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Posted: 1/27/2009 6:16:19 AM EDT


Jan 26, 7:08 AM (ET)


LONDON (AP) - The British-based Sky News channel joined the BBC on Monday in refusing to broadcast an emergency fundraising appeal for people living in the Gaza Strip.

Executives at the international satellite broadcaster said they made the decision after a weekend of deliberations to protect the impartiality of the station's news report.

"The conflict in Gaza forms part of one of the most challenging and contentious stories for any news organization to cover," said Sky News director John Ryley. "Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of that story with uncompromising objectivity."

The ad was submitted for broadcast by the Disaster Emergency Committee, a group of charities that includes the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children.

Protesters say the humanitarian appeal must be shown to help Palestinians in desperate need of assistance after heavy fighting in Gaza. Broadcasters say they worry they will be seen as taking sides in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, if they show the ad.

The issue over whether to show the ad has ignited passions throughout Britain.

BBC officials received more than 10,000 complaints and were the focus of numerous protests over the weekend after announcing the charity appeal would not be shown. The BBC's decision has been criticized by lawmakers and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour Party lawmaker, said he and other legislators will demand that the appeal be broadcast when they meet Tuesday with BBC executives.

"It's a disgrace," he said. "They must broadcast as soon as possible. I'm very disappointed in Sky as well, they should remember they have a duty as a public broadcaster."

Adrian Wells, Sky's director of foreign news, said the station understood the good intentions of the charities seeking to publicize the situation in Gaza.

"Let me say to those people who might be angry, people who might be passionate about this, there is no question about Sky's commitment to reporting the region," he said. "We've had our reporters there since the gates of Gaza opened. There is absolutely no question of Sky viewers not being aware of the humanitarian crisis."

Other British broadcasters - including Channel 4, ITV, and Five - have said they will show the advertisement.

Israel launched its three-week offensive on Gaza late last month to try to halt Hamas rocket fire on towns in southern Israel. The assault killed more than 1200 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed during the fighting, Israel said.

Link Posted: 1/27/2009 7:20:01 AM EDT
The BBC's decision has been criticized by lawmakers and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

We all know how fair the Archbishop of Canterbury is.
Link Posted: 1/27/2009 12:11:16 PM EDT
Benn: Pro-Israeli Beeb policy, disgraceful
Tue, 27 Jan 2009 19:25:53 GMT

The following is an exclusive Press TV interview with the prominent British socialist politician, activist, and former labor minister, Tony Benn, over publicly-funded BBC's controversial decision not to broadcast a charity appeal aimed at collecting aid to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Press TV:Are you surprised the BBC has not overturned its decision?

Benn: Yes I am. I though they would, because the case is so overwhelming. See, the BBC have tired to pretend that if they broadcast this humanitarian appeal it will look as if they are siding with the Palestinians against Israel. Of course, it has nothing to do with it. It is a humanitarian issue: 1,330 people have been killed, 460 of them children and man of them women.

The devastation shocked the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon when he was there. To me it is a disgraceful decision, and I had hoped that they would reverse it, because two government ministers have called on them to broadcast it.

Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the two most senior English Archbishops [have called for it]. [BBC Director-General] Mark Thompson himself, I believe, went to see [former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon, a few years ago. It is quite unlike what everyone would expect of the BBC.

Press TV: Well, they of course are saying that it is because it would risk their objectivity to air this appeal, and now Sky has jumped on that bandwagon so to speak as well. Is there not something to their defense?

Benn: The opposition to the BBC is so strong, almost all the newspapers today, that I don't remember an occasion that it has been so strong.

One political thing that you have to mention is that the BBC said that it did it to avoid controversy, but the BBC has launched a huge controversy about their own behavior, and I mean, coming back to your earlier item on the news, the opposition to Israeli policy in Britain is higher that I have ever known it. Support and sympathy for the Palestinian is higher that I have ever known it.

So this war is not going to have helped Israel in any way, and they will find more and more people that are now understanding the argument that the Palestinians have made that they are an occupied country and they have not even been recognized by the United Nations.

Press TV: When you speak of that large public disgust over the war on Gaza, and we have seen a massive demonstrations, unprecedented almost, what could be behind this public outrage. It obviously is not because of the broadcasting of news from a well-known establishment like the BBC?

Benn: Yes, there is no doubt that the news coverage of the war in Gaza, although the Israelis would not allow any correspondents to go to Gaza, they banned any movement of television units and so on, but the coverage that we have had has indicated the destruction and brutality of what Israel has done.

From that point of view, which stirred even more opposition to the war, then [what] occurred at the beginning of the Iraq war, because Iraq was a long way away, and people did not know much about it.

But everybody knows about Israel and Palestine, so it had produced a really dramatic shift of opinion in support of Hamas and the Palestinians.

Press TV: What is about the Israel and Palestine issue that gets organizations like the BBC so touchy? We have had these appeals for many places, for Africa, in the Congo after the tsunami. Never a mix of political and humanitarian issues there.

Benn: Well that is a very good question to ask. I share the views that have been expressed that the coverage by the BBC has been ant-Palestinian pro-Israeli.

For example, whenever a Palestinian is killed the BBC always says a "Palestinian militant." They never talk about Israeli militants, its always Palestinian militants.

Very little recognition by the BBC that Hamas won the election in Palestine three years ago, and is therefore in that sense, the established government of Palestine. Jimmy Carter, the former American president went to Gaza last year, and he made it absolutely clear that Israel was an apartheid state.

I think what is happening is that the BBC is left behind, and now that Bush is gone, the British government is seeming to have a little more courage, although [US President Barack] Obama has not been clear yet about the policy he will adopt towards the Palestinian case.  

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