BBC board member left ‘furious’ by broadcaster’s Chanukah Oxford St attack report

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BBC board member left ‘furious’ by broadcaster’s Chanukah Oxford St attack report

Former PM Theresa May's communications director Sir Robbie Gibb questioned editors at the corporation following communal anger at the BBC's coverage of the incident

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

A protest outside BBC New Broadcasting House (Photo: Campaign Against Antisemitism)
A protest outside BBC New Broadcasting House (Photo: Campaign Against Antisemitism)

A BBC board member has questioned editors at the corporation about the coverage of the antisemitic threats made to a group of young Jewish people in Oxford Street, reports claim.

Sir Robbie Gibb – who was former Prime Minister Theresa May’s communications director – was reportedly left “furious” by the BBC’s reporting of the incident, which took place as the group celebrated Chanukah on a bus they had hired.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had called for the BBC to take “swift” action to resolve the row over the reports, which sparked anger in the Jewish community after they included a sentence suggesting that one of victims of the November 29th incident had themselves uttered a “slur about Muslims.”

It followed an intervention from Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries last week, who wrote to BBC Director General Tim Davie demanding to know how far an investigation into the reporting had progressed.

But a report in The Times claims Gibb had raised concerns over BBC’s reporting prior to the comments by Dorries and the PM.

A source told the newspaper Gibb was “furious” and that other BBC journalists had also questioned how the accusation of a “slur” was reporting without firm evidence.

Harry Farley, a religion and ethics journalist at the BBC, was named as the report’s author, but said he was not responsible for putting the offending line in the story.

The Board of Deputies have led calls for the BBC to apologise for the report, citing a recording of the incident in which one digital expert suggested editors had misinterpreted the alleged “slur”  – and that the phrase was actually Hebrew for “Call someone, it’s urgent.”

The BBC issued a correction stating that “during the editing process a line was added reporting that racial slurs about Muslims could be heard inside the bus.

“This line has amended to make clear that a ‘slur about Muslims could be heard.”

The BBC insist Hebrew speakers have backed up their claims.

Board President Marie van der Zyl will meeting with Davie later this month to discuss the issue, which has led to hundreds of complaints being sent to the BBC from angry members of the community.

But there is also concern amongst some communal figures that the issue is being “whipped up” by those who wish to wage a “culture war” against the BBC.


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