This article focuses on the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) decision to deny a request to air a Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal for Gaza in January 2009. The BBC argued that airing the appeal would threaten its impartiality. Despite the centrality of impartiality to the BBC, the concept's meaning is anything but unequivocal. An exploration of a media offensive, which BBC executives launched in response to public outrage over the decision, seeks to reconstruct what definition of impartiality is inferred by the BBC's rationale behind not airing the appeal. The analysis illustrates how the BBC's justification engages dialogically with the critical position of others and, by doing so, draws on diverse understandings of impartiality. We argue that this 'semantic plasticity' of impartiality does not point at institutional confusion, but rather at BBC's executives capitalising on the rhetorical potential this plasticity affords.

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ERMeCC - Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture
Critical Discourse Studies
Department of Media and Communication

Engelbert, J.M, & McCurdy, P. (2011). Capitalising on the plasticity of impartiality: The BBC and the 2009 Gaza appeal. Critical Discourse Studies, 8(3), 183–201. doi:10.1080/17405904.2011.586227