BBC under fire over 'antisemitic' material

David Mitchell and Frankie Boyle

David Mitchell and Frankie Boyle

Two complaints have been upheld against the BBC for “antisemitic” comments and “biased” material against Israel.

The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) found that an item on the BBC news website, entitled “London summit on Jewish refugees” gave a “misleading impression” that Jews are treated equally in Muslim countries when, in fact, they are discriminated against.

The article, published in June 2008, originally said that Jews were “fully integrated” into Arab societies and has since been amended. The BBC’s Middle East team have now been reminded of the need to explain this situation clearly in future reports.

A second complaint was upheld about a joke made by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle on Radio 4’s Political Animal in June 2008.

The joke was directed at the Israeli army and drew an analogy between Palestine and a cake. Mr Boyle said: “That cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.”

The BBC found that the use of the word “Jew” in this context was inappropriate and has pledged more effective editorial supervision of future editions of the programme.

But the complainant, Adam Bernstein, a 36-year-old musician from Oxford, was not happy. He said: “If Jonathan Ross was suspended for six months, I fail to see why Frankie Boyle remains on our screens without any penalty.”

Meanwhile, another BBC comedian has come under fire for “offensive” comments about Anne Frank.

The BBC has received almost 50 complaints about comments made by David Mitchell on his Radio 4 programme, The Unbelievable Truth, where panellists try to conceal lies in a discussion.

Mr Mitchell, who chairs the programme, said last week: “Anne Frank’s last diary entry was, ‘It’s my birthday and dad bought me a drum kit.’”

Gillian Walnes, executive director of the Anne Frank Trust, said Mr Mitchell’s comments were “thoughtless” and “offensive” and wrote directly to the comedian and also to the programme’s producer.

Sandra Hartley, 53, a non-Jewish retired medical administrator from Wales, complained to the BBC and Feedback, Radio 4’s forum for comments.

She said: “Making humour out of a situation that led to the death of an innocent young girl, at the hands of bigoted fascists, has no place on the BBC. I would like David Mitchell to be called to account.”

She was even more shocked when the Feedback researcher asked her not to repeat her request for Mr Mitchell to apologise while her complaint was being recorded.

A BBC spokesman said: “The joke was a ludicrous and far-fetched way of illustrating the rules of the game. Unfortunately there were misunderstandings between a listener and a researcher from Feedback.

“The researcher did ask the listener not to ask David Mitchell to apologise, but did not fully explain that this is because programme-makers, and not presenters, are responsible for what is broadcast.”

Last updated: 4:42pm, November 5 2009