Sunday, January 25, 2009

BBC Left Isolated Over Gaza Appeal Blackout

Sunday Times Online (UK), January 25, 2009 - The BBC appeared isolated last night after the other terrestrial broadcasters — ITV, Channel 4 and Five — decided to go ahead with a humanitarian appeal on behalf of the people of Gaza.

The corporation has refused to do so, arguing that it would compromise its impartiality by appearing to back Palestinians rather than Israelis as victims of the recent conflict.

Two of the BBC’s most senior executives, Mark Thompson, the director-general, and Caroline Thomson, the chief operating officer, continued to hold to the corporation’s line throughout yesterday.

Earlier their position had been attacked by Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, and Tony Benn, the veteran former Labour minister.

Both spoke separately on the BBC to argue that the appeal was a humanitarian issue and the corporation should recognise the intention of the appeal was to relieve “immense human suffering”.

Benn almost hijacked an interview on Radio 4 to read out the address and Post Office account through which listeners could give to the appeal.

He was at the head of protests held yesterday lunchtime outside Broadcasting House, the corporation’s headquarters. He said BBC presenters should take the initiative and read out the appeal on air.

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour minister and former BBC employee, said on Radio 4’s Any Questions that the BBC’s decision was “inexplicable”.

Dame Suzi Leather, who chairs the Charity Commission, called on the BBC to change its mind to help to alleviate the “desperate” conditions in Gaza.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) asked broadcasters on Thursday to put out the appeal, but because of the BBC’s arguments against it no arrangement was made to broadcast on any channel.

Yesterday ITV, Channel 4 and Five decided to go ahead. The appeal is likely to be aired tomorrow. Sky said it had not yet reached a decision.

The BBC is looking increasingly isolated....

See also:

At the heart of BBC row, the homeless of Gaza

Editorial: Why the BBC is wrong over Gaza appeal

Cowardly decision betrays values the corporation stands for

Crisis at BBC escalates as 11,000 complain

More than 50 MPs urge BBC to reconsider

Three cheers to Tony Benn for breaking ban on aid appeal for Gaza

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