Ofcom launches ‘accuracy’ investigation in BBC London News’ Oxford St Chanukah report
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Ofcom launches ‘accuracy’ investigation in BBC London News’ Oxford St Chanukah report

"We have reviewed the BBC's final response to complaints about this news programme. We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation."

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Ofcom has confirmed it has launched an investigation “under due accuracy rules” into the report of the Oxford Street Chanukah bus incident broadcast by BBC London News.

The broadcast watchdog confirmed on Wednesday: “We have reviewed the BBC’s final response to complaints about this news programme. We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation.”

The December 2nd broadcast featured commentary from a presenter on the November 29 incident in Oxford Street in which a group of Jewish passengers were threatened by three men, who made antisemitic slurs.

In the subsequent BBC London News report the presenter told viewers it was possible to hear “some racial slurs about Muslim people which does come from the bus.”

The presenter adds: “Well, the Metropolitan Police are treating this as an alleged hate crime.

“We should say though that we at BBC London did watch this footage and you can hear some racial slurs about Muslim people which does come from the bus.

“It’s not clear at the moment, or the person that said that, … what role that may have played in this incident.”

But in publishing its finds of an investigation into the BBC”s report, the Editorial Compliants Unit said on Wednesday it was not possible to conclude that an anti-Muslim slur had been said by a passenger on the bus.

The ECU did not dispute there was journalistic justification for reporting it might have been said – but criticised the failure to state that the claim slurs were made was bitterly contested.

The Board of Deputies and other communal organisations hired digital experts who claimed they had proven the passengers on the bus had actually spoken in Hebrew – and had not made the slurs.

The ECU said: “The question we therefore addressed was whether the BBC’s response should have acknowledged an element of doubt about the anti-Muslim slur claim.

” In this connection, we noted that the report commissioned by the BBC did not result in unanimity, with three of the four translators involved construing the phrase as “Dirty Muslims” and one as the Hebrew for “Call someone, it’s urgent”.

“While the majority finding gives support to the view that “Dirty Muslims” is a sustainable interpretation, the more significant point for the ECU is that the sole exception indicates that it was not the only possible interpretation.

“In the ECU’s judgement this, taken together with the evidence put forward by the Board of Deputies, should have led the BBC to recognise at an earlier stage that there was genuine doubt about the accuracy of what it had reported. ”

In a statement on Wednesday, the BBC said::“We take complaints about our coverage seriously and today (Wednesday 26 January), following an expedited process, we have published the findings of the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) in relation to a complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and others, over the reporting of an alleged anti-Semitic attack in Oxford Street in November last year.

“The ECU – which is editorially independent of BBC News – has acknowledged that there was an “overriding focus” on those who directed abuse at the passengers on the bus and there was no evidence to support any claims of victim-blaming in our reporting.

“Further, the ECU also ruled that the inclusion in our reports of the existence of an alleged slur, said to have come from within the bus, was included in good faith, following a great deal of editorial scrutiny.

“However, the ECU has also found that more could have been done, subsequent to the original report, to acknowledge the differing views and opinions in relation to what was said; this should have been reflected in our reporting; and the online article amended. We accept this and apologise for not doing more to highlight that these details were contested – we should have reflected this and acted sooner. ”

The Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said she was “dismayed that the corporation continues to justify certain erroneous editorial decisions that continue to cloud the issue and will compound the distress faced by the victims.

“We welcome Ofcom’s decision to investigate the incident. We trust that justice will prevail.”

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