Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

More MPs pressure BBC to air film

A Palestinian woman and her child
The appeal is to raise money for emergency supplies in Gaza

More than 120 MPs from all parties have now backed motions criticising the BBC and Sky for not broadcasting a plea for humanitarian aid funding for Gaza.

Donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) doubled to 1m after ITV, Channel 4 and Five showed its Gaza Crisis Appeal on Monday.

The BBC says airing the three-minute film would risk impartiality.

But many MPs have rejected the argument with Labour MP Martin Linton calling it an "outrageous" decision.

His fellow Labour MP Richard Burden tabled one Early Day Motion - used by MPs to demonstrate parliamentary support for particular causes - after Sky announced it was joining the BBC in refusing to show the appeal.

'Unacceptable irrelevance'

John Ryley, head of Sky News, said broadcasting the film would be "incompatible" with its objective role.

This echoed BBC director general Mark Thompson's concern that the corporation should not give the impression it was "backing one side" over the other.

But Mr Burden said such arguments had been shown to be "more unconvincing and contradictory as time has gone on", claiming the BBC had broadcast appeals from other war zones.

PREVIOUS DEC REFUSALS
East Africa 2006: Famine appeal rejected by BBC because of difficulties of access
Lebanon 2006: BBC refused to air appeal for Israel-Hezbollah conflict victims on grounds of impartiality
Burma 2008: Appeal was only broadcast once BBC was satisfied aid would reach victims

Another motion calls on "Sky and the BBC to reverse their decision and broadcast the campaign, publicising the details of the DEC appeal and the means whereby members of the public may donate to it".

Several Labour MPs have spoken out against the BBC's decision including Labour's Michael Connarty who said it has "brought the BBC into a position of unacceptable irrelevance to the people of this country".

He added that the corporation has been "run by idiots for the last decade".

The corporation has also come under fire from archbishops, government ministers, charity leaders and thousands of viewers.

On Monday night, demonstrators staged a protest outside Broadcasting House in central London.

Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza humanitarian appeal:
Launched by UK charities on 22 January to raise money for Gaza aid relief and reconstruction
Participants: Action Aid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision
Information on 0370 60 60 900 or at DEC website

The Disasters Emergency Committee, which represents more than a dozen aid agencies, is appealing for money to buy food, medicine and blankets following the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Its chief executive Brendan Gormley said he was delighted by the public response to the appeal shown on Monday, but urged for more people to give what they could afford.

"All the money raised will go directly to helping innocent families in Gaza who have been left without basic everyday necessities that we take for granted such as food, shelter and healthcare," he added.

The UN Relief and Works Agency, the largest humanitarian organisation working in Gaza, said there was a "huge and overwhelming need" for aid.

It described the situation as a "political crisis with grave humanitarian consequences" and estimated the cost of "rehabilitation and repair" at $345m (257m), with two-thirds currently unfunded.

Over the weekend, a string of politicians, including International Secretary Douglas Alexander, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and opposition spokesmen, urged the corporation to reconsider its position.

Their comments drew criticism from BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons who said some were "coming close to constituting undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC".



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