The BBC’s coverage of the request by the French government to ban shows by the ‘comedian’ Dieudonne on the grounds of threat to public order continued on January 8th on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. Readers will no doubt recall that the same subject was covered the previous evening on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ and on Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’.
The relevant edition of the ‘Today’ programme is available here and the item concerned begins from around 2:22:50. Presenter Sarah Montague opens the report:
“The French president Francois Hollande has written to local authorities in France urging them to ban the controversial comedian Dieudonne on public order grounds. He has six convictions for hate speech against Jews. Here’s the president explaining his move.”
The programme than cuts to a recording of President Hollande, after which Montague continues:
“Well a number of French cities have now banned the comedian and although Dieudonne has vowed to appeal against those bans. His close friend Alain Soral told ‘Newsnight’ last night that Dieudonne’s words had been taken out of context; that he’s anti-establishment, not antisemitic.”
Once again, no attempt is made to comply with the BBC editorial guidelines which state:
“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”
No mention is made of Soral’s past membership of the Far-Right Front National or of his collaboration with Dieudonne in the ‘Anti-Zionist List’ in the 2009 European elections. His photographed neo-Nazi ‘quenelle’ salute at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is likewise concealed from Radio 4 listeners.
The part of the ‘Newsnight’ interview repeated on the ‘Today’ programme is one of its milder passages.
AS: “I don’t think you’ve quite understood that Dieudonne is a comedian. He performs comedy, he does sketches. So if you take one phrase from a sketch you won’t understand. You need to ask the people who have seen his entire show which lasts an hour and a half. Then you’ll see that his very diverse audience, which reflects the whole of French public opinion, has never thought that he’s antisemitic.”
Montague then moves on to speak to the French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy. That part of the interview was also promoted as a podcast which can be heard here.
One listener who apparently found the interview with Bernard Henri Levy interesting was the ‘Newsnight’ editor Ian Katz.
That soon prompted the following reply:
To which Katz answered:
In other words, the editor of the BBC’s flagship news programme is in no doubt that the denial of national rights to the Jewish people is not an expression of racism.
Well that does explain a lot, doesn’t it?