Board of Deputies lodges Ofcom complaint over BBC's failure to label Hamas terrorists

It took the step after exhausting all avenues with the broadcaster itself


The Board of Deputies lodged a complaint with the communications regulator, Ofcom, over the BBC's failure to call Hamas a terrorist group.

The largest Jewish community organisation in the UK said it took took the step after exhausting all avenues for complaint with broadcaster itself over its decision to label Hamas operatives "militants" following their deadly strike on Israel on October 7. 

In a letter to the regulator, lawyers for the Board argue that the BBC has failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines, and include a list of 50 examples where the broadcaster has used "the language of 'terrorism' in recent times".

"The BBC news coverage of Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October, and its continued attacks on Israel since then, should refer to Hamas as a 'terrorist' organisation, and not, as it is referred to by the BBC, as 'militants'," the letter states.

"This has been the case on all news output since the morning on 7 October."

Referencing the Board's previous correspondence with the BBC, it says that the broadcaster had "reasserted" its view that it was complying with its editorial guidelines in not referring to Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

The Board previously told BBC director general Tim Davie: “There is no scope to doubt that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, as a matter of fact, since Nov 26 2021, as a matter of law. 

“And yet the BBC insists that it is ‘fair and accurate’ to refer to Hamas as ‘militants’ and not as ‘terrorists”.

Davie, in his response to the Board's president, Marie van der Zyl, said there were "no plans to change" to change the broadcaster's approach to covering Hamas.

He said: "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 to, 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.

"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 its letter to the regulator, lawyers for the Board said the organisation had taken its complaint with the BBC as far as the process allows and “as such, the next step in the complaints journey is a complaint to Ofcom".

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