A response has arrived from the BBC regarding my complaint about the Radio 4 Sunday programme’s interview with Jonathan Sacks. This is it:
Thank you for contacting us about Sunday, broadcast 2 September on BBC Radio 4.
I understand you felt the interview with Jonathan Sacks was biased against Jeremy Corbyn.
Whilst we appreciate your views on the matter, it is important to recognise that the reason Lord Sacks was on the programme was to discuss why he went public with his judgement that the Labour leader is an anti-Semite.
During the discussion, Edward Stourton noted that Enoch Powell was seen as a toxic figure, challenged Lord Sacks on an interpretation of his words, and reflected the Labour party's response on the issue.
When reporting on the comments that have come to light, made by Jeremy Corbyn in 2013, about British Zionists, we have included criticism that these comments have provoked, including from members of his own party, such as Luciana Berger and David Lammy, but we have also reflected Mr Corbyn’s explanation for these remarks.
Jonathan Sacks, who was Chief Rabbi from 1991-2013, is one of the most high profile members of the British Jewish community. As such, his strong reaction to Mr Corbyn’s comments was a significant intervention, not only to this specific story, but also to the wider issue of anti-Semitism allegations within the Labour Party. When reporting on Lord Sacks’ criticism of Mr Corbyn, we have featured the response of the Labour Party and other supporters of Mr Corbyn to this.
We appreciate there are diverging views within the British Jewish community on this issue. We have never stated that Lord Sacks’ views are representative of all British Jewish people, but have reflected the prominent position he holds within the community.
Please be assured your complaint has been circulated to senior management, and the producers of Sunday, on our audience feedback report.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to get in touch.
BBC Complaints Team
My original complaint included my suspicion that the BBC did not invite anyone from the Labour Party or Corbyn’s office to contest live what Sacks might have to say – this response is silent on that point, and silence can only be read as assent. Whilst Sacks was given pretty much free rein to air his views directly, all we seem to have had in reply from those he was attacking were ‘reflected’ views or a read-out response. As regards Sacks’ ‘prominence’ one only has to read, e.g. analysis on the Jewish Voices for Labour website that there are a multitude of thoughtful Jewish voices which are being ignored by bodies like the BBC. The BBC say they have ‘never stated that Lord Sacks’ views are representative of all British Jewish people’ – but they’ve never stated the opposite either – it’s just implied that he does.
Interesting too that Sacks was happy to agree to do this interview on a Sunday, when Corbyn had an article printed in the Guardian on a Friday and was heavily criticised for being oblivious to Jewish religious observance. I have to say I have no idea what Jeremy does on the Christian Sabbath. I bet Sacks doesn’t either although I guess we could both take a stab at it. But that’s not the point.