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UPDATE: Ofcom has confirmed it is launching an investigation into the BBC’s reporting under its accuracy rules.

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We have reviewed the BBC’s final response to complaints about this news programme. We consider it raises issues under our due accuracy rules and have launched an investigation.”

The BBC has apologized over its coverage of an antisemitic hate incident in central London following an internal investigation.

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) investigated both a BBC website article and a broadcast report that critics said “victim-blamed” a bus full of Jewish students who were abused on London’s Oxford Street shopping district while celebrating Hanukkah.

The ECU concluded that the broadcast did “not breach editorial standards” but partly upheld the complaints over lack of accuracy and impartiality.

The complaints stem from a Dec. 2021 article on the BBC’s website reporting on an incident when a bus full of Jewish students celebrating Hanukkah was attacked in central London.

As the bus, which was playing Jewish music, stopped on Oxford Street a group of men approached from the sidewalk and began hitting the busy with their fists, throwing objects at it, spitting at it and shouting anti-Israeli slogans including “Free Palestine.”

A video of the attack, filmed inside of the bus, circulated on social media and included the panicked response of the students inside, some of whom can be heard urging the bus driver to move the vehicle in Hebrew.

Following the incident, which is being investigated by the police, the BBC published an article on its website about the attack and included the unverified claim that an anti-Muslim slur could be heard on the video. The article also described the attack as “an alleged anti-Semitic incident.”

An identical claim about the slur was made in a broadcast report on BBC One during its main 6.30pm news bulletin.

A subsequent investigation, commissioned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and carried out by two digital investigative agencies, DigFind and D3 Forensics, concluded that no such slur was uttered. An Israeli linguistic professor who also analyzed the video said the reporter had mis-heard the Hebrew phrase “tikrah lemishu, ze dachuf”, meaning “call someone, it’s urgent.”

However, despite the digital investigation’s findings, the BBC refused to retract or apologize over the article. In a piece published in British newspaper The Jewish Chronicle, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, urged the broadcaster to apologize, writing: “That misreporting is a colossal error on the part of the BBC. It has added insult to injury in accusing victims of antisemitism of being guilty of bigotry themselves.”

“But what takes this from an egregious failure to something far more sinister is the BBC’s behaviour when confronted with its mistake. Instead of admitting it was wrong, it has doubled and tripled down on insisting that a Hebrew cry for help must be an anti-Muslim slur.”

Complaints over the report were then referred to the BBC’s internal Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) which has now concluded the reference to the slur was included in “good faith” after undergoing an extensive editorial process, including being “assessed by at least seven members of BBC London news staff and a senior editor in network news.”

The report does not say whether any of the staff or editors were Hebrew-speakers.

However, the report goes on to say that a previous report into the incident commissioned by the BBC and carried out by a firm of translators together with the Board of Deputies’ investigation, “should have led the BBC to recognise at an earlier stage that there was genuine doubt about the accuracy of what it had reported.”

“It follows that the online article as it stands must now be regarded as no longer meeting the BBC’s standards of due accuracy and, to the extent that the anti-Muslim slur claim has itself become controversial, it also lacks due impartiality in failing to reflect alternative views. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the television item, though that could not have been updated as an online item can.”

Following the EBU’s findings, the BBC has issued an apology. A spokesman for the broadcaster stated:

“We take complaints about our coverage seriously and today, following an expedited process, we have published the findings of the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) in relation to a complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and others, over the reporting of an alleged anti-Semitic attack in Oxford Street in November last year.”

“The ECU – which is editorially independent of BBC News – has acknowledged that there was an ‘overriding focus’ on those who directed abuse at the passengers on the bus and there was no evidence to support any claims of victim-blaming in our reporting.”

“Further, the ECU also ruled that the inclusion in our reports of the existence of an alleged slur, said to have come from within the bus, was included in good faith, following a great deal of editorial scrutiny.

“However, the ECU has also found that more could have been done, subsequent to the original report, to acknowledge the differing views and opinions in relation to what was said; this should have been reflected in our reporting; and the online article amended. We accept this and apologise for not doing more to highlight that these details were contested – we should have reflected this and acted sooner.”

“Following the ECU’s ruling, we have amended the story posted on the BBC News website on Dec. 2 2021 and issued a clarification in relation to a news report aired on BBC London on the same day.”