In the wake of the Labour Leaks scandal, one author had a look to see what BBC journalists were saying. And what he found was highly revealing.
On 12 April, Sky News reported on a leaked Labour Party report showing high-level efforts to derail Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and election chances. Tom Mills – author of The BBC: Myth of a Public Service – was quick to comment on the scandal. But there was one particular area of interest for him. He wanted to see what high-profile BBC journalists had to say. And just before 3pm on 14 April, Mills noted that the response from BBC journalists had been eerily quiet:
Update: There are over 100 BBC journalists on this list & I still can't find even one tweet or retweet referring to that leaked Labour report.
Obviously there are bigger things going on (to say the least), but these people spent years obsessively reporting on this issue. https://t.co/dzvdh7K7l4
— Tom Mills (@ta_mills) April 14, 2020
The public broadcaster itself did release an article about the Labour Leaks scandal, in which it seemed to downplay the significance of the revelations. It also reported on new leader Keir Starmer’s reaction. But The Canary checked and, at the time of writing, Mills appeared to be right; because none of the journalists on the BBC‘s own ‘BBC News Official‘ list on Twitter had tweeted about the affair.
This is particularly revealing for several reasons. For one, a Twitter search shows that the same reporters on the list above have frequently commented on antisemitism allegations against Labour in recent years. Indeed, political editor Laura Kuenssberg was quick to jump on a leak precisely on this subject just a week before the 2019 general election. She also tweeted about one of the key people whose name appears in the leaks, just days before their release:
Labour's former General Sec now Labour Peer, Iain McNichol – "The sad fact that Labour has the lowest number of MPs since the WW2 tells you everything you need to know about the Corbyn experiment. I like, thousands in the Labour party, am thankful that chapter is now closed."
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) April 4, 2020
Another reason why the current near-silence stands out, meanwhile, is that the BBC has been right at the forefront of reporting allegations against Corbyn’s Labour in recent years.
The BBC role
A years-long smear campaign sought to convince British voters that Corbyn – a peace-prize winner and veteran anti-racist campaigner – and his supporters were somehow raving antisemites. The mainstream media were cheerleaders for this propaganda, which helped to keep Corbyn out of power. And the BBC was right at the centre.
Critical of the media’s vile treatment of Corbyn, Jewish academic Justin Schlosberg recently sought to launch “a formal legal challenge to Ofcom’s decision not to investigate complaints about the BBC’s Panorama programme Is Labour antisemitic?“. As The Canary reported previously, this Panorama episode faced intense criticism. The BBC admitted receiving over 1,500 complaints about the programme over a two-week period, which many saw as a ‘hatchet job‘ against Corbyn’s Labour.
Schlosberg highlighted that:
This was the third Panorama edition since 2015 that was focused on, and wholly critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party. It contained gross breaches of the BBC’s legal commitment to due impartiality and due accuracy rules
Ofcom’s failure to investigate complaints, he said, represented “a wholesale failure of accountability”. He concluded:
The future of our democracy hinges on our public service media offering fair and accurate coverage of political controversies, and a regulator that properly holds them to account.
In the wake of the Labour Leaks scandal, meanwhile, he tweeted:
— Justin Schlosberg (@jrschlosberg) April 11, 2020
Have great respect for Peter but the leaked Labour report is clearly both scandalous and in the public interest. No one sensibly expects to be a headline story but to suggest that such news should be ignored in the midst of the pandemic strikes me as wrong. And quite dangerous. https://t.co/Mxp9Fbywyg
— Justin Schlosberg (@jrschlosberg) April 14, 2020
Support independent media
Regarding the Labour Leaks, Mills asked:
has there ever been a more significant leak exposing malpractice in a British political party before?
Journalist and historian Mark Curtis, meanwhile, argued that it was hardly surprising that mainstream outlets like the BBC were timid in their response:
Vital to note that UK MSM barely reported there was *any* *campaign* against Corbyn, either by media or Labour extremists – which everyone knew. Eg, a search of national press articles for last 3 years finds 2 mentions of phrase "campaign against Corbyn" (both referring to media) https://t.co/Nrf6rTomQj
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) April 13, 2020
With this in mind, Mills stressed:
Support independent media. For now at least, there is no alternative.
— Tom Mills (@ta_mills) April 14, 2020
Indeed, we’ve had years of shameful, unprofessional media coverage about Corbyn and his movement. And this has had a clear impact on voters. So today, it’s more important than ever before that we build an accountable, people-led media landscape. Our democracy depends on it.
Featured image via Flickr – Tim Loudon
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