UK Media Regulator Investigates BBC After Evidence Debunks Claim About “Anti-Muslim Slurs” Made By Jewish Teens During Antisemitic London Attack
BBC issues half-hearted apology, says it has “amended” the news article posted on its website.
The UK media regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into the BBC after evidence emerged that the broadcaster may have falsely reported that Jewish victims uttered “anti-Muslim slurs” when attacked by a group of men in an antisemitic incident in central London last November, British newspapers reported Thursday.
The news of the investigation comes the same day as the BBC issued a half-hearted apology, saying that it has “amended” the story posted on its website. The UK national broadcaster, however, maintains that its internal inquiry found “no evidence to support any claims of victim-blaming in our reporting.”
The claim smearing the Jewish victims as racists or ‘Islamophobes’ was made in the December 2 BBC news article and the television report.
The initial BBC article reported “slurs about Muslims” made by the Jewish teens seeking safety inside their bus. It was later changed to “a slur about Muslims could also be heard.” Now their whole narrative of victim-blaming appears to be falling apart.
We have reviewed the BBC's final response to complaints about a news programme reporting an incident on a bus in Oxford Street, London on 2 December 2021.
We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation.https://t.co/UjYBUu35Ds
— Ofcom (@Ofcom) January 26, 2022
British newspaper The Independent reported the opening of the investigation:
Media watchdog Ofcom has launched an investigation after the BBC upheld complaints made about the accuracy and impartiality of its coverage of an antisemitic attack on a Hanukkah party bus.
The broadcaster has apologised and said it has now amended a story on its news website from December, and issued a clarification of a television report aired on the same day.
The incident saw a group of about 40 young Jewish people on a bus in London’s Oxford Street on November 29 subjected to an antisemitic attack involving a group of men who swore, made obscene gestures and threw a shopping basket at them.
Following BBC coverage on December 2, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbi were among a significant number of groups and individuals who complained to the broadcaster about the accuracy and impartiality of the coverage.
The BBC said the complaints were “particularly in relation to the claim that an anti-Muslim slur had been heard from inside the bus”.
The BBC’s director-general then instructed the corporation’s executive complaints unit (ECU) to investigate the complaints “as a matter of urgency”.
In its findings published on Wednesday, the ECU said the original versions of both the online and television story “did not meet the BBC’s standards of due accuracy”.
It said: “The original online copy spoke of ‘some racial slurs about Muslims’ whilst the TV report explained ‘you can hear some racial slurs about Muslim people’.
In later versions the online copy was changed to ‘a slur about Muslims’ reflecting that the original iterations had mischaracterised the nature of the insult and there was insufficient evidence that it had happened on more than one occasion.”
The ECU also considered whether the BBC had been right to continue to defend the statements in its reports about an anti-Muslim slur as accurate and not requiring amendment.
The unit said it noted that while three of four translators who listened back to footage had agreed on what the slur might have been, one differed, and the ECU therefore concluded that “the sole exception indicates that it was not the only possible interpretation”.
The unit added: “In the ECU’s judgment this, taken together with the evidence put forward by the Board of Deputies, should have led the BBC to recognise at an earlier stage that there was genuine doubt about the accuracy of what it had reported.”
The ECU concluded: “It follows that the online article as it stands must now be regarded as no longer meeting the BBC’s standards of due accuracy and, to the extent that the anti-Muslim slur claim has itself become controversial, it also lacks due impartiality in failing to reflect alternative views.”
Ofcom statement to us: "We have reviewed the BBC's final response to complaints about this news programme. We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation."
— Jake Wallis Simons (@JakeWSimons) January 26, 2022
The incident took place on November 29, when a group of Jewish teenagers was spat at and threatened by several men on London’s Oxford Street. The teens were on their way to the Trafalgar Square to watch the lighting of London’s biggest menorah that marks the first night of Hanukkah.
They were “targeted by a gang of yobs who were seen screaming ‘Free Palestine’ before spitting at the privately hired bus carrying the youngsters as part of a city tour,” UK’s Daily Mail reported last month.
The video clip of the attack “shows a group of men throwing Nazi salutes, giving the middle finger, spitting on the passengers and then slamming their fists on the bus door and windows,” the Jerusalem Post noted.
The UK news reports of the incident did not mention the assailants’ identity, but the media coverage suggests that they were of Arab or Middle Eastern origin.
An independent investigation conducted by a group of leading experts in the field of forensics and linguists “appears to undermine the BBC’s claim that an anti-Muslim slur was uttered by a victim of the antisemitic … bus attack on Oxford Street,” British weekly The Jewish Chronicle reported in December.
Biased reporting towards Israel or the Jewish community is nothing new with the British national broadcaster. The media watchdog HonestReporting, which challenged the BBC’s coverage of the incident, noted on Thursday that, “This episode and indeed the entire sequence of events thereafter is further evidence of a pattern of behavior by the BBC that calls into question its impartiality regarding Israel in particular and Jewish people in general over the past year – something HonestReporting has covered in depth.”DONATE
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