The BBC has been forced to amend its website to confirm that Jews are indeed considered an ethnic minority, after Campaign Against Antisemitism demanded an apology in response to the BBC’s airing of an offensive segment last month titled “Should Jews count as an ethnic minority?”
In addition to having launched a petition, signed by thousands, calling on the BBC to apologise for the “ridiculous” and insensitive segment, we also submitted a complaint to the Corporation.
The segment featured four panellists and a guest, Ben Cohen, the Editor of Pink News, who is Jewish. Mr Cohen rightly observed on air that “the notion of this debate is ridiculous”.
Host Jo Coburn proposed that “many Jews have succeeded in reaching high political office and therefore don’t need to be seen as a group needing recognition in the same way as others”, but Mr Cohen observed that Jews “face antisemitism and racism very clearly” and referenced the Labour Party’s institutional antisemitism.
The debate was triggered by social media backlash against Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who had tweeted that Scottish Labour’s newly-elected leader is “the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK”.
The BBC has now confirmed to Campaign Against Antisemitism that our comments had been passed on to senior editors of the programme, and that they would publish a clarification to their website to “make clear that Jews are officially an ethnic minority.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “It was outrageous for the BBC to air a segment questioning whether Jews count as an ethnic minority. The show’s only Jewish guest rightly considered the debate to be ‘ridiculous’. It is a question that the Corporation would never presume to ask of any other minority community in Britain, and it is telling that it does so in relation to the Jews. Debacles such as this one show why, according to our research, two thirds of British Jews consider that the BBC’s coverage of Jewish matters is unfavourable. Accordingly, we launched a petition, signed by thousands, calling for action, and submitted a complaint to the BBC. We are pleased that the BBC has recognised its error and clarified the position, but it must still consider the editorial failures that allowed the question to be asked in the first place.”
It is notable that the BBC initially rejected our complaint and only upheld it on appeal.
Our Antisemitism Barometer 2020 showed that two thirds of British Jews view unfavourably the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish interest (including antisemitism). Given segments like these, this breathtaking finding is wholly reasonable.
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reports in the media, they should contact us.