The BBC is still seething in response to it’s director general Mark Thompson’s decision not to broadcast the Gaza aid appeal.
At least three BBC NUJ workplace branches have passed motions calling on the BBC to transmit the Gaza aid appeal. A petition is circulating within the corporation which concludes: “The victims of Gaza deserve the aid appeal like any other victims of humanitarian crises. The conflict they are caught in is as controversial as any other armed conflict in the world and singling them out is what harms the BBC’s reputation of impartiality.”
The latest issue of Ariel, the BBC’s internal staff magazine, carries 10 letters on the BBC’s refusal to air the Gaza appeal – all are critical of the decision.
Here is a selection posted on the Media Lens message board:
1. The director general’s comments defending the BBC’s decision not to broadcast the DEC appeal appeared timid and unconvincing.
The main reason given is that he doesn’t want to compromise our reporting impartiality, because the issue of aid to Gaza is controversial. The flaw in this argument is that we are allowing the combatants (or their allies) – in this case Israel – to define whether or not an appeal for aid is legitimate. It is a curious logic to argue that we are defending the principle of impartiality by caving in to Israeli pressure.
There is a smell of fear about this decision – fear of controversy, fear of criticism, fear of repercussions. Perhaps this is the true fallout from the Hutton report, Queengate and Jonathan Ross; an organisation so mired in fear that it finds itself able to sacrifice aid to the victims of war for a principle that nobody (outside the BBC higher echelons) seems to believe was at stake.
Staff member, London factual
2. For the first time in my career I am ashamed to work for the BBC. The Disasters Emergency Committee – made up of the 12 biggest aid charities including the British Red Cross and Save the Children – has asked for help in raising money for the people in Gaza. Even the government has pledged money. The head of the UN says the situation in Gaza is ‘outrageous’. People are dying because of a lack of food, medicine and basic sanitation. The BBC has decided not to broadcast the appeal because it believes impartiality would be at risk. I believe the message the BBC is sending out is clear. And it is not impartial.
Staff member, BBC London
3. Whatever the politics of the situation it is obvious that Gaza is in the middle of a massive humanitarian crisis, people are suffering and need help. The BBC’s own coverage of flattened homes and parents mourning lost children amid the rubble clearly demonstrates that. The decision not to broadcast the appeal opens the BBC up to justified accusations of bias towards Israel and implies that the people of Gaza only have themselves to blame for what happened.
Staff member, News interactive, Plymouth
4. The BBC points to question marks over how the funding would be delivered, but that hasn’t stopped us running other DEC appeals where the distribution of funds is far from straightforward – Goma for example. And anyway, surely the mechanics of the appeal aren’t our problem. We’ve run appeals for victims of conflict before, so why not these people? We don’t need to mention the cause of the conflict or assign blame when we run the appeal, or schedule it near a news or current affairs programme. We just need to get vital funds for people who have no food, water, shelter or medical supplies.
Staff member, TV news
5. The refusal to carry the Gaza appeal insults the intelligence of licence fee payers, implying that they are unable to tell the difference between a charity appeal and a political broadcast. It also undermines the BBC’s claims to impartiality. In almost every war there is contentious debate about who is responsible for the consequent humanitarian crisis. Why is it only in the case of Gaza and, previously, Lebanon that this debate has been used to justify refusing to broadcast an appeal?
Staff member, multiplatform productions