Letters and complaints to the BBC about the Panorama programme

Following on the Panorama programme, we reproduce here a small selection of complaints made to the BBC or letters to the press about it.

Compaints to the BBC should be made to their complaints unit

Jenny Manson to the Today programme

Subject: A complaint about coverage of the Panorama programme today

11 July 2019 at 09:26:13 BST

Dear Today

I rang twice to ask to be interviewed on Today Programme today about the Panorama programme.  I also sent Today our statement – see below.

Instead in his interview Sam Matthews appeared to say that accusing Jewish JVL members of antisemitism is acceptable and appropriate (seemingly because broadly we support the leadership). This is a form of antisemitism (we are the wrong sort of Jews it seems).

And to represent the other view you had Rachel Shabi who approved of a Panorama programme which had no evidence, no other voices and clearly was building on the resentment of disgruntled ex employees.   She is not a spokesperson for JVL and we have a voice that should have been heard.

The other interviewed were Lord Levy and Tom Watson who repeated yet again their un-evidenced acccusation about the level of antisemitism in the Party and the responsibility of the Leader’s office when all the actual evidence suggests this is not a LABOUR PARTY problem.   There is antisemitism in the Party but it is less than in the conservative party and less than in the Corbyn days.

The bias of the Panorama programme was therefore  echoed  and amplified on Today.

Please have one of us on tomorrow.

Best wishes,
Jenny Manson  Co chair Jewish Voice for Labour


Follow-up email:

To add to this JVL has been asked onto several BBC programmes today including the Jeremy Vine show, Naomi, and I will be on Newsnight.


15th July

Dear Today

This was more than an ‘interest in speaking to’ you  about Panorama;  it was a complaint that we were not given a hearing last Thursday despite one interviewee suggesting that Jews, if they are members of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), can properly be accused of antisemitism.

Since Panorama was aired, much of its content has proved to be biased or inaccurate.   Is Today aware for example that all or most of the Jewish members of the Labour Party that were interviewed but whose names were withheld were officers of the Jewish Labour Movement?

Please pass on to those senior editors that apart from,  in my memory two interviews with JVL, our voice has not been heard despite our representing a large number of Jewish members of the Labour Party.  Here is a link to our website.  Incidentally the interview I had with John Humphreys was very fair and John told me that he had no idea JVL existed and this was after many, many calls and emails to Today.

Best wishes,
Jenny Manson co chair of JVL


From: Today Complaints <[email protected]>
Sent: 15 July 2019 08:30
To: ‘Jenny Manson’
Subject: RE: A complaint about coverage of the Panorama programme today

Thank you for writing to Today.

We welcomed feedback and have taken note of your interest in speaking to us about the subject. We have passed your email onto senior editors on the programme, so they have your contact details should they wish tpo be in touch.

Kind regards


Panorama painted an unrecognisable picture of Labour

Source: Julia Bard, letter in the Islington Tribune, 12 July 2019

• THE BBC’s Panorama on Wednesday, July 10, painted an unrecognisable picture of the Labour Party that I belong to.

I am Jewish. I am also an anti-racist who has challenged anti-Semitism wherever I have encountered it, left or right, for as long as I can remember.

The repeated assertion that Jews feel unwelcome or unsafe in the party is simply untrue. But this was at one with the programme’s welter of speculation, disembodied, uncontextualised and unattributed quotes and obvious distortions.

Instead of concrete evidence we were offered the same old allegations and claims by disgruntled employees and hatchet people that have been made for the last four years.

What interested me most was that they repeatedly returned to what they clearly see as the real problem. The reason this all started up from the moment Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader, they say, is because of the “influx of new members”.

It seems from the Panorama programme that what these ex-employees, who presided over the mass summary suspen­sions of Corbyn supporters during his campaigns for the leadership, are really frightened of is democracy and the potential he and all those enthusiastic new members have brought for real change – for the many, not the few.

Member of Islington North CLP

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi on Facebook

A shocking misrepresentation of the situation in the Labour Party, of which I am a Jewish member, by a reporter, John Ware, with a record of right wing, racist work, using sources dedicated to destroying the reputation of Jeremy Corbyn and those close to him. Not an investigation but a confection of biased assertions from party staff who had implemented a wave of malicious allegations against pro-Corbyn members. They left when a new general secretary was put in place to clear up the mess they had created. Unnamed Jewish party members described a party full of hate. The first to appear was Ella Rose, a former Israeli Embassy staffer well known for prosecuting a campaign against Corbyn-supporting Jews. You can see her in Al Jazeera’s documentary The Lobby. Where we the interviews with Jewish members with a different view?  Where were the serious academics, experts on antisemitism who have written extensively about the abuse and misuse of antisemitism charges, who could have offered a thoughtful counterpoint to the programme’s one-sided narrative? Why were viewers not told about the thousands of malicious accusations submitted on an industrial scale by organisations set up to defend Israel and harass pro-Palestinians on the left – such as the so-called Campaign against Antisemitism and Labour against Antisemitism?  Where were the interviews with Jews and others whose reputations were destroyed after unproven allegations against them were leaked to hostile media by the very same staff presented by Panorama as heroic whistleblowers? Where were the members of Riverside Constituency party, Jews and others, attacked as bullies and antisemites, when they have in fact themselves been systematically bullied? Why were viewers not told that Jackie Walker is a Jew and that the charges against her, misrepresented in the programme, had been found unproven? A nasty, dishonest programme which needs to be counterbalanced. Look at witchhuntfilm.org for a serious investigation.

and listen to Naomi W-I’s encounter with Lord Falconer on the Jeremy Vine show here.

Leah Levane

This programme did not set out to answer whether or not Labour was antisemitic but to present selective material, much of which was distorted, carefully edited (eg email from Seamus Milne). Disgruntled ex staffers were allowed, to vent. I feel very sad if any experienced poor mental health but what about staffers who were and still are happy. And, yet again Jackie Walker was introduced and the only specific allegation was her supposed claim that Jews financed the slave trade. She quickly accepted that she should have said Jews were amongst the financiers, etc. But she was having what she’d thought was a private conversation on her own Facebook page, not writing an academic essay, etc. She was reinstated UNDER Iain McNichol after that. The staffer, who I’ve confirmed never interviewed her, then said she repeated tropes and showed no remorse… with no evidence. In fact the programme was largely evidence free but the Labour Party rebuttals were presented without the weightiness of the allegations. Eg I understand that Diane Abbot was interviewed but did not appear. Barely a dissenting voice was allowed. And I’m amazed that the BBC’s flagship documentary programme would accept something made by a “journalist” who has previously been heavily criticised, forcing the BBC to apologise. An apology is the minimum needed. Now can we have a programme on why these allegations that apply to less than half a per cent of the membership have been consistently presented as though the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism, rather than placing this in context and allowing the Party to deal with the cases that, regretfully, do exist. And the dismissal of the Chakrabarti report is possibly libellous.

Jonathan Rosenhead

Complaint Summary: Utterly one sided and dishonest presentation

Full Complaint: The programme Is Labour Antisemitic? was a one-sided polemic. Muck-raking pretending to be journalism. I am Jewish and in the Labour Party, and have been since 1962. Where was my voice and those of the hundreds almost certainly thousands of Jewish members completely comfortable in the Party, I have never encountered a single instance of antisemitism.

Why was there no exploration of the motivations of the ex-members now disloyally ‘spilling the beans’ about their previous work. Why are they presented as honourable? Why was their implacable opposition to Jeremy Corbyn and the leftward shift in the party not discussed. It is well known within the Party that Iain McNicol as General Secretary did all he could to frustrate and undermine Corbyn. But the programme did not test him on this but served him up softball questions. The BBC had a duty to clarify such factors for its audience. And you failed.

There were factual errors galore. Neither Jackie Walker not Livingstone were expelled for antisemitism. Neither were charged with antisemitism, Livingstone resigned. The one part of Walker’s indictment that was mentioned (the involvement of Jews in the slave trade) was one on which she was explicitly exonerated. Livingstone’s treatment of the collaboration of the Zionist movement and the Nazis over several years, dumped on as historical nonsense, is a well-attested historical fact – happy to provide you with copious references. Etc etc.

Marion Roberts

Complaint to BBC about Panorama

Many balancing facts were not explored in this piece of so-called investigative journalism.

  1. When appointed as General Secretary in April 2018, Jennie Formby told MPs that the complaints procedures she found in place ‘were not fit for purpose’. Many Party members, suspended for spurious reasons completely unrelated to antisemitism, would agree with her. Since then she has reformed the process to mirror that of the major union, Unite, introduced independent legal counsel to judge each serious complaint and doubled the number of staff. The Party voted to increase the size of the NCC at its national Conference, so as to speed up the process of dealing with complaints, this was acted on promptly in 2018-2019.
  2. Prior to Formby’s appointment complaints of antisemitism were not considered separately.
  3. Jewish NEC member Jon Lansman is on record as describing how the disaffected officials who gave testimony on the programme sabotaged the disciplinary process. On resigning they stole and then deleted whole tranches of correspondence so the Party could not effectively deal with it. There was no discussion of this accusation.
  4. The testimony given by rank and file members was not explored in any depth. What exactly happened, when did they complain, who to and why were the officials not asked why those particular complaints not dealt with? There was a distinct lack of actual evidence but an abundance of emotion.
  5. No clear definition of antisemitism was offered – despite this being a subject of major debate within the Party last year.
  6. No balancing voices were heard.
    a) Literally hundreds of Jewish Party members have sent in testimony to the EHRC (which they are not interested in) providing moving accounts of their feelings of comfort and welcome in the Labour Party.
    b) A distinguished, objective, pro-Zionist Jewish scholar, Professor Geoffrey Alderman, has refuted many of the claims made in this programme. See his articles on the Spectator blog. He is not a Party member.
    c) The Jewish Voice for Labour has many excellent articles on its web-site by a variety of Jewish and Israeli scholars and commentators. Why was one of these not interviewed?

Jackie Walker

I was a subject of a ‘Panorama – Is the Labour Party Antisemitic’ interviewee.

The journalist never approached me for comment before broadcasting an interview which was personally damaging, politically offensive and abusive.

In the section which shows Ms Green Withers, who it was strongly suggested had met me (I have never met her) the journalist begins by making an extraordinary statement; that I had ‘a blind spot where antisemitism is concerned’. This was made without evidence, again without allowing comment from me. This is offensive enough but given my experience of actual physical racist abuse, present day threats (including from Ella Rose, the first person interviewed for the programme; note  https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/jewish-labour-movement-director-investigated-violent-threat), it’s extraordinary. Given I am Jewish, have a Jewish partner, am a member of 2 Jewish organisations and have a lifelong record as an anti-racist trainer, activist and writer, that the BBC, as a public broadcaster, allowed a wide audience to hear such unsubstantiated offensive, smearing and abusive claims is more than reprehensible.

Neither was mention made that (after investigation) I was exonerated for comments on the sugar and slave trade. (I believe) Sam Matthews authored an email, now in my possession, following a data access request to the Labour Party, describing the complaint against me as weak and one that should not have led to my suspension.

Withers Green’s comments that I claim Jews are unwelcoming to black people are again unfounded and most offensive. Again, where is the evidence?

This abuse was repeated on BBC news, followed by the press, other media and News 24 and I’m told syndicated  across the world repeatedly.

I ask the BBC to find a way to redress the damage that has been done to my reputation and well being

Marge Berer, letter sent to the Observer

13 July 2019

To the Editor,

It seems your pages are overflowing with stories of verbal assault these days – just today, for example, against the Civil Service in the case of Kim Darroch and once again (and again and again) against the Labour Party. (Jewish figures rail against Labour’s handling of antisemitism charges, Observer, 14 July)

Shami Chakrabarti carried out an investigation of anti-semitism in the Labour Party, and her findings were trashed by prominent members of the Jewish community as not being independent. Yet a more ethical, professional and experienced person for such a task would be hard to find. Now the Equality and Human Rights Commission are conducting an independent review which it will be impossible to reject on grounds of lack of independence. But can the people who want to destroy the Labour Party keep shtum and let the EHRC get on with it? No, they have to go in for the kill now, in case the evidence doesn’t go their way once again.

I have been a member of the Labour Party for decades. I am Jewish, but not a “prominent member of the Jewish community”. But I do believe in truth and justice, not verbal assaults. I have never experienced anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Not the kind that is against the law, I mean. Real anti-semitism. I could easily gather together as many Jewish Labour Party members as the Panorama programme did who have never met any serious anti-semitism in the Party. The illegal kind, that the EHRC are looking for. There are many non-Jewish Labour Party members who, if asked, would also say they have never met any serious anti-semitism in the Party either. We may not get a programme on Panorama, or a front page story in the Guardian. But we could all give evidence of a lack of anti-semitism to the EHRC if they will listen.

I believe the continuing verbal assault on the Labour Party is what is really shameful here. I wish to disassociate myself publicly from these “prominent members of the Jewish community” because they do not speak for me.

Marge Berer


Comments (6)

  • John Miles says:

    For the many not the few, strange to me how the “few” found for the assault on JC and Labour in general on Panorama were all tied into working for or around the Israeli embassy, why did none of the voices above get a chance to counter the narrative, extremely suspicious and again the BBC found wanting

  • S H says:

    The bloody biased media are not interested in hearing from our voices and those that are defending the Labour Party in huge numbers. We are being silenced. They chose to facilitate the liars and smearers. Terrible travesty of justice.

  • Guy Falkenau says:

    I have Jewish ancestry, been a member of the Labour Party since 1958 and been active in five constituency parties and have never encountered anti semitism. What I have encountered is a consist desire to oppose racism of any kind on the part of members who have frequently participated in demonstrations and activities to reinforce public anti racist sentiment.I object to those who have little connection either with Judaism or the Labour Party presuming to pontificate on a subject that they have either no direct experience or knowledge, but are willing to relay the views of others who are similarly ill placed to comment.

  • Phil Thornton says:

    Do you realise that there is nothing left of the BBC but an empty shell I made a complaint today to the BBC by phone the person that answer the phone said his name is Daniel from the BBC and I said are you really from the BBC and after a little bit more interrogation he told me he worked for Capita the government’s favourite outsourcing company
    You will find this happening throughout the BBC which Miele commissions as they call it programs from outside private companies I wouldn’t mind getting the panorama programme was made by such a company after all question Time is produced by a private company in West London not in House BBC.
    Ina sense it could be regarded as a waste of time complaining to the BBC as it doesn’t do anything!
    but perhaps it might be worth while taking this problem to the gates of the BBC to the headquarters with a permanent picket outside giving leaflets to the their own employees explaining what is going on with this campaign of anti-semitism

  • Julian says:

    I think it is utterly pointless to send complaints to the BBC. They have adopted a position. We need a nationwide BBC Strike – stop paying the licence fee, until the BBC actually acts in accordance with its charter. It is not just Corbyn supporters who have been maligned, other organisations, such as the SNP have equally been traduced, and would support this.

  • Ian Gibson says:

    In answer to Julian – no, we need to persist. If a sufficient body of people go through the three levels of BBC dickaboutery, they can then take it to OFCOM. I have to say that I have my doubts whether OFCOM will treat the problem any differently – BUT there would be scope for judicial review if their response was felt to be, shall we say, inadequate. Now it’s not beyond possibility that even judicial proceedings are not beyond the reach of the politics of this whole business (there have certainly been recent judicial decisions which can only be explained in terms of politics and not law.) This whole AS weaponisation (the concept of which, incidentally, does NOT have anything to say about the existence of real anti-Semitism) has been the onl really succesful ‘hit’ against Corbyn’s Labour, and, with the aid of a totally complicit media, was only ever going to increase – but the flipside of that is that, sooner or later, they were going to over-reach themselves. This may be that over-reach – but w have to persist through all the levels of bureaucracy which is (not remotely accidentally) in the way of getting some degree of fair judgement on this.

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