London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The controversy surrounding the BBC’s refusal to broadcast an emergency fundraising appeal for people living in the Gaza Strip reached a new plateau today with The British-based Sky News channel joining the BBC in its refusal to air the ad.
Executives at the international satellite broadcaster said they made the decision after a weekend of deliberations to protect the impartiality of the station’s news report.
“The conflict in Gaza forms part of one of the most challenging and contentious stories for any news organization to cover,” Sky News director John Ryley told the Associated Press. “Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of that story with uncompromising objectivity.”
Meanwhile, Hundreds of people staged a demonstration outside the headquarters of the BBC, Broadcasting House, in Central London, in protest of the BBC’s refusal to broadcast the relief ad.
The BBC, which is the sole broadcasting corporation funded by British tax-payers’ money, together with other television channels, had earlier announced its refusal to broadcast the television appeal made by the Disasters Emergency Committee-Gaza, known by its acronym DEC. DEC was set up on 22 December last, and is an umbrella for 13 charity organizations, including: Action Aid, the British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Oxfam and Save the Children to collect money to help the disaster-stricken victims of the recent Israeli aggressions against Gaza.
For her part, a spokeswoman for the BBC told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the BBC decided not to broadcast the DEC appeal because of question marks over the arrival of aid at this tense moment in time and also to avoid any risk of undermining the public’s trust in the BBC’s impartiality”.
However, the dean of the Press and Information Faculty at City University London, Adrian Monck, says that there is a problem over the BBC’s link to the question of impartiality, adding to Asharq Al-Awsat: “The BBC did not care about these fears when it broadcast relief appeals for Rwanda, the Congo and other countries.” Monck describes the decision of the BBC as “a disturbing precedent that the BBC will later come to regret”.
In this respect, the British secretary of state for international development, Douglas Alexander, has urged the BBC and other TV channels that had refused to broadcast the DEC appeal to rescind their decisions. For their part, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have announced that they have reversed their earlier decision and that they will broadcast the appeal after all.
Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, explained to the secretary for international development that the corporation will not reverse its decision, insisting that there are question marks over whether the aid would arrive in Gaza, and that broadcasting the appeal might raise questions over the impartiality of the BBC.
The secretary for international development, Douglas Alexander, says in an interview with BBC radio that the BBC’s claims are not convincing, adding that “the British public is capable of distinguishing between offering humanitarian aid and taking sides in a conflict”.
In addition, the Muslim Council of Britain, MCB, has criticized the BBC’s decision, and says that “it is not in the interest of the public.” He urged the BBC Council of Governors to intervene quickly to save the reputation of the BBC, but the council in question has circulated a letter sent to Mark Thompson to the effect that the council’s task is to protect the editorial line freedom that enables the director-general to make such a decision, and that the council will not, at this moment, interfere in this matter.