Sky joins BBC in refusing to air Gaza appeal

Sky News has joined the BBC in refusing to broadcast a Gaza charity appeal. Both British broadcasters say airing the appeal could undermine the objectivity of their channels, a claim that has brought widespread condemnation.


AFP - Britain's Sky News on Monday joined the BBC in refusing to broadcast a Gaza charity appeal despite pressure from ministers and demonstrators, saying it risked the television channel's objectivity.

The BBC's refusal to air the appeal has further angered pro-Palestinian campaigners who believe the broadcaster was biased towards Israel in its coverage of the Gaza conflict.

But Sky News, the BBC's only domestic rival as a 24-hour television news channel, said Monday that it too felt it could not risk airing the appeal.

"The conflict in Gaza forms part of one of the most challenging and contentious stories for any news organisation to cover," John Ryley, head of Sky News, said in a statement.

"Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of that story with uncompromising objectivity.

"The absolute impartiality of our output is fundamental to Sky News and its journalism.

"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 appeal is by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group of 13 charities including Oxfam and the British Red Cross, which kicks in with coordinated fundraising after disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

ITV, Channel 4 and Five, Britain's three other terrestrial television broadcasters beside the BBC, have all aired the appeal.

Top Church of England archbishops, government ministers, opposition spokesmen, more than 11,000 viewers and more than 50 lawmakers have called for the BBC to reconsider its decision.

Dozens of demonstrators from the Stop the War Coalition invaded the BBC Scotland headquarters in Glasgow on Sunday for a sit-in protest.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown believes it is "rightly" a decision for broadcasters whether to air the appeal," his spokesman told reporters Monday.

"It's not for the government to tell the BBC or any other broadcaster" whether to show the appeal," he said.

"Clearly we support the appeal but equally we're not going to second-guess the editorial decisions of broadcasters."

BBC director-general Mark Thompson told BBC radio that the corporation was not going to change its mind.

"This is a political crisis with grave humanitarian consequences," he explained.

"This story is best told in the context of journalistic programmes where assertions can be challenged, claims can be tested and where everything can be put in a balanced context.

"We worry that if someone's seen such a programme with these very emotive pictures... and then saw the same or similar pictures afterwards in an appeal asking for money, there is a danger that people might think we were endorsing one or other perspective on the conflict."

He said he was passionate about defending the BBC's impartiality, adding that the decision had not surprised the DEC.

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