IHRA adopts working definition of antisemitism: when will the BBC?

At the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism held in May 2015, one of the many issues identified was the necessity for media organisations to adopt standard accepted definitions of antisemitism such as the EUMC Working Definition or the US State Department definition.

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms.pic BBC

Among the proposals included in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the renewal of the BBC’s charter was the following:

“The need for the BBC to work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism in order to ensure that complaints are handled uniformly, objectively and accountably is obvious. In addition, the absence of adoption of an accepted definition of antisemitism means that […] public funding is likely to be wasted on dealing with complaints from the general public which, if a definition were available, might not have been submitted.

Clearly the compilation of such a definition is neither within the role nor the expertise of the BBC and common sense would dictate that the definition adopted by Britain’s public broadcaster should be the one already used by the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and the College of Policing Hate Crime Operational Guidance (2014) – i.e. the EUMC Working Definition. That definition was also recommended to media organisations as an industry standard by the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in May 2015.”

Last week the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) – of which the United Kingdom is a memberadopted a working definition of antisemitism.  

“IHRA Chair, Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, stated:

“All IHRA Member Countries share concern that incidents of antisemitism are steadily rising and agree that IHRA’s Member Countries and indeed IHRA’s experts need political tools with which to fight this scourge. IHRA’s 31 member countries- 24 of which are EU member countries- are committed to the Stockholm Declaration and thereby to fighting the evil of antisemitism through coordinated international political action.”

The IHRA Chair continued: “By adopting this working definition, the IHRA is setting an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and hopes to inspire them also to take action on a legally binding working definition.””

The text of the IHRA working definition can be found here. Like the EUMC working definition, it too is suitable for use by Britain’s national broadcaster. It is worth bearing in mind that should the proposal concerning the transfer of final adjudication on complaints concerning BBC content to OFCOM as outlined in the recent White Paper be implemented, the adoption of a uniform definition of antisemitism by both the BBC and OFCOM will clearly be crucial.  


BBC Charter Renewal – White Paper

On May 12th the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport published a White Paper relating to the upcoming renewal of the BBC Charter. The document – titled “A BBC for the future: a broadcaster of distinction” – can be found here.pic BBC

Many BBC Watch readers will find section 3 of the report to be of particular interest, including the recommendations (page 60) concerning the complaints system.

“The new Charter will introduce two changes:

 −a single complaints system with regards to the BBC in relation to editorial matters. In the first instance the BBC will handle the complaint. Where a complainant is unsatisfied with the response, or where the BBC fails to respond in a timely manner, the complainant will then be able to complain to Ofcom;

 −external regulatory oversight of editorial matters. Ofcom will be able to consider complaints about all BBC content, including accuracy and impartiality in BBC programmes. This means the BBC will continue to be held to the high editorial standards that the public expects. It will build on the expertise and experience that Ofcom already has in considering complaints about the BBC and the rest of the broadcasting sector.

This approach will require Ofcom to take on responsibility for the regulation of aspects of BBC content currently outside of the Broadcasting Code. The government will work with Ofcom and the BBC to make sure that the BBC is held to the high editorial standards that the public rightly expects.”

The Clementi Review referred to throughout the White Paper can be found here.


ITV submission to the DCMS BBC Charter Review consultation

The submission made by ITV plc to the DCMS public consultation on BBC Charter Review can be found here.DCMS consultation

Of particular interest is the section concerning governance and regulation from page 42 onwards.

“ITV believes that there is a compelling case for the BBC to be subject in future to strong, effective and independent regulator which would define in detail and then secure the public interest obligations that the BBC is set in the current Charter process.”

ITV holds the opinion that “many of the BBC Trust’s current regulatory and supervisory functions should be given to Ofcom”, including:

“Final determination of editorial complaints (including in relation to accuracy and impartiality) in all areas of the BBC’s output on the basis of a pan-industry code.”

It adds:

“We recognize that Ofcom would need to change to accommodate such a new regime. So, for instance, there is a strong case for the Ofcom Content Board to be re-invented as a PSB oversight entity with a directly appointed Chair with strong accountability obligations direct to Parliament and the public.”

The BBC found it necessary to respond to ITV’s submission and that response can be found here.

BBC Watch London community event on video

The BBC Watch community event held at Kinloss Shul on November 10th can be found in full on video here.

Also available are separate videos of the talks given at the event:

Dr Denis MacEoin speaking about the media in the Middle East:

Lesley Klaff speaking about how media coverage of Israel affects attitudes towards British Jews:

Jonathan Turner on the topic of the legal aspects of the BBC’s charter and how the complaints system can be used effectively:

Hadar Sela outlining BBC Watch’s submission to the public consultation on the subject of charter review:

Related Articles:

BBC Watch submission to the DCMS BBC Charter Review consultation


Weekend long read

As has frequently been noted here in recent weeks, BBC News coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel has been remarkable for its failure to provide audiences with any substantialAbbas incitement information concerning the incitement coming from Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Fatah sources which underpins the acts of violence. MEMRI has produced a useful compilation of some examples of such incitement which can be viewed here.

Another organisation acting as a useful resource on that issue is Palestinian Media Watch and one of its latest translations is of an interview on official PA TV with Fatah Central Committee member Tawfik Tirawi who for years has been quoted and promoted in BBC content.

At the Telegraph media correspondent Patrick Foster brings news of the results of the BBC Trust’s recent public consultation ahead of charter renewal.Weekend Read

“The BBC should cut “biased” news coverage and low-brow game shows from its schedules and provide more high quality drama, according a survey of nearly 40,000 viewers.

The corporation’s governing body gave viewers the chance to say what sort of programming the BBC should increase, or decrease, as part of a consultation exploring the future of broadcaster. Licence fee-payers told the BBC to produce “more unbiased, impartial news”, and fewer game shows and cookery programmes.

In its analysis of the results, the BBC Trust said there was “desire for less bias and political opinion in journalism and news reports. For these respondents, it is vital that the BBC remain completely impartial and independent, and resist any influence from government or businesses or corporations”.”

At the Times of Israel, Sharon Klaff notes that:

“The Government appointed Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) has been taking evidence, both oral and written to determine the Future of the BBC, ahead of its current Royal Charter ending in December 2016. The BBC charter is renewable every decade, which represents a once in 10 year opportunity to have any input into BBC functionality. A brief glance at some of the evidence the DCMS has published, shows a general dissatisfaction with the in-house BBC complaints procedure. Randomly chosen from the DCMS website, Ian McNulty, writes:

“My own conclusions are that the BBC will go to any lengths necessary to avoid admitting anything but the most self-evident mistakes, including breaking its own Editorial Guidelines and flying in the face of reason. Moreover, this culture of misrepresentation, denial and prejudice against non-consensus views is systemic and institutionalized at every level of the organization, from the bottom to the top.””

Read the rest of that article here



BBC Watch submission to the DCMS Charter Review

Many readers and members of the public attending our recent events in the UK have asked for a copy of BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the topic of the renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2016.DCMS consultation

On our menu bar above we have now added a tab titled ‘2016 BBC Charter Review’ where all material on that topic will be stored for convenient location.

BBC Watch’s submission to the public consultation can be found in the drop-down box at that tab or here.

We will update the tab as more information becomes available. 

BBC Watch on the road

Throughout the coming week BBC Watch will be on the road in the UK with events in London and Manchester.pic BBC

“Studies by groups such as the Community Security Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism following last year’s Gaza conflict highlighted the inescapable connection between media coverage of a war thousands of miles away and antisemitic incidents in Britain.

In July this year, Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech outlining the government’s five-year strategy for dealing with extremism. In it he raised issues including the promotion of conspiracy theories relating to Israel and Jews, and the dissemination of antisemitic tropes.

With its unparalleled outreach and worldwide influence, the BBC has an obvious obligation to exercise responsibility regarding these issues.

The upcoming review of the BBC’s charter presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to address the question of whether that obligation is being met, and to examine the wider effects of BBC coverage of Israel, Jews and antisemitism on community cohesion in

We would of course be delighted to meet as many of our UK-based readers as possible at those events – registration details are available here.

Upcoming events for BBC Watchers in the UK

CAMERA and BBC Watch are delighted to invite readers to two events which we will be hosting next month in the UK.pic BBC

On November 10th, at 19:30 at a venue in north London, we will hold a discussion on the impact of BBC coverage of Israel on attitudes towards Jews in the UK. The panel will feature a prominent keynote speaker together with lecturer and writer Denis MacEoin, Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel, law lecturer Lesley Klaff and BBC Watch’s managing editor Hadar Sela.

“The upcoming review of the BBC Charter presents a once in a decade opportunity to address issues relating to BBC coverage of Israel, Jews and anti-Semitism and to examine the wider effects on community cohesion in the UK. 

Prime Minister David Cameron’s July speech outlining his government’s 5 year strategy dealing with extremism in the UK raised issues including conspiracy theories relating to Israel, Jews and antisemitic tropes.

With its unparalleled outreach and worldwide influence, the publicly funded BBC has an obvious obligation to exercise responsibility regarding those issues, amongst others, but does it live up to that expectation and how does its self-regulating complaints system fair when dealing with matters flagged up by its funding public?”

Advance registration is required – details can be found here.

On November 12th at 19:30 we will be holding a discussion on the same topic at a venue in Manchester, hosted by the Zionist Central Council.

For details of that event and booking, please contact zcc.man@zen.co.uk

Looking forward to meeting our UK-based readers at both events.