Lord Mann in ‘crisis meeting’ with BBC director general over antisemitism coverage
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Lord Mann in ‘crisis meeting’ with BBC director general over antisemitism coverage

EXCLUSIVE: Government's independent antisemitism adviser met Tim Davie for an hour at Broadcasting House, expressing 'major concerns' over reporting of the Chanukah bus attack

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

The Government’s independent antisemitism adviser Lord John Mann has met with BBC Director General Tim Davie to discuss the simmering row over coverage of antisemitism issues by the broadcaster.

In a near one-hour long meeting, which took place at BBC Broadcasting House on Wednesday, it is understood that Lord Mann expressed “major concerns” about the reporting of issues affecting the Jewish community by the channel’s outlets.

Sources said the former Labour MP at one stage told Davie that he was concerned there could be “a real problem” with the newsroom at the BBC when it covers issues relating to anti-Jewish racism.

It is understood Mann raised the BBC website and BBC London reporting of the Chanukah bus antisemitic threats incident, which took place last November in Oxford Street.

He is also believed to have raised further concern over reporting of last weekend’s Texas synagogue hostage incident – including a BBC News at 10 broadcast that failed to mention the word  “antisemitism” in connection with the siege at the Colleyville synagogue.

Sources said Davie was keen to listen to the concerns raised by Mann, who also stressed how an incident such as last weekends synagogue siege in Texas raised concerns amongst Jewish communities worldwide.

One source said: “John really went hard on how important it is for the BBC to get that tone of reports on incidents like Texas right.

Tim Davie

“To miss out the word ‘antisemitism’ was a massive own goal by the BBC. “

The Director General’s meeting with Mann takes place alongside further meeting with him and Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl.

Sources say the BBC chief was keen to listen to Mann’s thoughts on the issue as an independent observer.

There is concern amongst some at the corporation that the row with communal organisations has been exploited by some within the Conservative Party, who view the BBC are being politically biased.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries – who this backtracked on a threat to permanently abolish the TV licence – intervened on behalf of the Board earlier this month, demanding the BBC provide an update on the state of an investigation into their Chanukah bus report.

The December 2nd website report had suggested that audio of an incident in which a bus carrying Jewish passengers were subjected to antisemitic abuse, also captured “slurs” made against Muslims.

Dozens of people attended Monday’s protest outside BBC New Broadcasting House (Photo: Campaign Against Antisemitism)

Police are investigating the November 29 incident, in which men of “Middle Eastern” appearance made threats and Nazi salutes at the passengers on the bus, hired to celebrate Chanukah.

The Board said an audio expert had proven that alleged “slurs” from the passengers was in fact Hebrew being spoken.

The BBC say Hebrew speakers confirm their reporting to be correct.

The website story, and a BBC London report, attracted hundreds of complaints from the Jewish community.

BBC chiefs have said the issue has been passed to an independent standards authority for review.

The Board have threatened to take the issue to Ofcom is the BBC fail to apologise.

Other organisations have attempted to spark more widespread complaints from with the community against the BBC, including over its coverage of Israel.

Former JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein last week warned that the community must not be dragged into someone else’s “culture war.”

Others are keen to point out that away from its news coverage, the BBC continues to produce numerous programmes that are respectful to the concerns and outlook of the community.

The Director General’s meeting with Mann comes ahead of a planned further meeting with him and Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl, scheduled for later this month.

Sources say the BBC chief was keen to listen to Mann’s thoughts on the issue as an independent observer.

There is concern amongst some at the corporation that the row with communal organisations has been exploited by some within the Conservative Party, who view the BBC are being politically biased.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries – who this backtracked on a threat to permanently abolish the TV licence – intervened on behalf of the Board earlier this month, demanding the BBC provide an update on the state of an investigation into their Chanukah bus report.

Nadine Dorries

The December 2nd website report had suggested that audio of an incident in which a bus carrying Jewish passengers were subjected to antisemitic abuse, also captured “slurs” made against Muslims.

Police are investigating the November 29 incident, in which men of “Middle Eastern” appearance made threats and Nazi salutes at the passengers on the bus, hired to celebrate Chanukah.

The Board said an audio expert had proven that alleged “slurs” from the passengers was in fact Hebrew being spoken.

The BBC say Hebrew speakers confirm their reporting to be correct.

The website story, and a BBC London report, attracted hundreds of complaints from the Jewish community.

BBC chiefs have said the issue has been passed to an independent standards authority for review.

The Board have threatened to take the issue to Ofcom is the BBC fail to apologise.

Other organisations have attempted to spark more widespread complaints from with the community against the BBC, including over its coverage of Israel.

Former JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein last week warned that the community must not be dragged into someone else’s “culture war.”

Others are keen to point out that away from its news coverage, the BBC continues to produce numerous programmes that are respectful to the concerns and outlook of the community.

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