BBC crisis over refusal to broadcast Gaza appeal
• Archbishop in attack on aid decision
• Isolated Thompson urged to rethink
* Caroline Davies, Vanessa Thorpe and Gaby Hinsliff
* guardian.co.uk, Saturday 24 January 2009 19.55 GMT
The BBC was in crisis last night as politicians including government ministers, religious leaders and senior members of its own staff condemned the decision not to broadcast a charity appeal to help the stricken people of Gaza rebuild their homes.
The corporation's director general, Mark Thompson, was left isolated as rival broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 agreed to put out the plea for aid made jointly by 13 British charities. The BBC has decided the broadcast of the appeal might be seen as evidence of bias on a highly sensitive political issue.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has accused the broadcaster of "taking sides". He said yesterday: "This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity.
"This situation is akin to that of British military hospitals who treat prisoners of war as a result of their duty under the Geneva convention. They do so because they identify need rather than cause. This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief. By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality," the archbishop added.
Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: "The BBC's decision should not discourage the public from donating to this important appeal. I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision."
The BBC's unrepentant stance has stirred up rebellion in the ranks of it own reporters and editors. One senior BBC news presenter told the Observer: "I've been talking to colleagues and everyone here is absolutely seething about this. The notion that the decision to ban the appeal will seem impartial to the public at large is quite absurd...more