"Come on Auntie Beeb...Get on With It!

January 26, 2009

The BBC continues to draw sharp criticism for its refusal to air a charity event for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The famed UK station refused to air an emergency appeal put on by the Disaster Emergency Appeal (DEC) stating that it did not want to appear to be “backing one side over the other,” in the words of BBC director Mark Thompson. In a blog entry on the BBC site, Thompson wrote, “The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story.”

More than 50 MPs have written to the BBC urging it to reverse its decision and to air the fundraiser by DEC, an umbrella group that includes notable charities such as Oxfam, Save the Children, and the Red Cross. Criticism has also poured in celebrities such as Oscar nominee Samantha Morton who, according to the BBC, said “she was embarrassed to earn money from a corporation that would take such a ‘horrific’ and ‘disgusting’ decision.” Joining this chorus of criticism was Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York who recently said “Come on Auntie Beeb. Wake up and get on with it.”

Protests outside the BBC have been held and the BBC has recieved over 10,000 emails urging the BBC to air the program. Two prominent journalists unions in England called the decision “cowardly and in danger of being seen as politically motivated” and added “far from avoiding the compromise of the BBC’s impartiality, this move has breached those same BBC rules by showing a bias in favour of Israel at the expense of 1.5 million Palestinian civilians suffering an acute humanitarian crisis.”

The Guardian reports that “fury” is building at the BBC over this decision and quoted one annoymous BBC staffer as saying, “Feelings are running extremely high and there is widespread disgust at the BBC’s top management. There is widespread anger and frustration at the BBC’s refusal to allow people to speak out about it.”

Meanwhilte Sky News has come to the BBC’s defense and refused to air the charity appeal for Gaza as well. John Ryley, the head of Sky News, defended their decision, saying “That is why, after very careful consideration, we have concluded that broadcasting an appeal for Gaza at this time is incompatible with our role in providing balanced and objective reporting of this continuing situation to our audiences in the UK and around the world.”

The BBC’s decision is bound to disappoint the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza, who described the “huge and overwhelming need” for aid in Gaza. Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, said the estimated cost of “rehabilitation and repair” was $345m, with $230m unfunded. “We are massively underfunded, and I think the figures involve illustrate the sheer scale of the need involved here,” he said.

UPDATE: Click here to watch the video that the BBC and Sky News refused to show