Nadine Dorries grills BBC over coverage of antisemitic attack story
The culture secretary questions how the broadcaster has responded to concerns from Jewish leaders over its report
The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, has questioned the BBC’s complaints process in an escalating row over the broadcaster’s reporting of an antisemitic attack in London.
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”.
She added: “You will know my concerns about the speed of the process which I asked officials to communicate to the BBC earlier this week.”
In the letter, she suggested that the BBC’s handling of the issue raised questions over whether it handled audience complaints in a “fair and effective” way.
“It is crucial that the BBC can be properly held to account for the fulfilment of its Mission and Public Purposes as set out in the Charter, including through a fair and effective complaints process,” she wrote. “I expect the Mid-Term Review of the BBC Charter to consider whether this is currently the case.”
Ofcom, the communications regulator, said it has written to the BBC to request information but that it could not comment further at this stage.
The Times reported that during the attack, Jewish passengers on a bus were abused by a group of men. The BBC website published a story in which it said that “a slur about Muslims” had been heard from inside the bus, a claim that was also broadcast by BBC London.
The newspaper reports that it was later discovered BBC editors thought the words “dirty Muslims” had been used.
However, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has reportedly commissioned two independent reviews of audio from the incident, concluded that the phrase was in fact “tikrah lemishu, ze dachuf”, meaning “call someone, it’s urgent” in Hebrew. Marie van der Zyl, president of the board, wrote to Davie last month, copying in Dorries.
The BBC said the audio had been checked by “a number of Hebrew speakers”, reports the Times.
The BBC told the Guardian: “Antisemitism is abhorrent. We strive to serve the Jewish community, and all communities across our country, fairly.
“As we have stated previously, our story was a factual report that overwhelmingly focused on the individuals the police want to identify; those who directed abuse at the bus.
“We know that there are some strong views about this report. We take complaints very seriously and they are being taken through our complaints process.
“Tim Davie has instructed that this process is accelerated to the executive complaints unit, which is editorially independent from news and will ensure complaints are fully responded to as swiftly as possible.”
Of course no Israelis would ever say something offensive to muslims or arabs: