BBC Spurns Gaza Appeal

There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid in Gaza.  So far, the death toll is more than 1,200, including nearly 300 children.  Pictures broadcast around the world prompted the UK Disasters Emergency Committee, an organization which brings together 13 of the UK’s biggest charities, including the Red Cross and Oxfam, to broadcast an appeal for donations.  But the BBC has refused to cooperate, breaking a 46-year-old agreement.  The chief executive of the Emergency Committee says he’s very disappointed, as the money raised would help those who need it most in Gaza.

Brendan Gromley, UK Disasters Emergency Committee: “It’s knowing that we won’t be able to help those people that we’ve been seeing suffering the consequences of the conflict both in Gaza and in the south of Israel.  We know what has to be done.  And I think it means we won’t be able to do as much as we’d normally be able to do.”

“Many children are severely malnourished, and they need our help” (Disasters Emergency Committee, “Congo Appeal,” BBC, November 2008).  Previous calls for donations like this one broadcast last year, now available on the emergency organization’s Web site, have raised tens of millions of dollars for the UK’s most popular charities.

In a statement, the BBC said the 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.

The decision by the BBC has angered many British Muslims, and they say they’ll campaign to get the appeal broadcast.

Anas Altikriti, British Muslim Initiative: “What the BBC have got seriously mixed up when they talk about impartiality is air time and politics.  They have now begun playing politics with human lives, human suffering, and that’s not what the BBC ought to be doing.  When they talk about impartiality, it’s to allow equal air time and equal statements from both sides.  Now we’re talking about children dying.”

Fergal Parkinson, Al Jazeera: “The urgent need for aid in Gaza is obvious to most.  What the appeal organizers now can’t understand is why the UK broadcasters won’t get that message get through to the previously generous British public. Fergal Parkinson, Al Jazeera, London.”

Cf. “Rivals Break with BBC in Gaza Row,” BBC, 24 January 2009.

This program was broadcast by Al Jazeera on 23 January 2009.  The text above is a transcript of the program.