The inadequately challenged thirteen minute-long antisemitic rant of a caller to a BBC Radio London phone-in show on December 22nd has attracted media attention both in the UK and Israel.
“At no point did the presenter, who challenged Andy intermittently on his arguments, note that he was spouting anti-Semitism.”
In the UK, the Jewish News reported the story on December 28th and the following day the Jewish Chronicle published an article titled “Caller’s shocking antisemitic rant on BBC radio phone-in“.
As both those reports point out, the BBC spokesman’s defence of the corporation’s handling of the incident includes the claim that “[f]ollowing the interview reaction from other listeners was also broadcast” with – as the Jewish Chronicle notes – “one saying the caller was an “angry conspiracy theorist”.
That would of course suggest that the BBC is trying to claim that its own obligations – as laid out in the editorial guidelines, in the Agreement accompanying the Royal Charter and in the OFCOM guidance notes on harm and offence – can be outsourced to members of the general public.
The fact that some additional callers who happened to be listening to BBC Radio London at the time reacted to this item after it was broadcast clearly in no way mitigates the fact that the BBC presenter failed to adequately challenge the inaccuracies, conspiracy theories and antisemitic tropes heard by listeners to the programme.
BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the BBC charter review included the following proposal:
“The BBC also needs to commit to mandatory education for its staff – including producers, journalists, handlers of complaints and message board moderators – on the issue of recognizing and identifying antisemitism. The issue of propagation of antisemitic discourse on BBC message boards and social media must be tackled vigorously through improved moderation and the promotion of antisemitic tropes in BBC content should obviously be entirely unacceptable.”
This case clearly once again underscores the need for action on this issue.