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NEWS: BBC gets off the fence with on-air Gaza appeal

THE WORLD RENOWNED pillar of impartiality, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), today took a radical step in their decision to broadcast an on-air appeal for donations to help the thousands affected by the conflict in Gaza.

An appeal on BBC Radio One – a station dedicated primarily to pop and chart music – went out this morning, interupting the regularly scheduled programming to discuss the severity of the crisis (which has left almost two thousand civilian fatalities in Palestine, 400 of which are children) and call for donations from Radio One listeners to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umberella organization consisting of 13 UK aid charities with the aim of dealing with international crises.

Read by popular Radio One DJ Scott Mills, the statement – according to the BBC website – was tailored specifically with the organizations requirement for impartiality in mind, rather than using a widely distributed message from DEC themselves. In what was a highly emotive segment, Mills outlined the severity and extent of the current crisis, which has forced half a million civilians in Gaza to flee their homes following heavy Israeli air strikes and rocket fire, and many of whom now live in unsafe, unhygienic and inhumane conditions as the offensive attacks continue.

The latter half of the appeal outlined the great help donations would bring in the form of aid to an area of conflict with already heinously overstretched medical and humanitarian resources. The broadcasts were also carried out on other stations and channels, including BBC Radio Four and television station BBC One.

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The broadcasts came after careful consideration from the corporation that it was inkeeping with their ‘charter obligation of due impartiality’. It was for these reasons that the BBC chose not to broadcast a similar appeal for Gaza in 2009, an inaction that sparked over 40,000 complaints. Speaking on the decision to appeal today, The BBC have outlined that:

“The disaster must be on such a scale and of such urgency as to call for swift international humanitarian assistance; the DEC agencies must be in a position to provide effective and swift humanitarian assistance at a scale to justify a national appeal; and, there has to be reasonable grounds for concluding that a public appeal would be successful”.

With this in mind, the decision of the organization was that this criteria in the case of Gaza has unequivocally been met, stating:

“The humanitarian need in Gaza has been widely acknowledged, including by the Israeli government, and the DEC has given assurances that aid can reach those who need it.”

This decision has been mirrored in other large broadcasting organizations, including Sky Television – who similarly declined to broadcast the DEC appeal in 2009. In light of the DEC’s campaign, the British Government have agreed to match public donations of up to two million pounds towards aid in Palestine.

The extent of the problems in Gaza are becoming increasingly apparent, and urgent, as evidenced with these formerly unheard of moves from large and impartial organizations such as the BBC – something which should not be taken lightly by their several million listeners across the UK and worldwide.

The disaster facing Palestinians is on a scale of such severity, and such urgency, that impartiality from media giants like the BBC can temporarily be put aside. The offensive attacks on Gaza and its civilians is relentless. The aid currently provided to help is not even close to enough.

If you would like to donate towards aid for the Gaza crisis through the DEC, and find out more on how your money can help, please click here.

Written by Rachel Barr
Photo Credit: United Nations Photo, slipstream JC

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