The Prime Minister has called for “swift” action by the BBC over its biased coverage of antisemitic Oxford Street incident.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister confirmed that Boris Johnson agrees with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ letter to BBC Director General Tim Davie urging the BBC urgently to get a grip on the issue.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, the spokesperson said that the Prime Minister “agrees with the Culture Secretary that the BBC should move forward swiftly to set out what action they plan to take. We look forward to that happening in good time.”
Ms Dorries wrote to Mr Davie explaining that the BBC’s outrageous coverage of the Oxford Street incident was “not only distressing for those involved but also the wider Jewish community.” Although she has no control over the BBC’s editorial decisions, she expressed dismay that the row had been allowed to “drag on for so long” and urged the BBC to “resolve the issue” as quickly as possible, otherwise Ofcom, the broadcaster regulator, should intervene.
Her intervention comes after Campaign Against Antisemitism wrote to Ms Dorries and the BBC over the Corporation’s coverage of the antisemitic incident on Oxford Street, in which the BBC baselessly defamed the Jewish victims and suggested that they may have brought the attack upon themselves. The coverage prompted condemnation from Campaign Against Antisemitism and other communal groups, a rally outside Broadcasting House held by Campaign Against Antisemitism and attended by hundreds, and the resignation of a rabbi and long-time BBC broadcaster.
Ms Dorries wrote: “Whilst it would obviously be inappropriate for the Government to take a view on the details of the case, as the BBC is editorially and operationally independent, and responsibility for regulation sits with Ofcom, I would like to understand the actions the BBC has taken so far in response to the concerns raised by the Board of Deputies and how you intend to resolve the issue in a suitably timely manner. You will know my concerns about the speed of the process which I asked officials to communicate to the BBC.
“It is crucial that the BBC can be properly held to account for the fulfilment of its Mission and Public Purposes as set out in the Charter, including through a fair and effective complaints process. I expect the mid-term Charter to consider whether this is currently the case.”
The interventions come as the BBC has become embroiled in multiple other controversies relating to antisemitism. First, BBC Radio 4 was forced to pull a debate on whether anti-Zionism should be a protected characteristic, which was due to feature a member of the antisemitism-denial group and sham Jewish representative organisation, Jewish Voice for Labour.
Meanwhile, on its website, the BBC reported that a Labour Party councillor had been “suspended from the party over an offensive tweet about leader Keir Starmer” but studiously avoided mentioning that the tweet in question claimed that Sir Keir was following “commands from Israel”. After outrage, the BBC article was updated to incorporate the inflammatory language.
Then, yesterday, a presenter claimed on BBC 5 Live Breakfast that there is “absolutely no evidence” that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic, and belittled antisemitism in the Labour Party as mere “allegation”. Campaign Against Antisemitism is writing to the BBC on this issue.
These are just the latest scandals relating to antisemitism in which the BBC has become embroiled in just the past few weeks, and follow years of eroding confidence in the BBC on the part of the Jewish community.
Our Antisemitism Barometer last year revealed that two thirds of British Jews are deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and 55% by its handling of antisemitism complaints.
The BBC’s coverage of the Oxford Street incident and our rally, which was endorsed by former BBC Chairman Lord Grade and actress Dame Maureen Lipman, has been discussed on previous episodes of our weekly podcast, Podcast Against Antisemitism. Episodes are available every Thursday and can be streamed here or downloaded wherever you get your podcasts.
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].