The Board of Deputies of British Jews has condemned a decision by ‘Ofcom’ not to uphold complaints made against BBC reporter Tim Willcox over remarks he made to a French Jewish woman in Paris.
Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industries in Britain.
The incident took place at the unity march in Paris, held in solidarity with the victims of radical Islamist terror attacks in the city the previous week. The woman was expressing her fears about the rise of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and particularly in France. While speaking with Willcox during his interview at the event, the BBC reporter told the woman, “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”
Ofcom ruled the reporter’s remarks were “justified by the context in which they were presented.”
However, noted UK Board of Deputies of British Jews’ vice president Jonathan Arkush, “The objection to Willcox’s interview was his suggestion that French Jews could expect to be targeted by terrorists because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Ofcom seem to have missed the point entirely. Ofcom also seem to have forgotten that Willcox himself admitted he had got it wrong and apologised.”
But a bigger problem was the fact that the complaints were dropped altogether, as noted in a statement on its Facebook page by Campaign Against Anti-Semitism UK, and the regulator refused to explain why the anti-Semitism was not investigated. This does not reflect a vow by UK Communications Secretary Eric Pickles to “censure” anti-Semitism in government institutions.
“Ofcom quietly dropped the 22 complaints you submitted… in a table listing complaints that had been assessed and then not investigated at the bottom of page 58 of Ofcom Bulletin 272, the regulator confirmed that it would not be looking into 22 complaints against a breach of “Generally accepted standards” by BBC News in a broadcast on 11th January. We contacted Ofcom and they confirmed that this relates to the Willcox interview but they refused to explain why they had decided not to investigate the complaints.”
The BBC, to its credit, is conducting its own investigation into the reporter’s comments and is expected to reach a conclusion by February 23.
An Ofcom spokesperson responded to this JewishPress.com report with the following statement:
“Ofcom carefully assessed complaints about alleged anti-Semitic comments made by Tim Willcox at a Paris rally and decided not to take the issue forward for further investigation.
“While the comments clearly had the potential to cause offence, Ofcom considered a range of factors, including the live nature of this coverage and the need for an appropriate degree of freedom of expression, especially in news coverage of such a significant event.”