The BBC has refused to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee’s crisis appeal for people in need of food, shelter and medicines following Israel’s military action in Gaza. It says that it “does not want to compromise its commitment to impartiality”.
The DEC usually runs TV and radio appeals when it launches its crisis appeals. It represents leading UK aid agencies, all of them registered charities.
ITV and Sky also confirmed that they would not be airing the appeal.
Writing on the BBC’s editors’ blog, BBC Director-General Mark Thompson gave two reasons for not broadcasting the DEC’s appeal. First, the BBC was concerned “about whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground”.
Secondly, because “Gaza remains a major ongoing news story”, the BBC “could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in its wider coverage of the story”.
Thompson said that there have been previous cases of when the BBC had turned down the DEC’s appeal “because of this risk of giving the public the impression that the BBC was taking sides in an ongoing conflict”.
However, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander had asked all the broadcasters to review their decisions not to broadcast the appeals. Health minister and former BBC journalist Ben Bradshaw argued that the BBC‘s arguments were “completely feeble”.
The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has also today repeated its call on the BBC to reconsider its decision.
It also called on Sky, which it said was currently considering its position, to lend its support to the appeal.
Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charity Commission, said:
“For the past 45 years the leading international charities operating under the unique alliance of the DEC have shown themselves well able to deliver aid in areas of crisis around the world in an effective and non-partisan way.
“It is critical that the broadcasters, the banks, and other organisations do all they can to publicise and support this humanitarian appeal on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate and undeniable need in Gaza today. I call on the BBC to reconsider their decision.”
A Facebook group entitled “The BBC has refused to run the Gaza appeal on TV – help change its mind” has recruited 1,407 members following the BBC’s decision.
Broadcasters ITV, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, and Five have now agreed to transmit the appeal on Monday. Al Jazeera English has pledged to run public service announcements in UK prime time at no cost in support of the DEC’s appeal.
Photo: Ashley Pollak on Flickr.com
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