The BBC’s decision not to air a Gaza charity appeal on impartiality grounds was ‘reasonable’, the BBC Trust has ruled.
The corporation’s governing body today published the findings of an investigation into the row, and concluded that BBC director general Mark Thompson “acted correctly” and gave proper consideration to the issue.
But the Trust asked the BBC to re-examine whether the 38-year-old agreement with the Disasters Emergency Committee to give airtime to humanitarian appeals was “still appropriate”.
More than 40,000 people complained to the BBC after it refused the DEC appeal following the conflict between Israel and Gaza last month.
The BBC Trust also received 200 complaints on the issue – which received widespread press and political condemnation.
Thompson argued that broadcasting the appeal risked compromising the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting from the Palestinian territory.
BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said the Trust recognised that Thompson’s decision was “a matter of great controversy for many members of the public”.
“Having carefully examined the director general’s reasons, the Trust believes he acted correctly throughout, and we are satisfied that the decision the director general took was reasonable given the importance of preserving the reputation of the BBC for impartiality,” Lyons said.
“Under the terms of the BBC Charter, the director general is editor-in-chief of the BBC. 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.
“What we reviewed was whether the handling of the request for the DEC appeal complied with the relevant processes, policy and guidelines, and whether the decision reached by the director general was within the parameters of reasonable decisions open to him.”
Sky News joined the BBC in refusing to air the appeal. It said doing so would be “incompatible with our role in providing balanced and objective reporting”.
More than 50 MPs backed an early day motion in parliament, urging the BBC to reconsider the ban.