BBC opens a can of worms for itself over anti-Corbyn Panorama doc

Izzy Lenga speaking during BBC Panorama
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The BBC has made an admission about its controversial Panorama documentary about antisemitism in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. It has released what it says is further “context” to a member’s claims in the programme about abuse within the party. However, the BBC‘s disclosure prompts further questions about the programme – and about the broadcaster more broadly.

BBC Panorama: an admission

The Canary previously reported on BBC Panorama‘s Is Labour Anti-Semitic? documentary. The BBC broadcast the programme on 10 July 2019. As the Canary‘s Joshua Funnell wrote nine days later, one of Panorama‘s claims about allegations of antisemitism in the party already appeared at that point to be incorrect. Now, the BBC has made a further admission.

As SKWAWKBOX reported, the BBC has admitted it failed to apply context to comments made by one participant in the Panorama documentary. It made the admission on the Corrections and Clarifications page of its website on 14 December 2022.

The BBC noted that Panorama showed a participant making the following comments:

I’m Izzy Lenga, I joined the Labour Party in 2015… The antisemitic abuse I received was what I was subjected to every single day… Telling me Hitler was right, telling me Hitler did not go far enough…

In Labour Party meetings… we’ve seen people engage in Holocaust denial… and that’s terrifying for Jewish members… It absolutely breaks my heart to say but I do not think the Labour Party is a safe space for Jewish people any more.

You can watch Lenga’s comments from 8:11 below:

Read on...

Panorama presented the implication from Lenga’s statement as being that during her time in the Labour Party, people “subjected” her to “antisemitic abuse” “every single day” – including “telling” her “Hitler was right”. We now know this was not true.

Decontextualising Lenga’s comments

The BBC has admitted that it cut what Lenga said. It noted that if it was to “re-broadcast” the Panorama documentary now, it would include the following from Lenga’s testimony:

I’m Izzy Lenga, I joined the Labour Party in 2015… When I was a student… being quite a high profile Jewish woman student, I was subjected to quite a lot of like nasty vitriol and abuse… The antisemitic abuse I received… was what I was subjected to every single day… Predictably a lot of it came from the far right… neo-Nazi abuse… telling me Hitler was right, telling me Hitler did not go far enough and even more… What absolutely baffled me, was at the same time, I was receiving… very similar and almost often the exact same tropes and anti-Semitic abuse… from the far left.

Lenga was discussing her time on her university campus – not her time as a Labour Party member. This is something Al Jazeera‘s Labour Files series had previously claimed. When referencing “Hitler was right”, Lenga was talking about her experiences as a student in 2015.

She was giving the example of people putting up posters with those words on them around her campus. However, the point is it had nothing to do with the Labour Party. The BBC has claimed Panorama did not alter the second part of Lenga’s statement surrounding Holocaust denial in Labour Party meetings.

The BBC says…

The Canary asked the BBC for comment. We specifically wanted to know why Panorama chose to edit Lenga’s comments in the way it did. A BBC spokesperson told the Canary:

Following a recent discussion about any potential re-use of the programme it was decided that, if the programme were to be re-broadcast, we would include some additional comments from Ms Lenga’s original interview to give viewers further context around her experiences. We have published these on our clarifications page in the interests of full transparency.

The Labour Party says…

The Panorama programme was presented by John Ware. As Press Gazette reported:

In July 2020, [the] Labour [Party] apologised and agreed to pay “substantial damages” to Ware after it falsely accused him of “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”.

The Canary asked the Labour Party for comment, specifically regarding whether, in light of the BBC‘s admission of the cutting of context from Lenga’s interview, the party still stands by its retraction and damages pay-out to Ware. The party had not responded at the time of publication.

John Ware says…

Meanwhile, on 15 December 2022, Ware commented on Lenga’s antisemitic “experience[s] on campus”. This was in an article about Al Jazeera‘s Labour Files for Jewish News. He also discussed Panorama‘s editing of her comments. Ware said that:

At times, she was subjected daily to antisemitic abuse (on and offline) that included comments like “Hitler was right” and “Hitler didn’t go far enough” as well as Holocaust denial “with absolutely no sanctions and absolutely no repercussions”.

Lenga’s Hitler comments referred to attacks from the right when they were targeting her on campus. However, she also recounted Holocaust denial as a feature of abusive comments from the left.

As Lenga explained, the attacks from both left and right were “very similar… and almost often the exact same tropes”. Through no fault of her own, the fact they were similar meant these comments became mixed up in the editing and we should have made that distinction – Hitler from the Right and Holocaust denial from the Left – clearer.

Ware’s recollection of Lenga’s comments, though, is not exactly the same as what the BBC claimed she said in its 14 December 2022 correction. Ware continued:

A relatively minor slip, yet Corbynites have banged on and on about this, as if it invalidates the entire 59 minutes of Panorama. Presumably Al Jazeera knew that the Holocaust denial like that experienced by Lenga from the Left has led to expulsions of Labour members for neo-Nazi views. The antisemitism logs seen by Al Jazeera contain meticulous notes on such cases.

Poor journalism or intentional manipulation?

SKWAWKBOX called the BBC‘s actions “grossly-misleading edits“. Moreover, former Labour councillor John Edwards said on Twitter:

Frighteningly, during the process of a general election @BBCPanorama broadcast significant lies which coincided with Tory government propaganda. Just think about that.

Labour Files producer Richard Sanders wrote for Byline Times that:

The Izzy Lenga story is so astonishing that it ought surely to have set alarm bells ringing at the BBC for anyone with even the remotest familiarity with the internal culture of the Labour Party. It certainly did with a number of viewers.

The BBC‘s admission also begs the question: what, if any, context did Panorama remove from other participants’ comments, in addition to Lenga’s?

At best, Panorama‘s editorial decision was a poor piece of journalism – and at worst it may have been an intentional misrepresentation of Lenga’s comments, in an attempt to manipulate the viewer. Either way, the broadcaster’s admission only strengthens the argument that the BBC is not fit for its stated purpose of rigorous, unbiased, public service broadcasting.

Featured image via Peoples War – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Poor journalism or intentional misrepresentation? In the context of a Newsnight backdrop showing Corbyn in front of a red-sky Kremlin, “Lynn the Vicar”, a “backroom mix up” over Johnson dropping a wreath and a BBC QT audience being warmed up to ‘say what they like’ to Diane Abbott amidst audience rigging in general, how are we supposed to believe anything other than this present issue as being intentional?

      All the above have been put down to mistakes, mix ups, errors or as being unintentional. But it’s inescapable that such occurrences appear to be happening in one political direction only at the BBC. The public have been or are being manipulated for certain imo and this is utterly unacceptable.

      1. Exactly ~ ‘Mistakes’ indeed? This can hardly be mere incompetence where précis writers, editors, etc. are so useless at their job ~ unless they gave the editing task to some year 10 school student on work experience. No ~ this being so defamatory to Labour at the time and to Jeremy Corbyn especially is as orchestrated and as refined and as created a gleefully delivered smearing exercise as you can get.

    2. Crosses my mind that Margaret Hodge (huge vendetta against Corbyn) has a daughter who was an editor on BBC News, same hard right – conflict of interest. May have influenced Panorama; who knows?

      The hate campaign against Corbyn (1st ever interjection of religion in politics Rabbi Mirvis) as an individual destroyed the democracy of a fair election.

      Well-coordinated; Starmer funded, advised, coached, and paid huge payouts to people on that programme – even though he was told the cases could be defended, and payouts should not be made. EHRC report, I believe, was just contributed to by anti-Corbyn members. not sure if JVL is included in ‘evidence’.

      So payouts and a few gongs for key players.

      I criticise the far-right in this country – I don’t expect to be silenced/slandered for that.

      Not about Israel, nor Jews for me; it’s about the far right supporting/running it and Labour.

    3. Job done tho, innit? The “Democratic Threat” was warded off, Corbyn was disposed off, and even in the remote chance the scandal would bring the regime down, the Corporate Plan B Party will contine much the same policies.

      Imagine you’re at a casino, where not only are a large % of the players are either employees or owners of the casino, but they can openly cheat at the games without sanction.

      But they mnemonically repeat the slogan “The House is Clean!” and to play, you have to agree.

      YOUR smallest infraction is seized upon as evidence of the darkest character, and trumpeted, amidst far worse behavior that is ignored.

      In essence, the ultra-private schools, who create the Establishment, retard the emotional development of the students sent to them.

      To them – think BloJo – it’s all a game. The Aristocratic model rarely dwells about the Plebs.

    4. It was inevitable…
      Labour under Jeremy (FGS!) were Riding So High in the autumn of 2017, it was inevitable that the RW Media would meet in early 2018 and decide How to Stop him becoming PM!
      They know how to succeed -and they chose the old thing they have done before to the Left, Anti-Semitism…

      It was appalling to see certain ‘Labour’ MPS co-ordinate with the vacuous and absurd tool-of-this-media-campaign Ian Austen (was that his name!?), making these speeches against Jeremy – who along with John McDonnell, had done the most campaigning against it in his life.

      I would love to do a programme on it myself, if I ahd teh oney … ad the cameras 😉

    5. So what are the repurcussions going to be from such flagrant manipulation?
      Surely all parties involved – BBC, Panorama, John Wade, Ofcom when they refused to investigate, are liable for some substantial fines? Money is the only language these people seem to understand, a little 3 line retraction printed on a web page surely shouldn’t cut it.

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