London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sky News announced yesterday it would not broadcast an appeal for contribution for the suffering people of Gaza, thus following in the footsteps of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) which again defended its decision following the uproar it caused in Britain.
Sky News Director John Ryley said the reason for the decision was the channel’s concern for impartiality and expressed his view that the appeal of the “Disasters Emergency Committee” [DEC] – which includes several nongovernmental organizations, among them the British Red Cross and Oxfam -might affect its impartiality. He added in a statement yesterday that “the conflict in Gaza is one of the most difficult and contentious issues covered by the media” and added: “Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of the issue with uncompromising objectivity.”
Adrian Wells, director of foreign news in Sky News said: “Being an international channel, we must focus on our principal role, which is to cover an issue and not become a party in it.”
The BBC announced before three days its refusal to broadcast the “DEC” appeal for the same reason. BBC Director General Mark Thompson reiterated the justification of the decision in the name of impartiality sought by the channel and said: “We want to cover the humanitarian aspect of the story through our news reports so that we can place it within its framework, which allows us to provide balanced and objective coverage.”
It is recalled that the three British terrestrial channels ITV and Channels 4 and 5 agreed to broadcast the appeal and were supposed to have done so last night during their evening news bulletins. Several British papers are participating by publishing free advertisements backing the appeal.
On the “impact of the BBC’s decision on the Sky News one, a spokeswoman for the latter stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “the decision was taken separately from the BBC one” and added: “We are aware of the decision of the BBC and the other channels but this is our decision and we were not influenced by the others.” Sky delayed its response to DEC’s request to broadcast the appeal until yesterday morning. The spokeswoman said “the importance of the issue made us eager to allocate the appropriate time for taking the decision.” Though Sky underlined its interest in impartiality and in not taking political stands by broadcasting an appeal in an area where there is conflict, it did broadcast in the past DEC appeals for the needy in several countries like Sudan and Congo.
There was criticism of the Sky decision even inside the channel which prompted its director to send a message to all employees saying: “It is important to explain that this decision was not a judgment of this campaign’s good intentions.”
Two British journalists associations, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and from Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (Bectu) became involved in the issue when they sent a joint letter to the BBC director general saying the “BBC stand impedes DEC’s efforts to deliver its message to the British people. The two associations’ leaders Gerry Morrissey and Jeremy Dear considered the BBC decision “the result of timidity and in danger of being seen as politically motivated and biased in favor of Israel.” Morrissey and Dear called on the BBC to review its decision as desire by the members of the two British associations.
Douglas Alexander, the British international development secretary, had earlier criticized the BBC for its decision and reiterated these criticisms to Sky News in an interview with the channel yesterday morning and said: “Though I respect Sky’s right to take this decision, yet I am not convinced it is correct because I do not believe that impartiality is affected by allowing Sky’s viewers to give contributions and announcing the need for contributions from establishments like the British Red Cross.” He added that “these organizations are totally neutral and their work is neutral. There is an urgent need for them because of the continuing humanitarian suffering in Gaza.”