BBC admits breaching own impartiality rules over Israeli minister interview

A BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview with Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon breached rules on impartiality, according to a provisional BBC ruling.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign were among those who complained to the BBC about presenter Sarah Montague’s failure to effectively challenge Ya’alon’s statements on Palestine during an interview about the Israeli election in March.

The Guardian reports that in a letter to complainants, BBC head of editorial complaints, Fraser Steel, wrote: “Mr Ya’alon was allowed to make several controversial statements on those matters without any meaningful challenge and the programme makers have accepted that the interviewer ought to have interrupted him and questioned him on his assertions.”

Fraser also said that while there were mitigating factors, including the very brief window available to record the interview and the fact it was intended to focus on the Likud party’s election victory, “the result was that the output fell below the BBC’s standards off impartiality”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has reached a provisional finding that the complaints should be upheld and will be taking comments from the complainants into account before finalising the outcome.”

Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Sarah Colborne said: “Today presenters are known for their ferocious questioning of government ministers, their constant interruptions, their sharp challenges and refusal to brook any nonsense. However, Sarah Montague afforded Moshe Ya’alon the unprecedented privilege of absolute silence to set out the Israeli stall and meekly accepted everything he said.

“It is inexplicable why she put aside Today’s normal standards of interviewing when faced with an Israeli government minister, and we hope the editorial complaints unit’s finding – that her interview breached the BBC’s impartiality guidelines – will ensure that she is never so accommodating to an Israeli spokesperson again.”

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