Double standard: cricket gets funding warning while BBC is let off hook

Just a few days ago, UK news headlines declared that “Public funding for cricket must depend on progress to tackle racism” and that the “Government could axe funding after racism row.”

This threat to the funding of a beloved institution follows allegations of racism made last year by Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq. And while not wishing in any way to diminish the seriousness of those allegations nor the pain felt by Mr Rafiq and others, I must ask why no headlines have been seen in respect of the BBC losing funding following 30 years of allegations of anti-Israel bias that has directly led to a rise in anti-Jewish racism?

For some 30 years, most of the UK Jewish community and most fair-minded and decent people have been alleging BBC bias against Israel. Why has the BBC not been told to ‘clean up its act’ with regard to anti-Israel bias? Where are the headlines warning the BBC it could lose funding over these allegations? For some 30 years BBC World and BBC News and Current Affairs have engaged in the promotion of an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian narrative that has demonised Israel and led to a rise in antisemitism. But where is the outrage and where are the headlines, apart from in the Jewish press and on blogs such as this? Where is the report by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport which, I can’t help noting, was very quick to convene a committee to look into racism in cricket.

Of course, there was a report looking into allegations of anti-Israel bias at the BBC. That was the Balen Report of 2004. The crucial difference here is that the Balen Report was compiled by the BBC itself and, unlike the DCMS report which was published within months, the Balen Report has still, 18 years later, not been  published. Indeed, it has not only been kept from public view, but a whopping £2-million of tax-payer funding has been spent by the broadcaster on repelling legal challenges calling for its publication.

Given that the BBC is a huge media organisation and in a unique position of influence due to its size, its reach and its reputation, I ask again, why is there no report by the relevant government department?

Some might see that as demonstrating a double standard over allegations of anti-Jewish racism compared with other forms of racism.

For those who think new guidelines and, ahem, more careful oversight ensure such bias no longer exists at the BBC may I point to the broadcaster’s continued failure to provide context, facts or relevant background in many news reports in ways which give an anti-Israel slant and which clearly create negative perceptions of Israeli actions. Also – most recently – the insertion of an allegation of “Muslim slurs” into a news report of an attack on Jewish teens in London that turned out to be not only inaccurate but for which it has so far failed to properly apologise.

I could also mention the broadcaster’s continued treatment of Palestinian propaganda material as “news” and its practice highlighted in a new report from Camera UK which sets out in damning detail how Israel-related content produced by the BBC throughout 2021 included contributions from, or information sourced from, NGOs with an avowedly anti-Israel and/or pro-Palestinian agenda.

As Camera UK points out, NGOs “make no claim to provide unbiased information.” The issue is not that the BBC uses these organizations for comment or as source material, but that the BBC portrays or describes such agenda-driven agencies as “human rights groups.” This misleadingly lends them the appearance of neutrality and gives them extra credibility. According to Camera UK, Middle East-related content continues to be sourced from these NGOs without viewers or listeners realizing it. It is just one more way in which anti-Israel bias is promoted and is in direct breach of the broadcaster’s own guidelines which state that “appropriate information” about “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” should be “made available to the audience.”

One of those cricket stories told cricket to“clean up its act,” while another referred to “a long and difficult road to stamp out racism.” I would urge the BBC to clean up its act with regard to its role in anti-Jewish racism and begin the “long and difficult road” to stamping out the anti-Israel narrative that feeds anti-Jewish racism.

About the Author
Jan Shure held senior editorial roles at the Jewish Chronicle for three decades. and previously served as deputy editor of the Jewish Observer. She is an author and freelance writer and wrote regularly for the Huffington Post until 2018. In 2012 she took a break from journalism to be a web entrepreneur.
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