Ofcom investigates BBC over reporting of antisemitic attack

The regulator Ofcom is investigating the BBC over the reporting of an antisemitic attack in London last year, after the broadcaster apologised but denied claims of “victim blaming”.

Ofcom said it had reviewed the broadcaster’s response to complaints around how it covered an incident in November 2021 when Jewish passengers on a bus were subjected to abuse.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews was critical of the accuracy and impartiality of the coverage of the events described, particularly in relation to the claim that an alleged anti-Muslim slur had been heard from inside the bus.

On Wednesday the BBC published the findings of the executive complaints unit (ECU) in relation to a complaint, concluding that there was an “overriding focus” on those who directed abuse at the passengers on the bus and there “was no evidence to support any claims of victim-blaming in our reporting”.

Ofcom has said it will launch its own investigation. A spokesperson said they had reviewed the BBC’s response, adding: “We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation.”

On 2 December 2021 the BBC published an article about the incident and BBC One broadcast a report on the story in its main news bulletin at 6.30pm.

Afterwards, the BBC received representations from individuals, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the chief rabbi, critical of the coverage. The director general instructed the BBC’s ECU to investigate the complaints as a matter of urgency.

It found the inclusion of “an alleged slur” was done in “good faith, following a great deal of editorial scrutiny”. It found, however, that more could have been done, “subsequent to the original report, to acknowledge the differing views and opinions in relation to what was said”.

The BBC apologised for “not doing more to highlight that these details were contested.” The broadcaster amended the story online and issued a clarification in relation to the news report.

Earlier in the month the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, questioned the BBC’s complaints process over its coverage of the story. In a letter to Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, seen by the Guardian, Dorries asked him to explain how the corporation has responded to concerns from Jewish leaders over the corporation’s coverage of an incident in November on Oxford Street and how he plans to “resolve the issue in a suitably timely manner”.

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