This is the BBC

What makes you proud to be British? Well, the Queen obviously, and York Minster, Kew Gardens, Trooping the Colour, Winston Churchill, the London Palladium, Oxford and Cambridge, Armistice Day, Yorkshire Pudding and cricket at Lords – to name just a few.

In any list of this nature, for the last 100 years, we’d include the BBC. All over the world, if people want to know the truth, millions have tuned in to the BBC rather than their national channel. Old timers remember that, during the war, the voice of the BBC inspired resistance to Nazism all over Europe.

So those who run the BBC today have inherited a sacred trust. They should be firmly committed to representing the nation; unbiased, democratic, British.

Now, of course, the fact is that the BBC have argued with the government as long as they have been in existence. Governments have their own agendas and they want the BBC to reflect it. When it doesn’t, the independence of the broadcaster can be an aggravation.

The question today is whether the BBC are keeping up their own standards. The Board of Deputies don’t think so. The report of the demonstration by hooligans against a bus on a Chanukah outing in the West End has been slanted against the bus passengers. They have been accused of making an anti-Muslim remark. The passengers say it didn’t happen. What definitely happened was abuse by the hooligans. The introduction of the alleged remark evens up the criticism of the event.

The suggestion is that the BBC report was deliberately inaccurate, which, if true, makes it antisemitic. The BBC say they have a recording of the remark. If they have, they should broadcast it. Only by doing that can they protect their reputation, which has been our pride for all these years.

The BBC is a national institution. The senior staff are the guardians of its reputation; we might watch Sky a lot of the time, but when it comes to the Queen’s Christmas message, the figures show that a large number of us revert to the BBC.

It is part of our heritage which NBC or CBS can’t match. Tim Davie is the 17th Director General, following on from the first, Lord Reith. It was Reith who undermined the fascists prewar by agreeing to ban Sir Oswald Mosley from the air.

Tim Davie should take this report of the abuse very seriously. He should either prove its accuracy or apologise. If the report was inaccurate, the BBC needs to ensure that it can’t happen again. Whoever was responsible for it should be, at least, severely reprimanded. To let what was a report of a minor demonstration become a slur on the BBC’s reputation is far too high a price to pay.

The alternative is to shove the whole affair under the carpet, in which case Tim Davie is betraying his trust. He is a former deputy chair of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative party, so he must be well aware of the views of the government and, presumably, does not want to be tarred with the same brush as the present Labour Party.

Of course, if it was deliberate rather than an error, it is unlikely that it was  accidental. Everybody knows the trust we place in the BBC and if it is possible to influence its reporting in favour of a particular agenda, then many will try to gain a position where it is possible to achieve this.

It must, however, be very difficult to supervise the content of every report from the top; it needs a commitment throughout the organisation. Furthermore there could be a deliberate plan to put out distorted reports and then to excuse them by saying they were  minor errors and not worth worrying about. We’re not likely to know what internal investigations Tim Davie is instituting but it makes the selection of the Director General an even more crucial decision of the government. We must have a Director General who has the confidence of the general public and this latest argument is a good test of whether this applies to the present incumbent.


About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book