Broadcasters are wrong to boycott the Gaza appeal
guardian.co.uk, Friday 23 January 2009 15.13 GMT
""No politics. No boundaries. Send us money now. We'll rush your aid to the people of Vietnam," the Disasters Emergency Committee appealed in 1967, courtesy of a broadcast carried by the BBC, presented by Peter Snow. It did not judge the rights and wrongs of the conflict, or promise that aid would only reach those to the north or south of the border that then divided the country. It simply made the point that desperate people needed help. What was true of Vietnam then is true of Gaza today, which makes it all the more unfortunate that for the first time in 43 years a DEC appeal has been launched without the support of Britain's major broadcasters. The BBC's lame excuse yesterday – that it wants to "avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story" – could of course have applied to Vietnam 30 years ago, or any number of appeals since then. Broadcasters supported the DEC's call for public help in Sudan, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the first Gulf war and in Lebanon in 1982. What has changed now? The committee, which brings together 13 UK charities including the British Red Cross and Oxfam, decided to act this week because in Gaza its three criteria have been met: aid is needed, aid can be delivered and the public want to help. The DEC, which says it "regrets" the broadcasters' refusal, is pressing ahead regardless. Anyone who wants to donate to its appeal should call 0370 60 60 900 or visit www.dec.org.uk."