The Director General of the BBC attended a hearing at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday, along with the Chair and the Chief Operating Officer, to take questions from MPs on a range of subjects relating to the public service broadcaster, including impartiality.
It was disappointing that, despite our past requests, the Committee did not ask about recent high-profile controversies relating to the BBC’s reportage on issues relating to antisemitism, such as the appalling Oxford Street coverage of last Chanukah, where the BBC baselessly tried to claim that Jewish victims of antisemitic abuse might themselves have made provocative racial remarks.
The Committee also did not explore other areas of BBC bias that have long concerned the community.
Worse still, Tim Davie, the Director General, did not address these issues himself at all. Instead, he insisted that the Corporation was “doing well” when it came to tackling bias and “doing a pretty good job” when it came to neutrality. He said: “We do have hundreds of thousands of hours of output…and overall, I think we are delivering well, I do think that and it’s important we’re proportional about this.”
Whatever Mr Davie thinks, polling that we conducted in 2020 for our Antisemitism Barometer revealed that two thirds of British Jews were deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and 55 percent by its handling of antisemitism complaints. It is likely that these figures would be even higher if polled today.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “It is disappointing that the Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee did not see fit to question Tim Davie on antisemitism, despite our repeated requests for the BBC to be held to account.
“Regardless, Mr Davie’s failure to address the BBC’s lamentable standing amongst British Jews is shameful. Judging issues by the number of complaints received, as Mr Davie does, is a wholly unjust metric for a minority as small as the Jewish community. His insistence that, ‘overall, I think we are delivering well,’ clashes profoundly with the experience of British Jews. Our polling has shown that two thirds of the Jewish community is deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and a majority by its handling of antisemitism complaints, the process for which is notoriously demeaning and Kafkaesque. These are not figures that reflect satisfaction with the broadcaster’s supposed impartiality, and the BBC cannot claim to be upholding its obligation to be impartial as long as the Jewish community views our nation’s public service broadcaster as biased against Jews and the issues that they care about.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reportage in the media, they should contact us at [email protected].