BBC ‘should consider further training for staff over Israel-Hamas coverage’

Penny Mordaunt said the BBC must strive to provide the British public with ‘impartial, good advice’ on the conflict
Penny Mordaunt said the BBC must strive to provide the British public with ‘impartial, good advice’ on the conflict - Paul Grover for the Telegraph

The BBC should consider further training for staff on how to cover the Israel-Hamas conflict, Penny Mordaunt has suggested.

The Leader of the Commons made the comments after a Conservative colleague claimed “anti-Israel bile and bias is there for all to see” at the BBC.

Speaking at business questions on Thursday, Mrs Mordaunt said: “While again they are operationally independent, I hope they will reflect on what has happened over the last few weeks and look at what they can do, whether it is training and what is happening with their editorial teams…to ensure the British public can rely on the fact that they are getting impartial, good advice.”

Her comments to Sir Michael Ellis, a former attorney general, come amid criticism of the corporation after The Telegraph revealed that presenters on a BBC radio station have been accused of posting “toxic” and “anti-Israel” content on social media.

She said: “I think that we all want our national broadcaster to be the best in the world and we want its editorial standards, its policies and those who work for it to be the best in the world.”

She added that the British people should be getting coverage of the war that “is presented with the highest journalistic standards”, adding: “The BBC is usually very good at these sorts of things but I think there are questions that I certainly, as a licence fee-payer, would want to be answered in this respect.”

Sir Michael, the MP for Northampton North, had earlier asked: “Can we have a debate about impartiality at the BBC?

“Surely we cannot have a situation, as described in today’s Telegraph, where BBC presenters use their on-air status to espouse fake news about Israel and make scurrilous suggestions about the Prime Minister’s motivations.

“Today The Telegraph has published a well-researched piece of journalism, having trawled through social media of some BBC journalists and personnel, and the anti-Israel bile and bias is there for all to see. What are we going to do about the BBC?”

It follows evidence that The Telegraph has seen that those working on the BBC’s Asian Network have shared disputed claims to thousands of followers.

One presenter shared an image with the slogan “From the river to the sea”, which has previously been described by Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, as a “staple of anti-Semitic discourse”.

The Telegraph analysed a cache of screenshots, shared by a concerned listener and collated since the Oct 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, that show Asian Network presenters accusing Israel of committing genocide, sharing conspiracy theory videos and encouraging followers to attend pro-Palestinian marches.

Danny Cohen, previously the Director of BBC Television from 2013 to 2015, has claimed the “scale of the BBC’s failings on the Israel-Hamas war now constitutes a genuine crisis for our national broadcaster”.

It comes as the corporation faces mounting pressure about its reporting of the conflict and amid questions on the use of social media by BBC employees.

Under BBC guidelines, staff in “senior leader” positions, as well as those in news, current affairs and factual journalism, have to abide by its strictest rules on impartiality.