Sky reviews donation methods

Anita Pati

The media giant BSkyB is reviewing its ways of encouraging public donations to disaster funds with help from the British Red Cross, the Disasters Emergency Committee and the Community Channel.

It hopes improving its procedures will help it steal a march on other news broadcasters. Ben Stimson, director of corporate responsibility at Sky, said: "I want us to be the broadcaster that is first with the news and first to respond in terms of helping the public donate to the charity appeals of their choice."

Stimson said the number of disasters in 2005 forced it to review its processes late last year. The company's CSR department started consultations in November and plans to publish its new response strategy at the end of this month.

He said consultations with the charities were aimed at "understanding from them what they needed from a broadcaster, how we can help them manage high-pressure situations and how we can most effectively channel public support while making sure we don't contribute to donor fatigue".

The media giant hired the CSR consultancy Cause & Effect to facilitate discussions with the three charities.

Mark Astarita, head of fundraising at the British Red Cross, praised Sky's response to humanitarian disasters compared with the other major broadcasters. "Sky was brilliant," he said. "It was responsive and quick each time there was a disaster in 2005, whether it was the food crisis in Niger, the earthquake in Pakistan, the London bombings or Hurricane Katrina. Some of the other broadcasters didn't respond at all, or at least not to all the major disasters."

Astarita is now seeking meetings with the BBC and ITV to explore how they can improve their responses.

As a host platform for the Community Channel, Sky is also able to exploit the technological developments the channel brings, such as the UK's only year-round red-button interactive TV donation service.

Lines of communication between staff at the two organisations have also been rationalised to ensure there is better co-ordination after a major disaster.

"The Community Channel and its owner the Media Trust are absolutely crucial in that they manage the whole interactive process on our behalf," said Stimson.

Sinead Hughes, head of interactive TV at the Community Channel, said: "The good thing is that Sky is not trying to do this on its own. It's been intelligent enough to come to us - not every big organisation would do that - and say 'look, we'll partner with you even though you're small fry'.

"That shows a certain amount of corporate intelligence, because it understands that we deal exclusively with charities and voluntary organisations."

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