The BBC maintaining impartiality

As I’m sure you are all aware, the BBC is facing severe protests outside Broadcasting House amid calls for it to air an appeal to the British public to help those in need in Gaza.

The DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee), an umbrella organization that represents UK charity agencies including Oxfam and the Red Cross, had asked the main broadcasters in the UK to support the campaign to bring aid to those in need in Gaza, where over 1,300 Palestinians had been killed and over 5,000 injured.

Channel 4 and Five agreed to air the broadcast, but ITV, Sky and the BBC initially rejected the DEC’s request, the latter arguing that by showing the appeal, ‘the BBC would risk reducing public confidence in it’s impartial coverage of the conflict.’

ITV has since buckled under the fierce criticism received and opted to show the appeal, and Sky has announced that is still considering the DEC’s request. However, because of the way the BBC is funded, it is expected to maintain it’s impartiality as a public service broadcaster, and it has therefore stuck to it’s original decision.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson said that “inevitably an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations.

“The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story. It is to protect that impartiality that we have made this difficult decision.”

Over 2,000 people protested against the decision outside the BBC’s London headquarters on Saturday, and 11,000 complaints have been received by the corporation.

The decision has prompted action from all corners of Westminster. Sky News is now reporting that over 50 Members of Parliament are backing a motion urging the BBC to reverse it’s decision and air the appeal. It was revealed earlier in the week that the Government is donating £25m to the Gaza appeal.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, which airs on the BBC, LibDem leader Nick Clegg described the decision as an “insult” to public viewing and accused the BBC of getting their priorities “upside down”.

What’s your opinion on the matter? Do you think that the BBC should effectively drop its principles as a public service broadcaster and air the appeal amidst a crisis that is causing immense human suffering, despite the possibility of showing political bias in this sensitive issue? Or do you think that sticking to its guns, maintaining impartiality and leaving the appeal to ITV, Channel 4 and Five is the right course of action for the BBC?

BREAKING NEWS 0838: Sky News has announced that it will not air the Gaza appeal in line with its broadcasting principles. Adrian Wells, Sky's Head of Foreign News, said today that their role was to "report the news", not "become the news". 

However, Sky make the news for Channel Five, and they are broadcasting the appeal. Is that any different?

Comments

I think the BBC are wrong not to show it. It's an appeal for humanitarian aid for people who have been suffering for weeks. From what I've read the appeal isn't overtly political at all; it doesn't support Hamas or Israel's position. It just appeals for aid, which is desperately needed.

By AlanMcGuinness

...and as Dr John Sentamu (The Arcbishop of York) said earlier on BBC news when interviewed, the BBC should follow "the good samaritan" type stance and act rather than pursue as a bystander. He also echoed Alan's sentiments by saying that it doesn't support Hamas or Israel's position. It would be a great shame if huge numbers of people aren't given the aid necessary to help them cope. Events such as those brought to my attention today (including the slaughtering of 70,000 people by the Tamil Tiger insurgents/rebels in Sri Lanka) are worth helping the poor innocent families and sufferers for.

Surely despite whatever stance the BBC feels it should operate, there should be an extra rule/policy which exempts them from needing to remain impartial over the conflict? Or would that be too difficult to manage?

By stuartwilson

You might be interested in my letter to the Guardian on the question of BBC impartiality and the historical context of this debate.

By Suzanne Franks

 In the face of what has become one of the worst recent humanitarian crisis' perhaps it is time for the BBC and sky to put impartiality aside, at least to a certain extent. 

Fighting could begin again as Hamas threaten to fire more rockets if the Isreali's do not open the borders soon.

Yet still they are pondering on what is the right thing to do, although half of Gaza have no water or electricity.

 I think both sky and the BBC should follow channel four and five's lead, especially as more aid may desperately be needed soon. 

By lucyrossmillar

Let's look at it from a positive angle - the appeal has got a lot of publicity as a result of the BBC. Mission accomplished?

By Rebecca Hughes

Sky News is reporting that around 100 people from the Stop the War Coalition and Palestinian groups have occupied the lobby area of the BBC's headquarters in Glasgow and are refusing to leave until the BBC reverses its decision and airs the Gaza appeal.

 

By Nick Poskitt

but I have missed the announcement that Sky has decided to air it? Why is no one storming the Sky headquarters? I think people are angry at BBC for other reasons and are using the Gaza appeal as an excuse.

 

By Rebecca Hughes

to do with Sky ducking under the radar and being open, saying they are still 'considering' the DEC's request. I've been watching Sky News all day and that line still tags on the end of each bulletin.

When Sky are going to make a decision, considering the first appeals air tomorrow on ITV and Channel 4, is anyone's guess.

By Nick Poskitt

Maybe. But if everyone stormed Sky, who still haven't made up their mind, they'd be more likely to persuade Sky to air it. Then more people are going to see it etc. etc.

Why don't these people organise charity events to raise money for the crisis instead of spending their time protesting?

By Rebecca Hughes

have just announced they are not broadcasting the appeal. I wonder if they'll bombard the Sky studio in Osterley now!

By Nick Poskitt

Say the BBC and Sky decided to show the appeal, no-one would have fussed over it and it would be fine and dandy people will watch and might pay attention.

They won't but... 

The appeal is to raise money for Gaza right? The job of the appeal is to raise money the actual broadcasting of the appeal is to raise awareness... I mean the actual video of the appeal doesn't raise money. The way I see it... about as much awareness has been raised by not showing it. Pretty much all the papers are covering the fact that the evil BBC and Sky bosses arn't allowing the appeal to air. My Mum (the least interested person in the world in this sort of thing) even commented on it. Radio stations, internet, it's everywhere. If they broadcasted the appeal as expected, thats it, no coverage.

People now know about the appeal, meaning they now know (if they didn't already) about Gaza. It is now up to them if they feel THAT passionatly about it to find out how they can help. Instead it appears they feel their time is better spent moaning about it. It is unfortunate that people feel they need to see a specially constructed package to help those in need when for the past month or so we haven't been able to get away from the coverage. It sounds to me like an excuse "we didn't see the appeal so we couldn't donate". If you care that much find the info yourself, watch the appeal on youtube or something. 

Awareness is there, it has been there on every news program for the past month... surely we don't need it spelt out for us? People are in trouble, they need help. If you want to help... then do it, don't wait for someone to tell you.

The BBC should be allowed to do what it was designed to do. It airs news, not opinion or feelings of sympathy. As for Sky... it is up to them.

By robhayes