IS THE BBC ANTI-LABOUR?

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THE BROADCASTING regulator Ofcom has begun an investigation into the BBC Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic?

It’s received 17 complaints claiming the broadcast was biased against the Labour Party.

These are all that remain of the 1,593 complaints made in the days after the programme was shown on July 10.

The Corporation dismissed them all:

The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty. 

Press Gang has asked Ofcom for permission to submit a complaint without going through the BBC complaints regime. 

Our analysis finds the programme was rogue journalism:

— it broke the BBC’s editorial guidelines

— it broke Ofcom’s broadcasting code which is based on the 2003 Communications Act

— it was, therefore, unlawful.

Today Press Gang also starts a long series of articles exposing the deliberate and premeditated “bias and dishonesty” at the heart of this broadcast.

And work has begun to gather this material into a major report entitled Is The BBC AntiLabour?

Here’s the cover.

BBC_cover_08_b

We’ve launched a crowdfunder appeal to help pay for the report.

The link is here.

(The site asks for a donation to other causes: put in £0 if you don’t want to do this.)

There has been considerable criticism of this programme.

Labour said the broadcast was an “authored polemic” by Panorama reporter John Ware.

It was “an overtly one-sided intervention in political controversy by the BBC”.

John Ware told the Jewish Chronicle: “If Labour wants a fight, bring it on.” 

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IN THE eleven days after the Panorama broadcast on Wednesday, July 10 the BBC’s complaints service received 1,593 complaints.

These are recorded in the Corporation’s fortnightly complaints bulletin covering the period 8 – 21 July.

This states that the “main issue” viewers had with the programme was “bias against the Labour Party.”

It adds that the 1,593 complaints were received “after an invitation to complain was posted online.”

Press Gang asked if there had been any additional complaints.

The Corporation declined to answer.

However, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom told Press Gang on Friday it had received a further 38 complaints directly.

Ofcom told these complainants they had to go through the BBC system first.

The initial batch of 1,593 complaints were dealt with by the BBC’s Audiences Services department.

This is stage 1 of the BBC complaints system.

All were rejected.

The BBC does not publish the reasons why — and declined to give Press Gang any further details.

A spokeswoman told us: “we are not commenting on this.”

However, the rejection is likely to be similar to a statement issued a few days after the broadcast:

The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty.

Wednesday’s Panorama programme explored a topic of undoubted public interest, broadcasting powerful and disturbing testimonies from party members who’d suffered anti-Semitic abuse.

This response did not satisfy some complainants.

Screen Shot 2019-10-06 at 13.40.34

At least 46 appealed the initial decision to the second stage of the system, the Executive Complaints Unit.

All were rejected — 34 in September and a further 12 in October.

Again, the Corporation declined to give details of its rulings.

Seventeen of these 46 viewers have now taken their complaint to Ofcom.

On its main complaints page the BBC lists “recent public responses to issues of wide audience concern.”

It includes, for example, a complaint about BBC Two’s Politics Live programme on September 27.

Complaints were made that the right wing commentator Brendan O’Neill had been allowed to say that he was “amazed that there haven’t been riots yet” over Brexit.

The Executive Complaints Unit rejected the complaints saying programme makers could not know in advance what O’Neill was going to say.

Nevertheless, the Corporation decided this was an issue of “wide audience concern”.

Is Labour Anti-Semitic? was broadcast after the Politics Live programme yet there’s no mention of it.

It seems the BBC does not consider alleged bias against the Labour Party to be an issue of “wide audience concern.”

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The Press Gang complaint about the Panorama programme is a comprehensive one.

It’s rare that complainants, no matter how well prepared, make a detailed submission.

In this case, Press Gang also brings an extra dimension.

In the Press Gang letter to Ofcom, editor Paddy French explains that he’d been a television current affairs producer for many years.

He cites one example where Panorama used filming and editing techniques to dramatically enhance the contribution from a woman called Ella Rose.

Viewers were given the impression that she was an ordinary Jewish member of the Labour Party.

In fact, she’s an important figure in Jewish Labour politics. 

She was the Director of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) at the time it reported the Labour Party to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission claiming it was “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Before that Rose was a Public Affairs Officer at the Israeli Embassy in London.  

Panorama reporter John Ware did not share this information with viewers.

This is what French told Ofcom: 

In the Panorama programme Ella Rose addresses the audience directly, looking into the camera, for 42 seconds.

There is no sense of a reporter being present. 

ELLA ROSE

ELLA ROSE
THE JEWISH Labour activist was a provocative choice for Panorama reporter John Ware to choose as the opening witness of his programme. Viewers were led to believe she was an ordinary Jewish Labour member, suffering from anti-Semitism in the party. But she’s also highly controversial — a leading figure in the Jewish Labour Movement, seen by critics as a pro-Israeli pressure group opposed to Jeremy Corbyn. She also featured in the dramatic Aljazeera programme The Lobby in 2017 which examined clandestine attempts by the Israeli Embassy in London to influence Labour Party policy. Undercover footage caught Rose threatening to take out a fellow Labour activist using martial arts techniques developed by the Israeli army. Ofcom rejected her complaint against the Aljazeera programme.
Photo: BBC

The essence of her testimony is that she wouldn’t advise any Jewish friend to go to a Labour Party meeting: “I couldn’t do that to someone I cared about.”

Her testimony is broken into discrete elements — and after each segment, Panorama deploys the editing technique of fading to black.

This is a traditional device used by broadcasters as a dramatic way to underline the significance of what has just been said: it introduces a visual pause allowing the viewer to reflect on the significance of what they’ve just heard.

Normally it is used sparingly. In Ella Rose’s case it is used three times and, combined with her addressing the audience directly, makes for dramatic television.

Panorama used Rose to open the programme.

Her testimony set the tone for the rest of the programme — she was one of ten apparently ordinary Jewish Labour members who had suffered anti-Semitism.

All were filmed in the same way, giving their evidence direct to the viewer.

None of them were captioned on screen.

John Ware also concealed the fact that all of them are substantial figures in Labour’s Jewish community.

And that eight of them are, or have been, officers of the Jewish Labour Movement.

John Ware, Panorama and the BBC have been made aware of this article.

Ella Rose was also informed and given the opportunity to respond.

She chose not to do so.  

♦♦♦

OVER THE next couple of days and weeks Press Gang will publish a series of articles about the Panorama programme.

BBC v Ofcom

This examines the forthcoming battle between the BBC and Ofcom.

Ofcom’s investigation poses a serious threat to the Corporation.

If the regulator finds the BBC did breach its code, then the BBC’s reputation will suffer a major setback.

The jobs of Director General Tony Hall and chairman Sir David Clementi may be at risk.

There will be enormous political pressure on Ofcom to find a way to protect the BBC.

Will it hold firm?

Indictment

This article lays out the Press Gang charge sheet against Panorama.

BAN NEWS FOR LABOUR - COVER

PREJUDICE
THE PANORAMA programme encouraged the widespread conviction that anti-Semitism in Labour is worse than it actually is. The authors of Bad News For Labour, published by Pluto Press, commissioned a survey by the polling company Survation in March 2019. It found that, of those who knew anything about the subject, most believed anti-Semitism complaints had been made against a third of Labour Party members. In fact, actual complaints involve less than one per cent of the membership. The BBC declined to tell Press Gang how many people watched the Panorama programme: “we are not obliged to provide you with the programme viewing figures,” a spokeswoman told us. 
Photo: Pluto Press

We find that reporter John Ware’s journalism fell far short of the standards the BBC claims to stand for.

The programme asked the question — is Labour anti-Semitic? 

Having posed the question, Ware, Panorama and the BBC were duty-bound to present an impartial and accurate assessment of both sides of the controversy.

Only one side was presented — and viewers were given little alternative but to conclude that Labour was “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Script

The BBC does not make scripts available.

As a service to readers, Press Gang has prepared its own, annotated script of the full 59 minute programme.

Panorama’s Case 

This article sets out the Panorama defence to the charge of bias and dishonesty.

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Further articles are in preparation. 

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NOTE
Paddy French declares an interest in this issue. A life-long Labour voter, he joined the party after Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader.

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Published: 27 October 2019
© Press Gang
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NEXT
BBC v OFCOM
THE BBC has failed to realise it now operates in a radically different regulatory environment. For nearly a century it policed itself — essentially acting as judge and jury in its own case. But in April 2017 it came under the jurisdiction of Ofcom, one of Britain’s most powerful statutory regulators. Already — in the Naga Munchetty complaint over President’s Trump’s racism — Ofcom has signalled its disapproval over the lack of transparency in the BBC complaints system. Now published — read it here.

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CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

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