MPs urge BBC to air Gaza appeal as 10,000 complain

More than 50 MPs will back a parliamentary motion urging the BBC to screen an emergency appeal for Gaza as the corporation refused to back down despite more than 10,000 complaints from the public.

The early day motion to be tabled on Monday has received the support of 51 MPs from across the Commons.

The BBC said it had received “approximately” 11,000 complaints in all, including 1,000 phone calls, over its decision not to broadcast the advert for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Director general Mark Thompson has argued that broadcasting the appeal could compromise the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting from the Palestinian territory.

Demonstrators from the Stop the War Coalition occupied the lobby of the BBC Scotland headquarters in Glasgow last night to protest against the decision.

Strathclyde Police said that a group of demonstrators who had been “occupying” the lobby of BBC Scotland’s headquarters in Glasgow dispersed around 9pm.

The Stop the War Coalition had claimed there were up to 200 people involved in the protest from 5pm, with demonstrators inside and outside the building at Pacific Quay.


Former BBC journalist Rageh Omaar said he thought Thompson had “panicked politically” and misjudged what people would think.

“If he changes his mind now it will be even more disastrous,” Omaar said.

”It would be even more pathetic to climb down at this stage. I don’t think he will”.

He added that the BBC’s decision was “incomprehensible” and one for which he could see no justification.

Labour MP Richard Burden, who will table the motion in parliament on Monday, said he had written to Thompson to press for an explanation for the BBC’s decision, calling those given so far “both unconvincing and incoherent”.

“This is not about taking sides in the conflict. It is about providing urgent help to people in desperate need,” he said.

“The important thing is to get aid in to Gaza. This is recognised by almost everyone – including the Government. The BBC appears to be the only one who has a problem seeing this.”

‘Disgrace to journalism’

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that it was an “insult” to viewers to suggest they could not distinguish between the humanitarian needs of children and families in Gaza and the “political sensitivities of the Middle East”.

Dr Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador in the UK, said the BBC’s decision was “a disgrace to journalism and a disgrace to humanity”.

He added the organisation had lost a lot of credibility in the Arab world, and in Britain, with its decision.

But culture secretary Andy Burnham said it was right that broadcasters made their own decisions.

He told Sky News‘s Sunday Live: “I think these are difficult judgements for all broadcasters, but particularly so for the BBC because of the way in which it is funded.

“Everybody likes to accuse the BBC of bias one way or another and it always finds itself in the centre of very difficult judgment calls about these kind of things.”

ITV, Channel 4 and Five said they would show the advert and Sky is considering its position.

Burnham added: “I am pleased that this appeal will be shown, that other broadcasters have decided to do so. It’s right that broadcasters come to their own judgment.”

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