BBC and Sky networks reject Gaza appeal

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Monday, January 26, 2009

A televised appeal for victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be shown by the BBC or by British Sky Broadcasting.

The BBC had announced last week that the appeal, from the thirteen-strong charity coordination body Disasters Emergency Committee, would not be shown, leading to a media storm and intense criticism of the decision. The BBC said that it had doubts over "the delivery of aid in a volatile situation" and also that the appeal might compromise its perceived neutrality in future news reports.

BBC sign at White City.
Image: Redvers.

The BBC said the decision was made "because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story".

Sky joined the BBC in rejecting the appeal today. The head of the Sky News channel, John Ryley, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that "the conflict in Gaza forms part of one of the most challenging and contentious stories for any news organisation to cover. Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of that story with uncompromising objectivity."

The channel's foreign news head, Adrian Wells, was quoted by AFP as saying on-air that "passions are raised on this story... and that is part of the backdrop of why we've made the decision we've made."

The BBC's decision led to demonstrations outside some of its buildings, including a sit-in at the Corporation's Glasgow studios, and criticism from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Labour MP Richard Burden and 11,000 viewers. Mark Thompson, the BBC's Director-General and Editor-in-Chief, has appeared on BBC television and BBC Radio 4's Today Programme to defend the decision.

Commercial free-to-air channels ITV, Channel Four and FIVE have all agreed to show the appeal.