Astarita defends charities' non-appearance on Newsnight

14 Sep 2010 News

British Red Cross fundraising director Mark Astarita has defended the decisions by several of the UK’s biggest charities not to appear on the BBC Newsnight programme about street fundraising, claiming they were being set up for a “bear-baiting contest”.

British Red Cross fundraising director Mark Astarita has defended the decisions by several of the UK’s biggest charities not to appear on the BBC Newsnight programme about street fundraising, claiming they were being set up for a “bear-baiting contest”.

Newsnight reportedly contacted more than 20 of the largest fundraising charities asking them to take part in the programme, but only the British Heart Foundation agreed.

Astarita (pictured), who is chair of the Institute of Fundraising’s Policy Advisory Board, denied that there was any concerted campaign to advise charities not to appear on the programme, and insisted that all those contacted by Newsnight made their decisions independently.  However, he admitted he had told the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association that he did not think it was a good idea for charities to appear.

“Newsnight wanted to set us up in a head-to-head situation with a small charity that hates face-to-face,” Astarita said. “It would have been a David and Goliath-type battle which nobody would have won.  It would have been damaging to the whole sector and so everybody made a wise judgement not to play that horrible game.

“You could tell by the way they structured all the questions that they had an agenda – it was not an ‘investigation’, they wanted to make their story stick.”

In the end, Newsnight was unable to find charities to take part and so at the last minute decided simply to interview a charity that uses face-to-face.  That was when the BHF agreed to take part, Astarita said.

He added that if Newsnight had proposed a straight interview from the outset, he expected charities would have been queuing up to defend the practice.

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