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27 Jan, 2022 11:03

Ofcom to probe BBC coverage of antisemitic attack

The media regulator has initiated an investigation into the broadcaster's report on an attack against Jewish teens
Ofcom to probe BBC coverage of antisemitic attack

UK media regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into a BBC report on a November attack against Jewish teenagers, with the broadcaster issuing an apology.

BBC London was one of many media outlets covering a London attack against a group of Jewish teenagers who were sitting in a bus when several men started spitting at them from outside, making Nazi salutes and verbally offending them. 

Describing the November 29 attack, a reporter mentioned that “some racial slurs about Muslim people” could be heard from inside the bus, saying it wasn’t clear if that had played a role in the incident. 

This claim was refuted by an independent report commissioned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which accused the BBC of “deeply irresponsible journalism” and said that the story raised serious questions about “deep-seated biases” within the corporation against Jews. The Campaign Against Antisemitism group also raised concerns over the coverage.

On Wednesday, the BBC published the conclusions of its executive complaints unit (ECU), which found no evidence of “victim-blaming” but discovered inaccuracies both in an online article and a TV report on the incident. 

As a result, the ECU said that both items “must now be regarded as no longer meeting the BBC’s standards of due accuracy” and, considering that the anti-Muslim slur claim has itself become controversial, they also lack “due impartiality in failing to reflect alternative views.”

The ECU report prompted BBC, which is ranked third on the Global Anti-Semitism Top Ten list by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to issue an apologyfor not doing more” to highlight that the anti-Muslim slur claim was contested, saying “we should have reflected this and acted sooner.”

Ofcom, in turn, responded to the news by launching its own investigation.

We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation,” the regulator’s spokesman said, as quoted by the media.

The Ofcom announcement was welcomed by Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl.

We welcome Ofcom’s decision to investigate the incident. We trust that justice will prevail,” she said in a statement.

She went on, however, to express the organization’s discontent with the BBC.

We are however dismayed that the Corporation continues to justify certain erroneous editorial decisions that continue to cloud the issue and will compound the distress faced by the victims,” van der Zyl said.