Sky joins BBC in blocking Gaza appeal despite protests
LONDON - Sky News has decided it will not broadcast the emergency appeal for aid for Gaza, for the same reasons of impartiality cited by the BBC, which has come under intense pressure this weekend to broadcast the DEC message.
The BBC has held firm on its decision not to broadcast the DEC appeal for Gaza tonight, despite 11,000 complaints and a chorus of protest from public figures over the weekend.
The two-minute TV appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an alliance of major aid charities including the British Red Cross and Oxfam, will be shown for the first time this evening on ITV, Channel 4 and Five. Press and digital ads have already started running.
The BBC and Sky have concerns that doing so would damage their impartiality on the Middle East conflict.
Since ruling out the TV and radio broadcast on Thursday, the BBC has been engulfed by a storm of criticism pressing for it to reconsider its decision.
The public have made more than 11,000 complaints and more than 50 MPs have said they will back a parliamentary motion, penned by Labour MP Richard Burden, urging the BBC to show the appeal.
While culture secretary Andy Burnham has defended the BBC's right to make its own decision, other minsters -- including international secretary Douglas Alexander and communities secretary Hazel Blears -- have said it should reconsider.
The Church of England has also weighed in, with Dr John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, saying "Come on Auntie Beeb. Wake up and get on with it."
The BBC's decision has been defended by at the highest level by director-general Mark Thompson.
Thompson wrote in the BBC editors' blog over the weekend that the corporation has broadcast several DEC appeals in the past, but had decided to block the Gaza appeal "because of [the] risk of giving the public the impression the BBC was taking sides in an ongoing conflict".
John Ryley, head of Sky News, said this morning: "We don't believe that broadcasting such an appeal on Sky News can be combined with the balance and context that impartial journalism aims to bring to the highly-charged and continuing conflict in Gaza."
Channel 4 has argued the opposite case and is broadcasting the appeal tonight.
A Channel 4 spokesman, said: "Channel 4 will broadcast the DEC appeal for humanitarian aid for civilians caught up in the Gaza conflict.
"We accept the DEC's guidance on the urgent need for humanitarian aid and believe this need should take precedence over any considerations as to the causes of the suffering that necessitates it.
"We believe Channel 4's news coverage of the conflict in Gaza has at all times been appropriately impartial and we do not believe our impartiality will be compromised in the eyes of our audience by broadcasting this appeal. We have informed other broadcasters of our decision."
The BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, has said the decision is one to be made by the BBC executive and expressed concern about "undue interference" from politicians.
The corporation is especially sensitive to its record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having been accused by both sides of bias over the years.
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