THERE must surely be more than has so far met the eye in the row about the BBC's refusal to show on TV a charity appeal for humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The appeal would be made by a consortium of charities such as Red Cross, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Save The Children. The BBC has refused to show it because, according to its director general Mark Thompson, “Gaza is an ongoing and highly controversial news story within which the human suffering and distress which have resulted from the conflict remain intrinsic and contentious elements.” Mr Thompson and the senior news editors he consulted believe that to show the appeal would “call into question the BBC's impartiality in coverage of the story as a whole.” What is most certainly called into question is the judgment of Mr Thompson and his senior editors. On the reasonable assumption that the free-standing appeal would be about human suffering and the need to alleviate it - and not about its political background - what contentious elements do they anticipate challenging their impartiality? People in Gaza are injured, sick, hungry and homeless; hospitals are short of medicines. These are facts. No one, not even Israel, disputes them. So why does the BBC have such difficulty over showing an appeal for funds? The arguments they have used so far make no sense. What other pressures are at work to make them behave in such an insensitive and counter-productive manner? An early change of mind is necessary.


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