BBC claims 'online lobby' generated complaints over refusal to identify Israel's capital

By Marcus Dysch, July 23, 2012

The BBC has claimed that complaints over its refusal to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in its online Olympic guide were “generated by online lobby activity”.

In response to a viewer’s complaint, the corporation’s complaints department responded: “We feel it is worth explaining that a considerable number of complaints have been generated by online lobby activity.”

The letter was seen by the Guido Fawkes blog, which said the terminology regarding “lobby activity” could have been “an innocent error”, but also asked the BBC to identity “which ‘lobby’” it was referring to.

The BBC said: "The response was sent to a member of the public following a complaint regarding an error made on the BBC Sport website.

"The letter noted that some of the complaints had been generated by online lobbying, this is a standard line used in response letters where there is evidence of lobbying which was the case in this instance."

As part of its London 2012 coverage, the BBC has created dedicated web pages for each Olympic nation.

The page offering information about the Palestinian team referred to its capital as East Jerusalem, but the equivalent page for Israel initially made no mention of a capital city at all.

A BBC Olympics official had claimed last week that an error was made “when the data was uploaded”. On Thursday last week the page was altered to show that the “seat of government” for Israel is “Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv”.

The Palestinian page now states that its “intended seat of government” is “East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital”.

Pages for all the other competing teams refer to each country’s capital city.

The Israeli Embassy in London said the BBC had failed to adhere to standards of “professional journalism”.

Last updated: 10:29am, July 25 2012