Britons slam BBC over refusal to run Gaza ad
'The Beeb' stands by its decision not to air a fundraising appeal for victims of Israel's recent 22-day incursion into Gaza.
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Long used to winning plaudits for the quality of its journalism, staff at the 97-year-old institution have become accustomed to allegations of left- or right-wing bias.
However, even many BBC journalists are furious at a decision by senior management not to air the appeal this week by an umbrella grouping of 13 charity organizations including the British Red Cross and Save the Children.
The appeal to help Palestinians facing homelessness and hunger following the Israeli onslaught in the Gaza Strip was broadcast Monday night by three rival broadcasters – Channel 4, ITV, and Five – although not by Sky News, which is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Mark Thompson, BBC's director general, said he could not permit the BBC to endanger its impartiality by appearing to endorse an appeal for the victims on one side of a complicated conflict.
"For us to broadcast such a thing would in my view be out of keeping with our strict duty to be impartial," he told one of the BBC's radio channels.
The two-minute appeal, which went out on Monday night, began with images of child victims from Gaza.
A narrator said: "The children of Gaza are suffering. Many are struggling to survive, homeless, and in need of food and water. ... Today, this is not about the rights and wrongs of the conflict. These people simply need your help."
'The Beeb's' charter to be unbiased
Known affectionately by many Britons as "The Beeb," the BBC remains the world's largest broadcaster, operating largely thanks to government funding and by levying television license fees.
A charter obliges that it "be free from both political and commercial influence and answer only to its viewers and listeners."
Nevertheless, critics have accused BBC chiefs of overzealousness in interpreting the rules, while some say management panicked in the face of sensitivities about covering the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Incredulity has been expressed by government ministers, religious leaders – including the Archbishop of Canterbury – trade unions, and tens of thousands of viewers who lodged official complaints.
Protests at BBC's London offices