BBC criticised after news staff 'banned' from anti-Semitism march

‘Racism is racism but not when it comes to anti-Jewish racism’: BBC accused of ‘underlying bias’ after news staff were banned from attending anti-Semitism march

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Staff at the BBC have hit out at the broadcaster after claiming they have been ‘banned’ from attending a march against antisemitism.

The event organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism outside the High Court on Sunday afternoon is being billed as the largest antisemitism demo in the capital since 1936.

But BBC employees, including those working in news and current affairs, among them senior leaders, say they have been told to adhere to the BBC’s existing guidance on attending marches, The Times reports.

The guidance states staff in news divisions should not take part in protests about controversial issues. Those who wished to attend previous pro-Palestine rallies are understood to have been given the same advice.

But several insiders have argued the case whether a march against antisemitism could to be considered contentious. One said: ‘Racism is racism and something we should all abhor — but not when it comes to anti-Jewish racism it seems.

‘If the BBC believes that racism is racism and not acceptable in any shape or form then going on a rally against antisemitism shouldn’t be an issue.’

The scene at BBC Broadcasting House in London after red paint was sprayed over the entrance ahead of a pro-Palestinian march on October 14

Pro-Palestinian protesters attend a rally close to Downing Street in support of the Palestinian population of Gaza on October 21

The broadcaster’s stance has been compared to its position on Pride parades in 2020, when director general Tim Davie told staff they were free to attend.

At the time, he said: ‘Attending Pride parades is possible within the guidelines, but due care needs to be given to the guidance and staff need to ensure that they are not seen to be taking a stand on politicised or contested issues.

‘If news and current affairs staff are participating in such events they must be mindful of ensuring that they do not get involved in matters which could be deemed political or controversial.’

Critics of the decision claim that many BBC staff have attended pro-Palestinian marches in recent weeks. One of the corporation’s biggest stars, Gary Lineker, backed pro-Palestinian protesters marching through London on Armistice Day.

READ MORE: BBC headquarters is covered with blood-red paint as controversy rages over corporation’s decision not to call baby-slaughtering Hamas ‘terrorists’

Those concerned about the corporation’s stance also point out that its own guidelines say that ‘Opposition to racism is a fundamental democratic principle’.

They accused the BBC of a double standard, assuming ‘Jews don’t count’ when it comes to standing up to racism.

One source told Mail Online: ‘On the one hand they are saying that they’re not impartial on racism and staff don’t need to be but for some reason that we do need to be impartial on anti-Semitism. We can only assume that where this racism is concerned, Jews don’t count.

‘I moved from feeling like its not a safe place for Jews to work to feeling like I owe it to my community to stay and do whatever little I can to insert some humanity into the organisation.

‘Many people here have been to the pro-Palestine marches and are happy to talk about it at work. People here seem to think Zionists are evil. One colleague said I was OK because I wasn’t ‘a proper Zionist’. They don’t have a clue.

The march has been organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism charity group as a show of solidarity towards Jewish communities.

It is due to start the Royal Courts of Justice on Sunday afternoon.

People have compared the current stance on the march with the way BBC director-general Tim Davie said in 2020 that there was no ban on staff attending Pride parades.

Leo Pearlman, co-founder of the TV production company Fulwell 73, told The Times that the corporation’s approach showed a ‘worrying distortion of reality and underlying bias’.

He said: ‘Just when one thinks the BBC cannot find a new depth of incompetence to sink to in their reporting and handling of these tragic last six weeks, they seem to have decided to draw a clear distinction between anti-Semitism and every other -ism with this directive to their staff.’

Another source told the paper: ‘If the BBC believes that racism is racism and not acceptable in any shape or form then going on a rally against anti-Semitism shouldn’t be an issue.’

Critics of the decision claim that many BBC staff have attended pro-Palestinian marches in recent weeks (pro-Palestine protest at Oxford Circus on November 4)

BBC star Gary Lineker backed the pro-Palestinian march in London on Armistice Day

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters near the US Embassy in London on November 11

Critics point out that anti-Semitism is not the same as overtly politically supporting either side in the Gaza conflict.

A BBC spokesman said: ‘The BBC is clear that anti-Semitism is abhorrent. We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.

‘Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend, but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues.’

The BBC pointed to its editorial guidelines around marches.

These say: ‘The Editorial Guidelines sections on Impartiality and Conflicts of Interest make it clear that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.

‘Members of staff outside News and Current Affairs and some Factual output may attend marches, demonstrations and protests as private individuals.

‘Staff are also able to participate in some parades, marches or gatherings, including events such as trade union rallies, under the banner of the BBC group to which they belong, but not representing the organisation as a whole.

‘BBC News and Current Affairs staff and some Factual staff, as set out in the Guidelines, should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues.

‘As with social media, judgement is required as to what constitutes a controversial march or demonstration. If in doubt, advice should be sought before attending.’

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