Leading article: A case of moral complexity

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The Independent Online

Seemingly not a month can go by without another BBC scandal marked by management flip-flopping and slow reactions. And many will feel, with good cause, that the decision by the Corporation to refuse to broadcast an appeal by 13 charities for humanitarian aid for the victims of the Gaza conflict belongs in this company.

There can be no denying the terrible suffering the Israeli assault on Gaza left in its wake. Homes are flattened, schools and hospitals have been bombed and a people left traumatised. So equally, there can be no denying that there is a pressing need for aid, and we are highly sympathetic to the appeal – especially when there is little evidence that, in the short term, any emergency relief would provide succour to Hamas.

But however much we support the appeal's cause, it does not follow that the BBC is bound by some moral imperative to broadcast it. The Corporation could rightly argue that it is laying itself open to endless pressures to broadcast appeals were it to do so. And as one of the world's most respected newsgathering and broadcasting organisations, it does not need the responsibility of arbitrating which deserving causes should win its endorsement.

The Corporation is clearly sensitive to the wider implications of engaging in third-party-led activities. It is for these reasons that the BBC administers, leads and supports other acts of charitable giving through the Children in Need and Comic Relief appeals, giving money to good causes only after robust due-diligence has been undertaken. While no one questions the excellent motives of those behind the Gaza appeal, the BBC also feels that it must take account of the political complexities that broadcasting such an appeal may entail. So what must be done?

One option for the director-general, Mark Thompson, is to admit that even the BBC may have made a bad call, albeit for defensible reasons. Another might be for the BBC to reconcile its decision to stand by the ban and ally the strong feelings of members of the public by providing information about ways to contribute to the Gaza appeal, as they have done during disaster appeals in the past.