We think BBC news is biased against Israel — but watch it anyway

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen

Almost four out of every five Jews in the UK believe the BBC is biased against Israel in its news coverage, according to a report out this week.

While 36 per cent thought that the corporation was "heavily biased" against Israel, 43 per cent thought that it was "somewhat biased" - compared with a mere three per cent who felt that the BBC favoured Israel and 14 per cent that its coverage was "balanced".

The findings - released as the Jewish former Times editor James Harding was announced as the BBC's new director of current affairs and news - are based on an online poll of more than 4,000 respondents conducted three years ago by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The original analysis of the data, published in 2011, showed the strong attachment of British Jews to Israel.

The BBC remains by far the biggest source of broadcast news for British Jews with 88 per cent watching it - compared with 49 per cent for ITV and 44 per cent for Channel 4, according to the report, "Jews and the News", which was written by JPR senior research fellow David Graham.

Conservative supporters were "twice as likely" to see the BBC as heavily weighted against Israel as Labour supporters, he found.

Religious Jews also were "twice as likely" as secular Jews to regard the BBC as heavily biased.

The Times or Sunday Times were by far the most popular printed papers among Jewish readers, with 46 per cent saying they had read them in the week before the poll.

The now-free Evening Standard came next with 26 per cent, followed by the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday with 24 per cent, The Guardian/Observer 22 per cent and the Daily Telegraph with 21 per cent.

But the survey also demonstrates the impact of the internet, with 40 per cent of 18-39-year-olds saying they had read a paper online compared with 30 per cent in print.

In the month before the poll, 34 per cent said they had looked at the JC's website for news about Israel.

Dr Graham said: "It is apparent that the BBC news coverage does not reflect the way most Jews see Israel." But as the survey was about attitudes to Israel, the results, he said, "may over-represent individuals with an interest in politics and international affairs".

The numbers

36% - The proportion of Jews who believe BBC news coverage is "heavily" biased against Israel, according to the report

14% - The number who say that the corporation reporting is "balanced"

88% - The percentage of Jews who say the BBC is their biggest source of broadcast news.

46% - The number who said they read The Times or Sunday Times, making them the most popular national newspapers

Last updated: 2:45pm, April 18 2013