but whenever we discuss this, the rules (for a small minority to be fair), the rule book is thrown out of the window.
    and Count Iblis, yes again a fair point but we set out to TRY to reflect what people are talking about and leave the “wider context” to our sister programmes like Newshour.
    Again, thanks for trying !!

  12. 12 Ana Milena, Colombia
    January 6, 2009 at 15:48

    Hi! 🙂
    I couldn’t agree more with Gary and Bob: Moderation and participation from the presenter and intervewed people – perhaps those in studio may receive previous instructions are the key to avoid speeches; in addition, the kind pf participants in the programme may help. It doesn’t mean refraining from inviting some people, though!

    I guess limiting time for participation can help, as well. If this time and these rules are brought back at the beginning of every program, perhaps people can become aware of how concrete they must be.

    Sadly these situations take place; yet, I keep on affirming you do a great job!

    Cheers! 😀

  13. 13 Orion
    January 6, 2009 at 15:48

    I concur with both Bob and Gary. This current version of events, presents some individuals with a platform to voice the various points, either meaningless or meaningful as it were. Some would forget it seems, that we are all human, and life should be cherished, whichever side they are on.
    How ever, these opinions, which come from either side, provides the world with an understanding of the why and how these people think.

  14. 14 Mark Sandell
    January 6, 2009 at 16:09

    Ana and Anthony – thankyou. You are the first to talk about setting time limits. We may do that, though again i have to repeat, with this subject, some people agree to it, only to “unagree” on air.

  15. 15 Steven
    January 6, 2009 at 16:11

    I for one would like to see other topics discussed for a while. The collapse of the world economy is every bit as interesting as what is going on in Gaza. Let the Israelis and Hamas fight it out. The situation will play itself out eventually.

    Very few call-in talk shows here in Boston or even the nationally syndicated shows are talking about Gaza. It accomplishes nothing, and frankly, the majority of people here are more concerned about whether they’ll have jobs in six months.

  16. 16 Mark Sandell
    January 6, 2009 at 16:24

    Thanks Steven for your vote. And i hear that view a lot about people being more concerned with the economy.
    However, by almost any yardstick we use , this conflict is the one a huge part of our community want to talk about.

  17. 17 Ana Milena, Colombia
    January 6, 2009 at 16:37

    Hi! 🙂
    If people have received the warning about time in advance before on air, then it’s more obvious that interruption should take place… Of course, a polite interruption that allows the conversation to continue.
    International involvement can also help to avoid extremely passionate discussions from either sides of the conflict.

    So far, people must asume the rules for posting AND for participating in the live programme. People shouldn’t get upset if their posts aren’t published or if their call is interrupted or cut… You’re doing your job, those are the rules and I’m afraid nobody is the exception. If they didn’t say what they had to say in the allowed time on air, that’s a pity, but you’ve got to face it.

    I wonder if you agree… That’s the way I rule discussions in my class. :-p
    Talk to you soon!

    Cheers! 😀

  18. 18 Steve
    January 6, 2009 at 16:47

    What tends to be a good strategy is to get parties to make the argument of the other side. So get Israelis to state the arguments of Palestinians and Palestinians to make the arguments of Israelis. If you cannot learn to be objective, then there’s really no hope and the BBC is just wasting its time and everyone else’s by rehashing this issue.

  19. 19 Lubna
    January 6, 2009 at 16:59

    Hi my Precious Mark Sandell… I once read a very beautiful saying by China’s greatest wiseman, whose name is actually too big to the extent that I cannot spell it… I’m going to try to‏ ‏ translate the Arabic translation of the saying into English, and I am so sure that you, Mark Sandell, will get my point : “You cannot satisfy other people all the time, so your only concern should be about satisfying your own conscience”… Did you get my point Mark ?! I am so sure that you did… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  20. 20 Ana Milena, Colombia
    January 6, 2009 at 17:10

    @ Lubna:
    Hi, my dear Lubna! That’s well said! I totally agree with you: Sadly, it’s impossible to please everyone- What really matters, though, is that WHYS is fullfiling their mission of informing and gathering opinions for making us aware of these issues. If there are interventions which don’t match this aim, you’ve just got to do your thing. 😉

    And believe me… No matter how hard you try, perhaps these little problems will keep on happening. Don’t give up, though! Let’s continue figuring out how WE, as participants, editor and moderators, can achieve a healthy discussion.

    May God bless you, Lubna! 🙂
    A good day for everybody!! 😀

  21. January 6, 2009 at 17:13

    Hi Mark,

    This particular debate, as you point out, comes with very strong opinions and the nature of the conflict makes guest defensive and not interested in discussing anything. You and the WHYS team are certainly in a challenging spot. I agree that implementing a time limit that is subject to change based on the discretion of the moderator.

    The moderator’s questions and probes are essential to the direction of the conversation. Try to keep your questions short and avoid complicated, multi-part questions. Ask direct questions instead of opened ended ones like “what do you have to say” or “what point do you want to make” might help limit the aggressive speeches. This is definitely easier said than done, Ros does a pretty good job of managing the guests on the program. Good luck!

    [Happy New Year WHYS team and blog community.]

  22. 22 viola
    January 6, 2009 at 17:19

    I think Anthony has hit the bullseye. No matter how hard you try, any discussion of Israel and Palestine turns into a debate rather than a conversation. Kinda like my household! Rules are needed. Rules require enforcement. As long as you know in your hearts that you’re not trying to nudge it toward a particular viewpoint, you’ll do right. I must say it’s a lot like trying to keep order in a roomful of unruly children.

  23. 23 Alan G
    January 6, 2009 at 17:38

    In my opinion, the conventional wisdom about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, in part, caused the seeming impasse in getting the proponents of either side to speak to each other. Palestinians have been told that they are the victims and that they are justified in their actions. As a result, they and their supporters have been largely unable to see the humanity and the suffering on the Israeli side. For its part, Israel has been told that it is in the wrong, such that its behavior is always criticized. Most supporters of Israel are fed up with listening to this constant haranguing, and consequently have become less receptive to hearing tales of Palestinian suffering and need. A new approach to the usual take on this story would contribute to a greater receptivity on both sides.

  24. 24 R Davies
    January 6, 2009 at 17:56

    I believe that BBC World is one of the few news agencies that presents an unbiased and clear view of what is really going on in the world and that is why BBC News is my primary source for information. If I wanted to hear or read stories that focus on the economy rather than the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza, I would watch CNN and frankly that is what I would advise Steven to do. Leave BBC World News just the way it is… many people in the world are much more informed because of the work that your organization does and the various points of view expressed here.

  25. 25 archibald in oregon
    January 6, 2009 at 18:02

    I wonder if there is a way to establish a common ground with all who participate and make a rule that speeches will be cut, if they are not in answer to the question, within a set time and if people do not like being cut off, they will amend their anwers in the future. The only reason people make speeches with no pause is fear of the counterpoint, quite essential to any debate. Put the participants in their place WHYS, it is you who provide them with a forum. If you set a stricter precedent, those who want to speak will have to adapt or be silent…………..Honor yourselves, we support you.

  26. 26 JP
    January 6, 2009 at 18:37

    I seriously doubt that there will ever be peace in the Middle-East. The region seems to be stuck in the middle-ages and corrupted by differences in religion. Neither side is willing to compromise their beliefs and they most likely will continue to fight indefinitely.

  27. January 6, 2009 at 18:40

    The Israelis has a ludicrous position that children and civilians are being killed because Hamas is hiding amongst children. Consequently, the fact that these children are being killed by Israeli bombs is not their fault. It’s Hamas’ fault.

    Now imagine this. Terrorists takes over a school in London, and starts shooting at the American base across the road. The army immediately opens up with heavy artillery, kills all the 10 terrorists, flattens the entire school, and also kills all the 500 children and teachers in the school. Do you think this is a proper response?

    Why is it OK when the children are Arabs? The Israelis have actually shot at UN run schools, and yet, nobody is condemning them.

    When the terrorists took over the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, did the Indian army send jets to bomb the hotel? If they did, would we say that they are crazy? Would we not start crying out for the Indian PM to be hung for being a murderer? Would the fact that the terrorists are hiding amongst the hotel guests make it OK for the army to kill the guests along with the terrorists?

  28. 28 kpellyhezekiah
    January 6, 2009 at 19:00

    If the world doesn’t know how to make Hamas stop firing the rockets then let me offer my 1st suggestion as to how to achieve this. We need a UN force to enter and patrol the Gaza strip for as long as it takes. Their mission: to keep an eagle eye for rockets and move in to affect arrests when any are fired into Israel. A force of not less than 10000 troops on the ground. The world must find the money to keep them there until sanity prevails then the numbers can be scaled down as it improves. Israel please, in the name of Jehovah, STOP your aggression. Hamas, please put down your arms.

  29. January 6, 2009 at 20:23

    What I would like to see this community deal with is the harrassment of some members by other members, both here and elsewhere.


  30. January 6, 2009 at 21:00

    “Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches / Had bellies with stars. / The Plain-Belly Sneetches / Had none upon thars.”

  31. 31 faysal
    January 6, 2009 at 22:48

    First of all, I’d like to congratulate Chayim for his logical and successful comment.
    After years of being “involved” with BBC, Arabic and World, I found out how much it is indispensable to have what I call “culture of public dialog” . Moreover, the host should take in consideration the nature of people that participate to such an issue, most of the time they are angry, impulsive, and snappy , because of the long long time they’ve spent watching the events and listening to the news.
    The best method of moderating a dialog is to keep the participant aware about the discussed matter by reminding him of the subject when he starts getting out of context.
    The most important thing is to make people know that they are here to comment the events, to find the way out of the problem, and not to make a new representation of it.

  32. 32 Ramesh
    January 6, 2009 at 23:43

    Mark, I just like to bring to your notice one more thing. For most of the speech makers, the real problem may be their inability to express their opinion clearly and concisely as English is not their mother tongue. Javed Aktar is regarded as a writer, poet etc in India. I was so surprised to see such a person getting emotional and failed to express himself a few weeks ago in a WHYS program on Mumbai terrorist attacks. I guess such people hurry to say everything they wanted to because they are also aware of the time constraint on programs like yours.

  33. January 7, 2009 at 00:00

    Dear BBC ;

    Thank you for publishing my thoughts in your blog.

    As you can see I am only refering to well known historical facts, being respectfully as posible.

    Jose R. Pizarro (Lima- Peru)

  34. 34 Robert, Canada
    January 7, 2009 at 01:08

    unfortunately, human ever since benefited with several accidental mutations with bigger brain ( about two million years ago) and then the capability to speak clearly (about 200 thousand years ago), the evolution of the mind needs to go through a major evolution. We do not live like other living things on earth and enjoy the ability to communicate, but we also must suffer from this capability. As such, there is no solution to the problem if we cannot learn to treat others just like ourselves. Close your senses and go for a vacation.

  35. 35 archibald in oregon
    January 7, 2009 at 02:43

    @ jp

    Why the pessimism ? Even seemingly hopeless situations have some hope within them…………It just takes a new approach to that which binds the minds of said adversaries……….

  36. 36 Vijay
    January 7, 2009 at 05:55

    You could have a show in a Muslim majority country with a jewish minority like Turkey or Iran ,the debate and conversations would be a little more reasonable.

  37. 37 Nili
    January 8, 2009 at 16:44

    I am Canadian born and I remember being taught that our Native Indians had a method for mediation. The passed the “pipe” or the “lance” and whoever was holding it had the right to speak–everyone else was obliged to listen. I am not positive, but I believe the chief reserved the right to take the stick away (maybe just my wishful thinking)

    My point being that since BBC is hosting these talks, the moderator should retain the right to “pass the stick” to one party at a time while not allowing others to butt in–and at the same time reserving the right to “cut off” unreasonable rants. It would only seem fair if the stick was passed from pro to con–one on one–so that each side could present their case. I know it is not easy–I now live in Jerusalem and this is a hot topic, but only calm discussion will produce results. Good Luck!

  38. January 10, 2009 at 23:43

    Many countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East
    and even the USA have suffered trecherous attacks from Islamic terrorist.
    Now when one country has the sufficient decision to strike back. A manipulative news media well handled by Hammas that show only babies, children and women suffering the consecuences of their actions, Hammas achieves to turn public opinion in their favor and has them chanting robotically against Israel, tacitally supporting the terrorist.

    Why is the populace so easy to manipulate?

    Are we, or are we not against terrorism?.
    Terrorism must be annihilated.

    Jose R. Pizarro (Lima – Peru)

  39. 39 Lian khan muan
    January 17, 2009 at 07:50

    To ceate a ‘neutral voice’which is not a third party in times of war is one hell of a difficult task.It’s like ‘This’s gotta be either black or white’every time we raise our voice. The BBC must screen the blogs before broadcasting them on air and make specific rules that there should not be anyone taking sides or else we can be doing the job of either of the party. But is being done is the best we can so why be over reactive? Carry on the good job.

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