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Does the BBC’s New Editor’s Jewishness Matter?

The Guardian's report noted that "Harding, who is Jewish, will also have to leave behind the pro-Israeli line of the Times."
James Harding

James Harding
Photo Credit: LEON NEAL

Lisa O’Carroll’s April 16 story in the Guardian reports on the appointment of James Harding (former Times editor) as the BBC’s new director of news and current affairs.

O’Carroll’s report includes the following passages:

Some of the Times’s anti-BBC leader columns may also come back to haunt Harding in his new job. In 2010, when hostilities between Murdoch and the BBC were at their height over the News Corporation’s bid to take over BSkyB, Harding ran an editorial accusing the corporation’s then director general Mark Thompson of “seeking to gain commercial advantages in league with News Corp’s rivals”.

Harding, who is Jewish, will also have to leave behind the pro-Israeli line of the Times. In a debate at the Jewish Community Centre For London in 2011, Harding said “I am pro-Israel” and that in reporting on the Middle East, “I haven’t found it too hard” because “the Times has been pro-Israel for a long time”. However, he also stressed the need for balanced news reporting and said he was also in favour of a Palestinian state.

The Editor’s Code of Practice (published by the Press Complaints Commission, the ‘independent’ regulatory body in the UK) which all editors and publishers in the UK are required to abide by, contains the following warning in their section on ‘discrimination’:

Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Whilst O’Carroll’s contention that Harding will have to leave his “pro-Israeli line” behind now that he’s been appointed news director of the BBC is quite interesting in the context of the Beeb’s coverage of Israel and the Middle East, two particular questions come to mind:

Does O’Carroll’s decision to note that Harding is Jewish in the particular passage cited indicate she has already concluded that his religious affiliation is relevant in that it explains his ‘pro-Israeli’ views?

If that is not what O’Carroll is suggesting, in what other way, per the language in the PCC Editor’s Code, is Harding’s religion relevant to a story about his new position at the BBC?

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About the Author: Adam Levick serves as Managing Editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and is a member of the Online Antisemitism Working Group for the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism. Adam made Aliyah from Philadelphia in 2009 and lives with his wife in Modi'in.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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