UK launches probe on BBC's coverage of Israel, antisemitism - report

UK's Office of Communications 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)

A group of bipartisan British MPs and peers have launched an investigation into the perceived impartiality in the reporting on Jews and Israel by national broadcaster BBC, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday.

The reported establishment of the investigative committee comes after the BBC apologized for what was deemed as poor handling of complaints about anti-Israel bias after the Jewish Chronicle started a Change.org petition calling for an inquiry into the BBC's coverage of the Jewish state and antisemitism.

The petition reached 10,379 signatories before the UK parliament reportedly announced its inquiry into the BBC.

UK gov't report slams BBC for coverage of antisemitic abuse

The report also follows the Office of Communications' (Ofcom) annual report on the BBC's compliance with government requirements published in late November, in which it criticized the state broadcaster's handling of antisemitic incidents.

The BBC made a "serious editorial misjudgment" in its coverage of a November 2021 incident in London in which Jewish bus passengers were subjected to verbal abuse, and failed to observe guidelines on impartiality and accuracy, the British media regulator said in the government report. 

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 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.

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

UK inquiry to 'offer expert guidance' when it comes to Israel, antisemitsm

According to the Jewish Chronicle report, the BBC inquiry committee will be chaired by Alex Carlile, Baron Carlile of Berriew, a former Liberal Democrats MP. It will also reportedly include Margaret Eaton, Claire Fox and Leslie Turnberg of the UK House of Lords.

The report further stated that Lord Ian Austin, the British government's trade envoy to Israel, will become secretary of the BBC inquiry.

"Our inquiry will be wholly impartial and will aim to offer expert guidance and recommendations for the corporation to address when it comes to antisemitism and Israel, the handling of complaints and the ‘culture of defensiveness’ identified by Ofcom," Austin said following the launch of the inquiry, as per the report.