Public gives £600,000 to Gaza appeal before broadcasts are aired

The Gaza appeal which the BBC is refusing to broadcast raised £600,000 before it was shown. Donations flooded in to the Disasters Emergency Committee website before the initial transmission of the two-minute appeal on ITV1 last night.

On previous occasions the DEC has not accepted donations until an appeal has gone out live but members of the public have been able to donate to the Gaza appeal since Thursday. Charity chiefs will be hoping that the controversy over the broadcast has increased public awareness that a way of donating to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is available.

Yesterday, Sky News sided with its main newsgathering rival in refusing to broadcast the appeal for aid for Gaza as the head of the BBC ruled out any last-minute policy change over its own decision.

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, said the public broadcaster had a duty to cover the Middle East in a "balanced, objective way" and reiterated the corporation's belief that broadcasting the appeal could undermine its journalistic impartiality. The BBC has received more than 15,000 complaints since the weekend and has been publicly criticised by more than 50 MPs and two archbishops.

Dame Suzi Leather, head of the Charity Commission, adding her voice to the criticism yesterday, said she was "disappointed" that Sky had joined the BBC in not broadcasting the appeal. Along with ITV, Channel 4 and Five also agreed to show the two-minute appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee, a group of 13 charities including the Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children and Islamic Relief, before their main evening news bulletins.

Yesterday, the DEC described the £600,000 pledged through the website prior to the broadcasts as an "unprecedented" response.

Ian Bray, a senior officer at Oxfam, said the media coverage had generated a huge amount of interest among the general public and added: "We hope that level of interest continues."

Previous appeals to aid victims of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and cyclone victims in Burma raised £9.7m and £18m respectively.

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