Monday, 26 January 2009

BBC and Sky on Gaza Appeal

Thirteen of Britain's largest charities, who together constitute the Disasters Emergency Committee, have asked broadcasters to air an appeal during primetime today seeking donations for Palestinians affected by the conflict.

The BBC and Sky are refusing to show an appeal. Most of the media and blogs are criticising the BBC on this and ignoring Sky, presumably due to its public subsidy. The decision not to show it does seem odd, they do seem out of touch with public feeling on this. Who is asking them to refrain from showing it? One effect of this though is to give far more coverage to the appeal than it would normally get. I'm not suggesting that they refuse to show more appeals, but in this case this is the effect.

Stop the War is organising a mass return of TV licenses to the BBC for those incensed by the continuing refusal of the BBC to broadcast and emergency appeal for Gaza. They don't appear to be taking any action against sky, perhaps they should suggest burning their boxes or dishes? Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5 are showing the appeal tonight.

Sky's chief executive, John Ryley, maintained that "after very careful consideration, we have concluded that broadcasting an appeal for Gaza at this time is incompatible with our role in providing balanced and objective reporting of this continuing situation ..." He said that Sky felt that "the nature of an appeal is that it sets out to provoke a specific response from the viewer. Sky did not believe that broadcasting the DEC appeal "can be combined with the balance and context that impartial journalism aims to bring to the highly-charged and continuing conflict in Gaza".

The BBC has received more than 11,000 complaints in the wake of its decision not to air the advert, and more than 60 MPs were set to complain in the House of Commons today. BBC boss Mark Thompson has again defended the decision, saying it would jeopardise the BBC's impartiality, and that the BBC could not give the impression it was "backing one side" over the other. He said the DEC had acknowledged from the outset there might be problems airing the appeal on the grounds of impartiality, and it was not the first time the BBC had decided against running an advert on their behalf. He denied his "arm had been twisted" by pro-Israeli lobbyists and said the BBC would continue to cover the humanitarian dimension of a "complicated and deeply contentious story".

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP said the BBC's decision was disgraceful and called for an inquiry. "It is not for the BBC to tell these professional aid agencies how to do their jobs," she said. "Everyone knows the situation in Gaza is dangerous and that the cease-fire is extremely fragile. But aid lorries are getting through. The people of Gaza are desperate for medical supplies, and food, and the DEC works with United Nations' organisations to ensure that this sort of aid reaches the right place. These DEC appeals are worth millions of pounds to the charities and it is absolutely disgraceful that the BBC should refuse to broadcast the appeal."

You can donate here
Phone: Call our automated 24 hour credit card hotline 0370 60 60 900
Post: Make cheques payable to DEC Gaza Crisis and post to DEC Gaza Crisis, PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA or go to any Post Office quoting Freepay number: 1210
You can also download our Gaza Donation by Post form to make your donation payment and send it to PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

Mark Thompson subjected himself to a two fingers up humiliation on BBC Breakfast this morning when the journalists showed him exactly what they thought by beaming the appeal up behind him whilst he was explaining exactly why the BBC would never show it. You can see it here: