BBC’s Israel-Gaza coverage criticised by Board presidential candidates

Contenders discussed setting up a media response team to address misinformation


Protesters demonstrating against Hamas's sexual violence hold placards outside the BBC headquarters in February (Credit: Getty Images)

The BBC’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas War came under fire from contenders for the presidency of the Board of Deputies at hustings in London this week.

Deputies go to the polls on Sunday to choose a successor to Marie van der Zyl, who steps down next month after a maximum two terms in office.

Asked whether the candidates thought the BBC was “institutionally biased”, former Board public affairs director Phil Rosenberg agreed that it was.

While the BBC did “a lot of good things”, he said, “whenever it comes to issues around Israel, we see far too often - not always - incidences of clear, clear bias, where basically the cultural leaning, the essential assumptions of the people developing the news, are clearly on one side of the argument rather than the other - because there is no other explanation for why it is so often so wrong.”

If elected, he plans to recruit a staff member to rebut misinformation in the media and social media and to set up a commission on antisemitism which would look in more depth at media coverage.

Board treasurer Michael Ziff said: “Reporting on Israel for years has been biased as far as a large number of us think. This war has upscaled that considerably.”

The problem was not confined to the BBC, he said, adding that he planned to establish a media response team to investigate where areas of bias existed and then look to work with broadcasting organisations to see how to improve the situation. “We all have a lot to gain by working together,” he said.

Former Board of Deputies senior vice-president Sheila Gewolb said: “I grit my teeth every time I turn on the BBC news and I’m horrified at what I see.”

She believed there were “people there with their own agendas and we need to challenge these people… I think we have a real problem with the BBC and the other news channels.”

Board vice-president Amanda Bowman said, “I think the content of the BBC is highly problematic in terms of its reporting on Israel right now. That’s because I am looking for it, quite frankly. I know, having talked with some of my Muslim friends, that the same conversations are going on within their community.”

She plans an “advocacy, alert and action unit” to respond to media misinformation but said a deeper examination of how the BBC runs would be needed “before I would say it was institutionally antisemitic”.

A spokesman for the corporation defended its coverage in a statement to the JC: “The BBC is committed to reporting the Israel-Gaza war impartially, with no agenda and to the highest standards of journalism. Our own audience research shows that BBC News is considered the most impartial provider for coverage of the conflict.

“Research by More in Common echoes this and shows the highest proportion of people in Britain sees the BBC as neutral. BBC News will continue to listen carefully to all audience feedback.”

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