BBC’s False Equivalence Tactic Migrates to London Reporting

Cross-posted from CAMERA UK.

Areported by the Jewish Chronicle, an article relating to an incident that took place earlier in the week in central London, which was published on the BBC News website’s ‘London’ page on December 2, was amended the following day.

“The BBC has changed an article on its website suggesting that the Jewish victims of the now-viral Oxford Street antisemitism incident used anti-Muslim racial slurs. 
 
The original piece stated that “some racial slurs can be heard from inside the bus.” 
 
When approached for comment on this by the JC, a spokesman from the BBC said that the article had been amended to reflect the fact that only one slur could be heard in the clip, but insisted that the phrase “dirty Muslims” in English could be heard two seconds into the video. 

A sound and audio professional contacted by the JC said he was unable to distinguish the alleged slur saying: “I think even a audio forensic specialist would struggle to get something useful [from the clip].”

Others — including the Board of Deputies of British Jews — have also noted that the video footage is unclear, especially as people on the bus were speaking in more than one language.

The BBC’s written report, by Harry Farley, now includes a footnote:

Whether or not such a slur was uttered, the fact remains that the incident began before the Jewish teenagers celebrating Hanukkah were instructed by the adults accompanying them to get back on the bus. So why did the BBC find it necessary to mention alleged “racial slurs” in its report published three days after the incident took place?

In a December 2nd filmed report on the same story from BBC London, viewers were told that “we at BBC London did watch this footage and you can hear some racial slurs [sic] about Muslim people which does come from the bus”. The reporter – apparently Guy Lynn of BBC London news – went on to claim that “it’s not clear at the moment…what role that may have played in this incident” despite the fact that the incident began when the Jewish teens handing out donuts and dancing on Oxford Street were abused by others, before they got back on the bus where the footage was filmed.

What we see here is the old BBC practice of promoting false equivalence. Usually that tactic is employed in reports concerning violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis – for example:

BBC NEWS PORTRAYAL OF PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE STICKS TO THE NARRATIVE

BBC PROMOTES FALSE EQUIVALENCE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS

MORE BBC FALSE EQUIVALENCE ON WORLD SERVICE RADIO – PART ONE

FALSE EQUIVALENCE IN BBC NEWS REPORT ON GAZA ROCKET ATTACKS

Now that problematic practice — which invariably clouds audience understanding of a story — has been adopted in BBC reports about an antisemitic incident in central London. That, of course, should be cause for concern for BBC management. 

Update:

Subsequent developments can be found here.

Update 2:

On December 30th 2021 the findings of independent analyses commissioned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews were made public.

“D3 Forensics, who worked to clean up the recording for analysis, specialises in data acquisition and digital investigations. It took the video footage of the attack and changed its tempo to make the speech clearer, isolating the disputed section of the soundtrack.

Its report for the Board also concludes: “D3 Forensics unequivocally confirms that the audio does not contain any racial slur.”

It adds: “Our analysis of the entire audio track by a native Hebrew speaker confirms that the sound is a mix of Hebrew and English. We can categorically confirm that the spoken phrase is Hebrew: ‘Tikrah lemishu, ze dachuf’ meaning: ‘Call someone, it is urgent’.””

Additional information can be found here and here.

Update 3: 

BBC PROMOTES BBC STATEMENTS IN REPORT ON COMPLAINTS ABOUT BBC CONTENT