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BBC cornered over ‘biased’ coverage of anti-semitism row

Jewish Voice for Labour deliver a letter of complaint criticising ‘inaccurate reporting’

JEWISH  Voice for Labour (JVL) members will deliver a letter of complaint to the BBC today, condemning a “lack of impartiality and inaccuracies” in its reporting of Margaret Hodge’s allegations of anti-semitism against Jeremy Corbyn.

JVL representatives are demanding an apology and correction from the corporation.

The letter is signed by JVL committee member Pamela Blakelock because a complaint to the BBC can only be signed by one licence fee payer.

But it is supported by “hundreds, if not a thousand” JVL members, a spokesman for the group told the Star.

Supporters are welcome to take part in a demonstration outside Broadcasting House, the BBC headquarters in Portland Place, central London, from 1pm, when the letter will be handed in.

The complaint is addressed to BBC director-general Tony Hall, with whom the JVL is requesting a meeting, and news and current affairs director Francesca Unsworth.

It relates to a number of news reports in the week after Ms Hodge “verbally attacked [Mr Corbyn] behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons” on July 17.

“The attack was unprovoked by anything that Mr Corbyn said immediately before the event and was unrelated to any procedure in the House,” the letter says.

“One witness to the incident reported that Dame Margaret was shouting: ‘You are a fucking racist and anti-semite’.”

JVL representatives say they are unhappy with the BBC “partisan” reporting of Ms Hodge’s conduct as well as TV and radio news presenters’ subsequent questioning of Labour’s disciplinary action against her.

Ms Hodge’s accusation against Mr Corbyn was “repeated numerous times without denial or opposing views at the top of a package or even at the top of a news bulletin,” the letter adds, arguing that this presentation of the story would lead viewers to believe that the Labour leader was an anti-semite.

Ms Hodge’s assertion that she represents the entire “Jewish community” has been allowed to pass unchallenged, as has her view that it is not a disciplinary offence to break Labour rules, the complaint also says.

Ms Hodge has since said that she does not regret calling Mr Corbyn an anti-semite but denies swearing.

The complaint comes days after Mr Corbyn addressed the “poison” of anti-semitism in a video message to Labour members and supporters, insisting that racists “do not do it in my name.”

Earlier on the day of the incident, which sparked a Labour inquiry into Ms Hodge’s behaviour, the party’s draft code of conduct on anti-semitism was agreed by its national executive committee.

The definition of anti-semitism differs from that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in that it does not include four of 11 behaviours deemed by IHRA to be anti-semitic. One is criticising Israel. This omission has prompted protests by some Labour MPs.

The JVL letter points out that the IHRA “working definition” of anti-semitism is not complete or absolute and that it has been criticised by “40 international bodies and by a House of Commons select committee,” which the BBC did not mention in many reports.

It added that the differences between the IHRA definition and that of Labour “has been reported inaccurately” by the BBC and that it is the responsibility of a public broadcaster to undertake a detailed reading of both documents.

The letter goes on: “We demand that future reportage focuses on the issues associated with anti-semitism and the Labour Party in a neutral manner and with accuracy and rigour.”

Lamiat Sabin is the Morning Star’s Parliamentary Reporter.

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