BBC made misjudgement in coverage of antisemitic incident, regulator says

Ofcom said the BBC must do more to learn how to respond when its reporting is in contention.

Pedestrians walk past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London, Britain, January 29, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS/FILE PHOTO)
Pedestrians walk past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London, Britain, January 29, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS/FILE PHOTO)

The BBC made a "serious editorial misjudgement" in its coverage of an antisemitic incident in London last year and failed to observe guidelines on impartiality and accuracy, British media regulator Ofcom said on Monday.

Ofcom, which regulates the corporation, said the British public broadcaster had not breached its broadcasting code but it still found "significant editorial failings" in the reporting of the November 2021 incident in which Jewish bus passengers were subjected to verbal abuse.

The BBC reported that an audio recording made during the incident included anti-Muslim slurs, but failed to promptly report evidence that the initial interpretation of that recording was disputed, Ofcom said.

"The BBC made a serious editorial misjudgement by not reporting on air, at any point, that the claim it had made about anti-Muslim slurs was disputed, once new evidence emerged," the regulator said.

"This, in our opinion, was a significant failure to observe its editorial guidelines to report news with due accuracy and due impartiality."

A general view of the Broadcasting House at BBC headquarters in Central London in 2017.  (credit: VUK VALCIC/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES)A general view of the Broadcasting House at BBC headquarters in Central London in 2017. (credit: VUK VALCIC/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES)

"The BBC made a serious editorial misjudgement by not reporting on air, at any point, that the claim it had made about anti-Muslim slurs was disputed, once new evidence emerged."

BBC regulator

'BBC must do more to learn how to respond'

Ofcom said the BBC must do more to learn how to respond when its reporting is in contention.

"The BBC's Executive Complaints Unit ruled in January this year that more could have been done sooner to acknowledge the differing views about what could be heard on the recording of the attack," a BBC spokesperson said.

"The BBC apologized at the time for not acting sooner to highlight that the contents of the recording was contested."

A Jewish advisory body said earlier this year antisemitic incidents in Britain had reached a record high last year, driven by reaction to a rise in violence in Israel and Gaza.