Sit-in at BBC Scotland as anger grows over refusal to screen Gaza appeal

DEMONSTRATORS occupied the BBC's Scottish headquarters yesterday in protest at the corporation's decision not to broadcast an emergency appeal for the people of Gaza.

More than 100 people from human rights groups and the Stop the War Coalition demonstrated inside and outside the BBC offices at Glasgow's Pacific Quay.

Keith Boyd, from the Stop the War Coalition, said they wanted to put three demands to the BBC. "First, we want the appeal broadcast on the BBC. Second, we want the director who made the decision not to show it to resign. And third, we want the BBC to show news coverage of this protest to show the depth of feeling their decision has provoked."

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A police spokeswoman said there had been no arrests during the demonstration. She said a group of protesters had entered the BBC building at 5pm. "There is a group of maybe 40 or 50 inside the building and a group in the car park outside," she said.

The corporation said it had so far received "approximately" 1,000 phone complaints and 10,000 by e-mail on the issue.

Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, and Alex Salmond, the First Minister, yesterday added their voices to calls from MPs and MSPs of all parties for the BBC to reconsider.

But Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, made it clear he did not intend to back down, arguing that broadcasting the appeal might endanger the BBC's impartiality on the ground in the Middle East.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together several major charities, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam, wants the appeal to be broadcast on TV and radio from today to help raise millions of pounds for those in need of food, medicines and shelter, following Israel's three-week assault on Gaza.

The corporation's rival terrestrial broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, said they would show the film, but the BBC decided not to do so, because it was still covering the news story and it was worried about the impact such a broadcast would have on its reputation for impartiality.

That decision provoked an angry response, and thousands protested outside Broadcasting House in London on Saturday.

The Labour MP Richard Burden and the Labour MSP Pauline McNeill say they plan to table motions in their respective parliaments complaining about the corporation's stance.

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The BBC turned down a DEC request to broadcast an appeal for Lebanon a couple of years ago, while it turned down a request for an appeal after an African drought about a decade ago.

Is the BBC right not to broadcast the appeal?


GAZA remains a major ongoing news story. We have and will continue to cover the human side of the conflict in Gaza extensively across our news services.

However, we concluded we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story. The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance.

Finally, it is important to remember that our decision does not prevent the DEC continuing with their appeal.

• Mark Thompson is the BBC's director-general.


THIS isn't about the rights and wrongs of Israel's actions in Gaza – even though many of us do have strong feelings about that. It's about saving lives.

This appeal comes from 13 of the UK's most respected charities, because the needs of a child traumatised by war in Gaza are no more or less important than those of a traumatised child in another war zone.

The BBC has had no difficulty in broadcasting appeals for war zones such as Congo and Darfur. Maintaining the BBC's proud tradition of impartiality means it should treat Gaza no differently.

• Richard Burden is the Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield.

Actress issues boycott threat to corporation

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OSCAR-nominated actress Samantha Morton yesterday said she would never work for the BBC again if the corporation fails to show the emergency appeal for help.

The 31-year-old Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee led a string of celebrities at a central London fundraiser for the British aid agency Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

The Longford-born actress said she was embarrassed to earn money from a corporation that would take such an "horrific" and "disgusting" decision. She said she wanted to know how the appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) was different to Comic Relief or Children in Need.

"I'm shocked and appalled," she said. "I've worked for the BBC since I was a small child. As a public service they've got it very wrong. I will never work for the BBC again unless they change their mind."

The actress was speaking at a charity dinner organised by MAP in central London.