Sir David Clementi has concluded his government-backed independent review of the BBC by calling for “fundamental reform of the system of governance and regulation,” suggesting that the BBC Trust be relieved of its regulatory duties, with Ofcom taking over instead.
In the past year, the BBC has rejected several complaints from Campaign Against Antisemitism including about:
- The assertion by newsreader Tim Willcox that “Jewish faces” and a “Jewish lobby” oppose the mooted ‘mansion tax’;
- The assertion by newsreader Tim Willcox that the murder of Jewish shoppers in Paris last January might be caused because “Palestinians suffered hugely at Jewish hands”;
- A thirteen-minute antisemitic diatribe on BBC Radio London in December during which a caller was allowed to deliver a lengthy discourse about a supposed Jewish conspiracy, with barely a challenge from the presenter throughout; and
- A completely gratuitous line during a drama: “Jews, whenever there’s a problem, there’s Jews at the bottom of it”
The BBC routinely dismissed our complaints by issuing press releases claiming that there had been no antisemitism, before any internal investigation had taken place. After a particularly reprehensible BBC broadcast in January, Campaign Against Antisemitism Chairman Gideon Falter wrote to the BBC’s Director-General, Lord Hall: “I do not know of any other minority group so routinely told that its concerns are meritless by the BBC. Your organisation treats the concerns of Jewish licence fee payers with glib contempt, feigning to investigate but from the outset contriving to dismiss complaints at the earliest opportunity, and strenuously avoiding any meaningful public or private discussion.”
Referring to the MacPherson principle used by the police and other public bodies when investigating allegations of racism, Falter continued: “In a country where the MacPherson principle is the gold standard for dealing with complaints of racism, I know of no other public body that, when faced with accusations of racism immediately retorts in the media that the accusations are groundless, the victims are not victims and that the matter is clear-cut. Normally one would expect a commitment to review the accusations in the most transparent and dispassionate manner possible, for example by means of an independent review, and public statements would be expected to reflect the fact that a review has been opened and no statement can be made that would prejudice it.”
Falter’s letter concludes: “Lord Hall, the BBC is part of British culture, but under your leadership and that of your predecessors, the BBC has become a blight for British Jews — a relic of the old-fashioned institutional antisemitism of the British establishment that has been excised from almost every sphere of public life, only to find sanctuary at your unaccountable, unrepentant BBC. You preside over an institution that is antisemitic both by act and concealment. The BBC that British Jews wish they could love and be proud of instead shames our country by shielding bigots.”
Lord Hall’s office responded to “reject your allegation”, but offered no constructive measures to improve the investigation of widespread concerns of a culture of impunity at the BBC, which are felt particularly by many in the Jewish community. Despite welcoming the call for independent regulation today, the BBC did not accept our call for independent investigation of our complaints of antisemitism.