Viewers complain about the Corbyn smear on Question Time, but the BBC’s response is woeful

Jeremy Corbyn, Claire Perry, and BBC logo
Ed Sykes

On 15 November, Tory minister Claire Perry caused an uproar when she smeared Jeremy Corbyn on BBC Question Time and presenter David Dimbleby failed to challenge her in any meaningful way. According to one BBC response to a complaint about this matter, the media outlet “received a range of feedback about this edition”. But its position on Dimbleby’s reaction to the smear was woeful.

#BBCQT: a platform for unchallenged smears?

As The Canary reported on 16 November, Perry’s appearance on Question Time smacked of desperation as Brexit chaos engulfed her party. And part of that desperation manifested itself as the tired smearing of Corbyn as an “antisemite”.

Labour is not immune from antisemitism, of course. But the party is taking more action than others to avoid and prevent discrimination of all types. The vast majority of antisemitic discrimination, meanwhile, comes from right-wing organisations – as one parliamentary report admitted in 2016.

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Falsely linking left-wing criticism of Israeli crimes to antisemitism, however, has now become a favourite tactic of right-wingers trying to silence critics of Israel’s far-right government. And while the mainstream media has faced serious accusations of “misleading”, ‘distorted’ and “inaccurate” coverage of alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, it has been all but silent about the Conservative Party’s woeful response to “endemic racism” in its own ranks.

David Dimbleby could have easily challenged Perry’s smear. It would have taken him just seconds to do so. Because it’s public knowledge that Corbyn is a veteran anti-racist, who has consistently made his opposition to antisemitism clear. In fact, the principled and consistent stance he has shown in the past against all forms of discrimination is one of the main reasons party members overwhelmingly backed him as Labour leader – on two separate occasions.

But Dimbleby essentially glossed over the smear and moved the discussion on.

The BBC‘s highly inadequate response

In its response to one complaint, the BBC said:

The comments from Claire Perry MP regarding the Labour leader provoked a strong, mixed reaction from the studio audience. David Dimbleby controlled the situation by bringing her back to the point she was asked about, and asked her to make it in full. David then ensured that Barry Gardiner MP, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, was given an equally clear opportunity to challenge the comments. Mr Gardiner addressed the ‘very personal’ remarks about Jeremy Corbyn as he wished, and in full.

And summarising its support for Dimbleby’s response, the outlet insisted:

his approach treats each guest appropriately and without bias. We feel that he chaired the discussion professionally and reasonably in a lively and passionate setting.

Many people clearly disagreed with the BBC, though.

Several people, for example, pointed out that the broadcaster could have easily edited out Perry’s smear (as the programme is not live) but apparently opted not to.

Some even accused the BBC of being “complicit” in the smear:

The Canary asked the BBC if it believes it has a responsibility to its viewers to call out smears; and if it thinks it’s acceptable for politicians to use its platform to smear their opponents. But it failed to answer these questions. Referring back to the above response to complaints, a BBC spokesperson said “we have nothing more to say other than our original comment”.

We deserve so much better

The BBC has long committed to delivering impartiality to licence-fee payers. But it’s failing – quite miserably – to do so. It’s no wonder that people are complaining, and calling for the democratisation of the public broadcaster. Because this situation is highly lamentable. And it must not continue.

Featured image via screenshot, Wikimedia, Sophie Brown/Wikimedia

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  • Show Comments
    1. Do not know about this problem
      Viewers complain about the Corbyn smear,
      on Question Time, but the BBC’s response is woeful
      with BBC. (But will look into it O.K.?)
      ///
      Read on please
      But “I have a BIG problem with them over the
      following matter- (Below as a license payer)
      ///
      P–1 WHY is BBC new channel now advertising all sort
      P–2 WHY is they a weather broadcast ever 15 MIN now
      IF we pay a T.V. license no advert must be show at all never mind
      being show on live feeds after NEWs Programs
      This is a NO! -NO! -NO! BBC or Scrap you T.V. license FULLY.
      //
      Finally!
      how much of our T.V. license cash is wasted on?
      and 30 different Weather people showing us a back picture
      of weather that is the same weather over “and over again
      why so many weather people doing nothing,
      at a cost to us license payers?
      //
      Tory Govt need to address BBC adverts problem
      they should be non (even if the add is for BBC platforms)
      like web pages and internet stuff they should be,
      NO add vert whatsoever this is in law as part of license fees
      So, stop your advertising BBC or scrap T.V. license O.K.
      //
      Also, weather updates problem to many are shown every day now why?
      we can look out window to see the changes we do not need consent
      weather people stopping new– news being broadcasted for
      our BBC news channels O.K.
      //
      Plus, who many people are paid good wages to
      show us the same weather maps over “and over again.
      remembering we are in THE U.K. ONLY so do not show interests
      of over country bad weather has it not in the U.K. area
      so, does not affect us in U.K.
      Put a stop to showing weather every 15 Minute dose “my head in when “I wish news on update on the Tory Brexit mess this is more important than the weather.
      the STORM TO COME IN MARCH 2019
      So, no adverts of any kind BBC or lose your license fees o.k.
      weather news ever 1/2 hours not 15 Min or 10 Min like it is now,
      cut staff down and save our license cash for better BBC T.V. programs
      But for god sake cut down the amount of weather showing please now.
      //
      show the real new on Brexit plus over important matter
      not the weather all the time thank you a license payer not happy
      with BBC bosses over the point in this post.
      that need addressing now A.S.A.P. or lose your license money
      will be having words with Govt reps on the matter above

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