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The End for a BBC Host
Last uploaded : Wednesday 21st Jan 2004 at 01:54
Contributed by : Cay Philips


The resignation of television journalist Robert Kilroy Silk from his daily BBC programme this past weekend, after his suspension by the Corporation a week ago, is a watershed event in the history of broadcasting.

Kilroy, as he is known in Great Britain, had written an editorial in ?The Sunday Express? a year ago about the threat of Arab and Muslim extremist groups and the article had been reprinted two weeks ago under a different title: ?We Owe The Arabs Nothing.?

Kilroy made the mistake of referring to ?Arabs? as an umbrella term for suicide bombers, limb amputators and oppressors of women. His op-ed piece suggested that the Middle East and Gulf states had contributed nothing to Western culture, incurring the wrath of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Muslim Council of Great Britain. (The latter?s Director had expressed his chagrin a few months ago about the creation of the State of Israel.)

What is significant about the unprecedented reaction of the BBC in cancelling Kilroy?s popular show and suspending him is that it tells us that it is acceptable to express extreme views about America and Israel and that one?s employment is not in danger if one does so. The art critic Brian Sewell, novelist and historian AN Wilson and poet Tom Paulin have spent the past three years picking Israel apart. If one criticises one is regarded as an oversensitive Jew. The former American Ambassador Philip Lader was reduced to tears on BBC?s Question Time two days after September 11th 2001by a screaming, foot-pounding crowd of America-haters who had been packed into the studio. No-one at ?Question Time,? including its erstwhile host David Dimbleby, was suspended.

It was reported in ?The Daily Express? this weekend that many prominent Arabs had written to Kilroy to support his views; uncomfortable as they were, his admonitions about the direction in which Arab culture is going were accepted as a sour but truth-laden pill to swallow.

What is most intriguing about this major story in British history is that is has not been reported outside the United Kingdom. How often one hears Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and Bill O?Reilly of Fox News expressing views as robust as those of Kilroy. They continue to thrive, and more power to them. Newt makes no bones about the shopfronts of terror proliferating in Damascus, a fact never mentioned on British television. (I have to confess I have a satellite dish purely for the joy of Fox News, where ALL views, not just the BBC's politically correct one, go from strength to strength. ) Had Kilroy been syndicated on American television it is possible he would have been chastised, but his big-rating show cancelled? Do me a favour.

However, the end of ?Kilroy? on British television - being hailed as a victory by British Muslim and Arab community groups -- is a sobering event in journalism. I would not be writing about this had Tom Paulin not continued to prosper on BBC primetime after proclaiming that New York Jews who make aliyah should be shot, and after his poem about the 'SS' of Israel ran in a major UK publication.

It has been noted in the British media this week that the Arab world?s daily media barrage of anti-Western rhetoric proliferates around the world. It is likely the hosts of Arab and Muslim television write articles as vituperative as Silk?s but continue in their broadcasting roles. No doubt the BBC is sensitive about the role it may have played in the Dr David Kelly affair. The British scientist who committed suicide after being ?outed? is believed to have been profoundly shaken by the interrogation by MP s and by the radio broadcast and newspaper article by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. Since the Hutton Inquiry BBC journalists have been issued with guidelines on writing commissions.

?Kilroy? has now lost his job and his hugely successful programme and though this profoundly important story has not been covered with as much importance as it should have outside the UK, it is a major event in the annals of journalism and will change the way all of us approach our work. The fact with which we are left is that it is acceptable in the United Kingdom to rant about Jews, Americans and Israel and to burn the American flag and the Union Jack in Trafalgar Square.

However, even if you are as successful and nationally loved as Kilroy you lose your job if you invite debate about the perpetrators of 9/11 and -- davka -- suicide bombers, limb amputators and oppressors of women.

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