by Martin Whitlock
A ROW blew up this week among major relief agencies over a report at the weekend that the BBC had "blocked" a request from the Disasters Emergency Committee for an appeal to be broadcast for aid for the victims of the fighting in the Lebanon. The report in The Guardian on Saturday said that the request had had to be withdrawn because the BBC were being obstructive.
The committee was formed by the Red Cross, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Oxfam, the Save the Children Fund and Christian Aid in order to facilitate the raising of funds in response to major disasters.
It is able to approach the BBC, the IBA and the committee of the London Clearing Banks for help in making appeals and the processing of donations, and the system has worked well in the past with appeals connected with natural disasters.
But on this occasion the BBC felt that the possible political implications of the Lebanon appeal would have to be considered by their board of governors, who next meet on July 7.
The committee decided that they could not be seen to do nothing for three weeks and that the agencies would have to launch their own appeals. The request to the BBC was therefore withdrawn.
The report of BBC "obstruction" seems to have emerged from one of the five agencies, which felt that the committee had responded too tamely to the line taken by the BBC.
The view was expressed by some that the report was regrettable in that it might damage future relations with the BBC, although Save the Children opened that the loss of the appeal was "more regrettable". Oxfam and Christian Aid were busy pointing the finger at each other as the source for the leak.
Oxfam pointed out that Kenneth Slack of Christian Aid has sent a telex to the committee requesting that they make clear that the withdrawal of their request to the BBC had not been made willingly; however, Col. Terry Palmer, secretary of the Disasters Emergency Committee, made it clear to me that the committee had no right of approach to the BBC and suggested that not all his member agencies had fully grasped this point.
Meanwhile, in the real world, efforts were continuing on the part of q11 the agencies to open up supply routes for their aid to Lebanon. Until the weekend the Red Cross had been the only organisation with direct access to the country.
On Sunday • their first road convoy from Damascus got through with four tons of supplies for West Beirut, and on Monday the Israeli Foreign Office