Thursday, January 22, 2009

BBC denies help to Gaza Charity

Broadcasters refuse to air Gaza charity appeal

BBC declines to show DEC appeal under agreement dating back to 1963, leading to other outlets following suit

* Jenny Percival
*, Thursday 22 January 2009 19.27 GMT

The BBC has refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities, launched its appealtoday saying the devastation in Gaza was "so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act".

...The corporation said it had been concerned about the difficulties of getting aid through to victims in a volatile situation. The BBC, which has faced criticism in the past over alleged bias in its coverage of the Middle East, said it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality.

The DEC's chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said the decision could have a big impact on its appeal. "We are used to our appeal getting into every household and offering a safe and necessary way for people to respond. This time we will have to work a lot harder because we won't have the free airtime or the powerful impact of appearing on every TV and radio station."

DEC appeals have recently raised £10m for the Congo and £18m for Burma.

Gormley rejected the BBC's claim that it was difficult for aid to reach those in need, saying 100 lorries a day were entering Gaza. He challenged the corporation's concerns about impartiality. "We are totally apolitical and are driven by the principles of the Geneva conventions in terms of impartiality and neutrality. This appeal is a response to those humanitarian principles. The BBC seems to be confusing impartiality with equal airtime."

A BBC spokesperson said: "Along with other broadcasters, the BBC has decided not to broadcast the DEC's public appeal to raise funds for Gaza. The BBC 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. However, the BBC will of course continue to report the humanitarian story in Gaza.".

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