Belfast Telegraph

Samantha Morton: I won't work for BBC again after Gaza refusal

Actress Samantha Morton said she would never work for the BBC again if the corporation failed to show the emergency appeal for help.

The 31-year-old Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee led a string of celebrities who criticised the BBC's decision at a central London fund raiser for the British aid agency Medical Aid for Palestinians (Map) last night.

The Longford actress said she was embarrassed to earn money from a corporation that would take such a "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'm not as articulate about this as I would like to be because I'm so appalled.

"I will never work for the BBC again unless they change their mind."

She went on: "It's very, very wrong. It's not a political message. It's about raising money for children who are dying.

"I'm proud to have worked for the BBC; I'm proud to be British; I'm proud we even have the BBC.

"But I need them to explain this decision. I reserve the right never to work for that company again if I feel that I'm too embarrassed to support them or earn money from them."

The actress was speaking at a high profile £150-a-head charity dinner organised by Map at the Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in central London.

The BBC declined to comment on her remarks.

Former BBC journalist Rageh Omaar said he thought director general Mark Thompson had "panicked politically" and misjudged what people would think.

He said Mr Thompson had made his situation worse by not reversing his decision.

"If he changes his mind now it will be even more disastrous," Mr Omaar said.

"It would be even more pathetic to climb down at this stage. I don't think he will".

The journalist also said that the chairman of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons had accused the International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander of "exerting political pressure" by urging the BBC to change its mind.

"It's not political pressure, it's moral pressure," Mr Omaar said.

"He does not seem to be able to make the distinction."

Mr Omaar added that the BBC's decision was "incomprehensible" and one for which he could see no justification.

Comedian Bill Bailey added that the corporation was showing "moral cowardice" and was "hopelessly out of touch".

Mr Bailey, who regularly appears on the BBC, questioned whether the recent scandals over phone-ins and telephone voting had influenced the corporation's decision.

"They might have thought, 'We need to watch our step here'," he said.

"If that's true, all those scandals are utterly irrelevant when compared with not assisting in a humanitarian crisis.

"It's completely wrong."

Asked whether he thought the BBC would reverse its decision, he said: "The longer they leave it, the worse it gets.

"It smacks of arrogance. It comes across not as a public broadcaster but as the jittery PR firm of a multi-national that has dodgy interests around the world."

He said that, at best, the BBC was "hopelessly misguided".

Earlier, writer and comedian Alexei Sayle, 56, said the BBC had been "caught in a trap of its own making".

He said the corporation's decision had actually helped the Palestinian cause in some ways.

"People don't really think about the Israeli propaganda machine, which is swift and remorseless and well connected.

"They (the BBC) have done us a favour in that they've shown that at work."

He added: "But they got it wrong on this one and should reverse it."

Other celebrities at last night's event included Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, Juliet Stevenson and Julia Sawalha.

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