BBC is 'institutionally antisemitic', says corporation's former director of television

Danny Cohen warned the broadcaster risks pouring 'fuel on the fire' of Jew hate in Britain


A former director of BBC television has branded the national broadcaster "institutionally antisemitic".

Danny Cohen, who worked for the BBC for eight years until the end of 2015, said inaccurate reporting on Israel by the corporation "risks adding fuel to the fire" of Jew hate in Britain.

"I think there’s institutional bias at play," Cohen, who was responsible for shows such as Happy Valley and Poldark during his tenure, told the JC.

"That’s why it keeps happening. Mistakes happen once, perhaps twice, but when they keep happening you have to ask why. I think there are institutional biases."

Asked if he believed the BBC was institutionally antisemitic Cohen said he did.

"What’s clear to me is there is an ongoing issue with anti-Israel bias that there appears to be an inability to control," the former BBC man said.

He continued: "I think the BBC is an extremely powerful institution in the UK. A lot of people follow it and note what it says. If it reports inaccurately or [gives] unbalanced information, it risks adding fuel to fire of antisemitism."

Since October 7, the national broadcaster has been hit by numerous accusations of bias, most notably when it appeared to wrongly apportion blame to Israel for an explosion at al-Ahli hospital. Evidence subsequently showed the blast was caused by a misfired rocket from inside Gaza.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, a Conservative former justice minister, condemned the BBC for "parroting Hamas propaganda" and spreading a "modern blood libel" over its coverage of the incident.

Following weeks of pressure and intense criticism over its refusal to label Hamas terrorists the BBC eventually announced almost a fortnight after the violent attack on Israel it would no longer refer to the murderers as "militants" and would instead describe the group as a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK government.

In a highly unusual move, the corporation's director general Tim Davie subsequently addressed backbench Conservative MPs and apologised for the BBC's reporting on al-Ahli hospital.

Cohen worked at the BBC between 2007 and 2015, during which time he served as controller of BBC One and Three before he became director of BBC television.

Writing for the Telegraph, Cohen called for an independent inquiry into antisemitism and anti-Israel bias at the BBC.

"On a daily basis Britain’s Jews are being harmed through its unbalanced reporting of the Israel-Hamas war and the failure of its senior management to get to grips with it," he wrote.

"This means that the time has now come for a long overdue independent inquiry into the corporation’s editorial and management failures in its reporting of Israel."

The BBC failed in its duty to viewers by describing the October 7 massacres as a "cross-border attack" and refusing to refer to Hamas fighters as terrorists, Cohen argued.

He added: "It’s hard to find the words to describe both how offensive and reductionist this is.

"It makes me wonder whether any senior member of BBC management could look the families of the October 7 massacres in the eyes and tell them that they believe this is an appropriate description for the slaughter of innocent civilians and the kidnapping of children."

These are isolated incidents of failure, however, Cohen said.

Some BBC correspondents have displayed a lack of balance on X/Twitter, he claimed, by repeating messages and photos from Gaza "without context or any apparent attempt at basic journalistic verification".

He added: "With these incidents piling up on a daily basis there is only one conclusion to draw.

"Either the BBC’s senior management is complicit in these egregious examples of bias, these regular breaches of its guidelines, or it lacks the ability to control the output of its own organisation."

The BBC has been contacted for comment.

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