BBC defends not calling Hamas 'terrorists' in letter to Board

The Director General Tim Davie defended the corporation's use of 'militants'


A photograph taken on October 6, 2022 shows the BBC logo at the entrance of the BBC headquarters at Broadcasting House in central London. - On November 14, 1922, the clipped tones of the BBC's director of programmes, Arthur Burrows, crackled across the airwaves. "This is 2LO, Marconi House, London calling," he announced and with that, public service broadcasting in Britain was born. One hundred years on, the British Broadcasting Corporation is a global media giant. But its centenary comes at a time of drastic budget cuts that have raised questions about its future. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The BBC has defended its description of Hamas terrorists as 'militants' in the face of criticism from the British Jewish community.

In a letter to Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies, Director General Tim Davie said that there were "no plans to change" their approach with regard to Hamas.

He added: "The BBC is an editorially independent broadcaster; our role is to explain what
is happening so that our audiences, both in the UK and around the world, can make their own judgements.

"I don’t believe that anyone who has watched, listened, or read any of the BBC’s news coverage since last weekend will be in any doubt about the nature of the atrocities committed by Hamas and the impact that this has had on the citizens of Israel.

"With regard to our use of language, our longstanding position set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines is that we only use the term ‘terrorist’ when it is attributed by others. This policy has not changed over decades, including in reporting previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas, and is in line with that of other broadcasters both in the UK and internationally. Our Editorial Guidelines are clear in this respect and we will continue to report on the developing situation in the region in line with these.

"Of course, the word ‘terrorist’ has been used many times in BBC output during this week, attributed to those who are using it, and we regularly report that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation by many Western governments, including the UK. I appreciate that you and others do not agree with the BBC’s position, however I can assure you that we take our use of language very seriously."

In response to the BBC's letter, the Board sent a letter via law firm Mishcon De Reya urging the corporation to urgently investigate the Board's complaint. Signed by a partner at the law firm, the letter urges the BBC, "In the light of the deeply-felt concerns expressed by senior leaders in the Jewish community and others, I would ask you, please, as Director-General and in your role as Editor-in-Chief, to instruct the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit to investigate our client's complaint and those of others that we are all aware of, as a matter of urgency."

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