BBC ‘open to Gaza appeal rethink’?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has said it is open to reconsidering its earlier decision not to telecast a charity appeal for funds for Palestinians in Gaza.“We never say never and clearly, if the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) came to us with another request when things have calmed down and we didn’t have the same worries about the controversial nature of this, we would look at it again in that light,” Caroline Thompson told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

The DEC is made up of charities including the British Red Cross and Oxfam and its request for telecasting an appeal for funds was turned down by the BBC.

In explaining its decision, the BBC said the telecast might compromise its impartiality.

In a blog post on the broadcaster’s website, Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, wrote: “Gaza remains a major ongoing news story, in which humanitarian issues … are both at the heart of the story and contentious.

“It is sometimes not a comfortable place to be, but we have a duty to ensure that nothing risks undermining our impartiality. It is to protect that impartiality that we have made this difficult decision.”

Growing criticism

The chief operating officer of the BBC, under fire for its refusal to air the appeal, said a reversal of the decision was possible if another request to air the appeal was made.

The BBC’s refusal to broadcast the appeal has shocked and suprised many.

Steven James, an organiser for the UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians organisation, told Al Jazeera: “This is about helping women, children and civilians caught up in the situation, in a time when they really need aid.

“Quite frankly, we are astonished at the BBC.”

Pressure on the BBC to air the appeal has mounted, with the broadcaster receiving more than 10,000 complaints via email.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also waded into the row.

“My feeling is that the BBC should broadcast an appeal,” Rowan Williams, the Anglican leader, said on Sunday.

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York and the second most senior Anglican clergyman, added that the row is not about impartiality, but

“This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief,” Sentamu said.

“By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and foresaken impartiality.”

More than 50 members of the British parliament have also signed a motion condemning the move.

The MPs backed a parliamentary motion saying that they were “astonished” by the BBC’s move and called its explanations “unconvincing and incoherent”.

The decision drew fierce criticism from Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, while thousands of people protested against the BBC’s stance in central London on Saturday.

Al Jazeera and agencies