Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

170 MPs criticise Gaza appeal ban

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

More than 170 MPs have now put their names to parliamentary motions criticising the BBC and Sky for not broadcasting a charity's Gaza appeal.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) wants money to send aid following the recent Israeli assault.

Both broadcasters insist that airing the three-minute film would threaten their reputation for impartiality.

The BBC Trust yesterday announced its procedure for investigating complaints made about the corporation's decision.

The BBC director general Mark Thompson has said the decision not to show the film was taken because the corporation: "Could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story".

The head of Sky News, John Ryley, made a similar statement, saying that broadcasting the film would be "incompatible" with the channel's objective role.

Staff unhappy

In a statement on its website, the BBC Trust - which oversees the corporation - said it had established an ad hoc committee, chaired by former ITN executive Richard Tait to consider complaints.

The trust said it had also set up an email address for those who wish to send complaints to the it: dec.complaintsappeals@bbc.co.uk.

Meanwhile broadcasting and journalist unions BECTU and the NUJ said that the BBC's director general was to meet with members of staff at the corporation to hear their views on the decision.

Many are said to be unhappy at the refusal to broadcast the advert.

In a joint letter from the unions to Mr Thompson, they said: "We agree with those senior BBC journalists who say this is a decision taken as a result of timidity by management."

Dozens of Palestinian academics, doctors and journalists have staged a protest outside the BBC's office in Gaza City against the corporation's decision not to run the appeal.

They carried placards and chanted: "Boycott BBC".

Impartiality

Labour MP Richard Burden tabled an 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.

Another motion tabled 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".

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, wants the money to buy food, medicine and blankets for residents of the beleaguered territory.

Donations to DEC doubled to a total of 1m, after ITV, Channel 4 and Five showed the appeal on Monday.

The UN has also announced an appeal for 428m to help people affected by Israel's military offensive in Gaza.



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