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Complaint to BBC awaits Ofcom ruling

You may remember 21st February, when we delivered our Open Letter to Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC. The 1,100 signatories included an interesting range of people, including:

  • Tim Llewellyn, former BBC Middle-East Correspondent;

  • Crispin Blunt MP, former Chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee;

  • Sir Iaian Chalmers, leading public health specialist;

  • Ken Loach, renowned filmmaker;

  • Ghada Karmi, Palestinian-born authority on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,  and;

  • Diana Neslen, an orthodox Jew and veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights.

We complained about the way BBC has been reporting allegations about the scale of antisemitism in the Labour Party, since the middle of the last decade, citing both sins of commission and omission. As regards the former, the most prominent but by far the only case was the July 2019 Panorama documentary Is Labour antisemitic? broadcast five months before the General Election. Sins of omission included:

  • failing to meaningfully respond to the serious allegations in Al Jazeera’s Labour Files documentary series about the shortcomings of the Panorama documentary, and;

  • failing to investigate lobbyists behind the stream of accusations about antisemitism, and the relentless push for the adoption of the highly contested IHRA working definition of antisemitism.

The BBC had exhibited bias on this topic over many years and had missed the opportunity to play a positive role in the functioning of British democracy under its Charter. If it had properly investigated these matters, we said, the BBC “could have enlightened public discourse in the run-up to a general election while calming unjustified fears among many Jewish voters and others. Instead, it became complicit in a campaign of misinformation”.

To make a long story short, the BBC stonewalled us. It refused to revisit cases, saying that some of them “were complained of at the time but were not upheld after lengthy investigations.” It provided minimal information on these investigations and did not consider detailed evidence we submitted, including recent evidence that was not available to earlier complainants. 

In view of this, we escalated our complaint to Ofcom on June 29th. Since then, we have had various communications with the office of the Chairman, Lord Michael Grade, and we await a response.



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