BBC, BSkyB to Air Gaza Relief Appeal After Refusing During 2009 Crisis

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The British public broadcaster drew fierce criticism and 40,000 complaints for not airing a similar Gaza relief appeal in 2009 over concerns of compromising its impartiality.

The BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 will all broadcast an appeal to help the people caught up in the Israel-Gaza conflict. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) video appeal will air on Friday and aim to raise funds to help people displaced by the fighting in Gaza.

The decision of the BBC and Sky to air DEC appeal stands in contrast to both broadcasters declining to air a similar DEC Gaza appeal on Jan. 22 2009. Back then, both the BBC and Sky claimed airing such an appeal would compromise their impartiality. The decision taken by then BBC Director General Mark Thompson elicited 40,000 complaints as well as criticism from politicians, religious figures and even senior BBC staff.

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In declining the 2009 DEC appeal, a BBC statement said that screening the appeal "could be interpreted as taking a political stance." This stance from the public broadcaster led to criticism from the British government, including the then Health Minister calling the BBC's decision "inexplicable" and its line of reasoning "completely feeble."

The current Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, said in 2009 that the BBC's decision was "an insult to the viewing public to suggest they can't distinguish between the humanitarian needs of thousands of children and families in Gaza and the political sensitivities of the Middle East."

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To head off similar controversies for the 2014 appeal, DEC calibrated its appeal criteria to meet the standards of the BBC and other U.K. broadcasters. Brendan Paddy, head of communications at the DEC, said: "We've made the case to all broadcasters that our appeal criteria had been met and all have agreed and have said they will carry the appeal."

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