Scarlet Alliance

  You are not logged in Log in
Welcome 中文 ไทย 한걸

P. Gill, "BBC backs off from Bush in Africa," The Guardian, 23 January 2006

World Service:

The BBC World Service Trust will try to find new backers for the Tanzanian project, but vital time is being lost. It has yet to be seen whether the British and other European governments opposed to the new morality doctrine on Aids will step in to fund projects the US has halted.

The BBC has had to abandon an anti-Aids campaign in Africa because it refused to accept a US government demand that it sign a formal pledge denouncing prostitution. It is the latest organisation to fall foul of the Bush administration's new "morality" doctrine to combat the global epidemic. The BBC World Service Trust, established to use modern media techniques to promote development goals, signed a contract last year for $4m (£2.3m) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for a three-year Aids campaign in Tanzania. In partnership with Tanzanian broadcasters, the BBC was to produce radio dramas, phone-ins and public service advertisements to help prevent the spread of Aids.

But six months into the contract, the US government terminated the project after tightening up on a requirement that organisations receiving US funds had to sign a pledge "explicitly opposing prostitution". The BBC project would not have provided direct services to Tanzanian prostitutes, but some programmes might have dealt non-judgmentally with their role in the epidemic. A signature on the anti-prostitution pledge would have entitled US government officials to vet all the trust's projects worldwide for compliance with Washington's "morality" doctrine. The BBC's Tanzanian project would also have had to join the US campaign to promote sexual abstinence by stressing the failure rates of condoms.

Discussions with USAID on the prostitution issue were conducted by Caroline Howie, director of health at the trust and a former head of news at BBC World. "The more we discussed this, despite efforts on both sides, the clearer it became that there was no common ground," she said. "We reached the irrevocable position that we could not sign." USAID officials are under pressure from Republicans in Congress to carry out the letter of the law that established the Bush administration's Aids programme.

Although most development organisations funded by the US to carry out Aids work have reluctantly signed the anti-prostitution pledge, there have been exceptions. Brazil's National Aids Commission last year halted a $48m US-funded project rather than sign, and the multi-billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros told his Open Society Institute to refuse to sign. The institute is challenging the pledge in the US courts on the grounds that it is "dangerous and unconstitutional".

Peter Gill

Body Count - How they Turned Aids into a Catastrophe by Peter Gill will be published by Profile Books in April.