BBC Trust backs decision on Gaza appeal

Pubcaster opted not to air Disasters Emergency film

LONDON -- The BBC Trust has supported BBC director general Mark Thompson's decision not to air the Gaza humanitarian aid appeal, which led to 40,000 complaints to the pubcaster and protests outside its offices.

Along with satcaster Sky News, the BBC opted not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee film because it said it risked comprising impartiality. ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all carried the appeal.

The BBC Trust, the BBC's governance and regulatory body, said Thursday that it had decided not to overrule last month's decision by Thompson not to screen the three-minute appeal.

The trust was at pains to point out it was not ruling on whether Thompson was wrong or right, simply that he had handled it properly.

It said Thompson's decision was based on a "reasonable argument" that the DEC Gaza appeal would have shown only one side of last month's Israeli offensive against Gaza and that broadcasting it "would have implied a significant level of endorsement by the BBC of the appeal itself."

BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons said that while it recognized that Thompson's decision was a "matter of great controversy for many members of the public" it was satisfied he had acted correctly.

"Under the terms of the BBC Charter, the director general is editor in chief of the BBC," Lyons said in a statement. "It is not in the trust's remit to second-guess his editorial decisions, nor should it be. Our role is to ensure he reaches those decisions with care, and free from undue influence from any quarter."