A legal attempt to save the BBC’s only regular Jewish radio programme has failed and the long-running Manchester show will air for the final time on December 17.
Last Friday, a judge ruled that the decision to axe BBC Radio Manchester’s Jewish Hour was not discriminatory.
Community member Gillian Cohn had applied to have the matter scrutinised under judicial review. Her lawyers argued that the decision breached discrimination law, given that local black, Asian and Chinese programming was continuing.
But dismissing the application, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said that to rule otherwise would “open a Pandora’s box for every listener or watcher who did not agree with their favourite programme being discontinued”.
There was “not a scintilla of unfairness” in the cancelling of Jewish Hour, “though it is undoubtedly a decision which has and does cause those who love this programme a great deal of sadness. That’s something the courts can sympathise with but can do nothing about.”
The demise of Jewish Hour after 21 years is part of sweeping changes to local broadcasting. Twenty fans of the programme and senior BBC staff attended the hearing at Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Following the verdict, Ms Cohn said she had brought the case for two reasons. “The value of the programme for members of the Jewish community who are housebound, but also for non-Jewish listeners whose only exposure to the Jewish community will now be lost in an age of increasing antisemitism.”
Among those in court was Jewish Hour presenter Jeff Lewis. Despite his disappointment at the verdict, he hoped the BBC would yet “recognise the value of Jewish Hour to the Jewish and wider community”.
In a statement, the BBC stressed that its Manchester station “will ensure that issues affecting the Jewish community are featured in mainstream local radio output, including our news and breakfast shows, which have the biggest audiences. We will be working with members of the local Jewish community.”