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Ofcom concludes investigation into the BBC's coverage of antisemitic attack

Published: 7 November 2022
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Ofcom received a number of complaints about an online BBC news article and news report broadcast on BBC One London about an antisemitic attack on Jewish students in London. These were published and broadcast on 2 December 2021.

We investigated both the online article and news report. We have issued an Opinion on the online article that the BBC failed to observe its Editorial Guidelines on due impartiality and due accuracy. We have found that the BBC One London News report was not in breach of the Broadcasting Code, but, in our view, the BBC made a serious editorial misjudgment following the broadcast.

Our investigation (PDF, 836.7 KB) uncovered significant editorial failings in the BBC’s reporting of an antisemitic attack on Jewish students travelling on board a bus in London.

The BBC’s reports claimed that an audio recording made during the incident included anti-Muslim slurs – which it later changed to the singular “slur” – which came from inside the bus. Shortly afterwards, it received evidence which disputed this interpretation of the audio.

The BBC failed to promptly acknowledge that the audio was disputed and did not update its online news article to reflect this for almost eight weeks. During this time the BBC was aware that the article’s content was causing significant distress and anxiety to the victims of the attack and the wider Jewish community.

This, in our opinion, was a significant failure to observe its editorial guidelines to report news with due accuracy and due impartiality.

We also carefully considered a related news report broadcast on BBC London News. Our investigation took into account the steps the BBC took, the information reasonably available to the BBC at the time of broadcast, as well as the fact that the report’s primary focus was on the antisemitic attack. Given these contextual factors, we concluded that at the time it was broadcast and for the 24 hour period it was available on the BBC iPlayer, the programme did not breach our rules.

That said, the BBC made a serious editorial misjudgment by not reporting on air, at any point, that the claim it had made about anti-Muslim slurs was disputed, once new evidence emerged.

This failure to respond promptly and transparently created an impression of defensiveness by the BBC among the Jewish community. It demonstrates that the BBC has further to go in learning how to respond when its reporting is in contention. We will review how the BBC has addressed the complaints handling and transparency issues raised by this case.

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