Broadcast regulator rejects every complaint on Promise

Perdita Weeks as Anglo-Israeli Eliza Meyer and Claire Foy as Erin Matthews in the controversial The Promise

Perdita Weeks as Anglo-Israeli Eliza Meyer and Claire Foy as Erin Matthews in the controversial The Promise

Ofcom has rejected scores of complaints about the impartiality and inaccuracy of the TV series The Promise, and defended it as a "serious television drama, not presented as a historical re-creation".

The broadcasting regulator received 44 complaints about the four-part drama, written and produced by Peter Kosminsky and aired earlier this year by Channel 4. But Ofcom concluded in a 10-page report that the series did not breach its code of conduct.

Viewers complained that the drama, about British Mandate Palestine and its legacy, was antisemitic, used upsetting footage of concentration camps, incited racial hatred, was biased against Israel and presented historical inaccuracies.

But Ofcom said: "Just because some individual Jewish and Israeli characters were portrayed in a negative light does not mean the programme was, or was intended to be, antisemitic.

This was a drama, not a historic faithful re-creation

"Just as there were Jewish/Israeli
characters that could be seen in a negative light, so there were British and Palestinian characters that could also be seen in a negative light."

While conceding that some characters could provoke negative views of Jews and Israel, Ofcom said such characterisation would not incite crime, harm or prejudice against Jews.

Responding to concerns about historical inaccuracies, it said: "Whilst references were made to the political disputes and conflicts between the Jewish/Israeli and Palestinian communities, these references were essentially descriptive in nature… and we considered their purpose was to add a backdrop to the dramatic narrative.

"References to aspects of the political and policy debates between he Jewish/Israeli and Palestinian communities…were throughout incidental to the main purpose of the series, namely, the dramatisation of the 'personal view' experiences of two people."

Ofcom said that because it did not consider that the programme dealt with political controversy, it was not relevant to the code's section on bias.

It said that controversial scenes such as the Deir Yassin massacre, King David Hotel bombing and the portrayal of the Irgun, were "in the context of a serious television drama and were not presented as a historical and faithful re-creation". Ofcom added that other scenes, including those where Jewish settlers threw stones at Palestinian children and Israeli soldiers used a Palestinian child as a human shield, were "imagined dramatic events".

Harvey Rose, chairman of the Zionist Federation, said: "I'm disappointed by the report. Relying on the fact it is a historical drama is a complete vacation of responsibility.

"Saying the conflict is incidental to the story is inverted. I would say the two characters were incidental to the story, not the other way around."

Amir Ofek, press attaché at the Israeli Embassy in London, said: "The Promise may not have broken the Ofcom code, but it certainly shattered every moral code in broadcasting."

● Ofcom has launched an investigation into award-winning Channel 4 documentary, War Child, after receiving a complaint about its bias against Israel.

The programme, made by Jezza Neumann, documents the life of children in Gaza in January 2009 following Operation Cast Lead.

    Last updated: 10:09am, April 27 2011