For the JC June 2020
Five public figures, including the leading Jewish filmmaker Mike Leigh, and controversial director Ken Loach, have written to the chair and chief executive of Bafta, urging them to reconsider the nomination for an award of the BBC Panorama programme on Labour antisemitism.
Their move comes at the same time as attacks on the programme by members of the British awards charity on a private Facebook group — using information from the far-left, pro-Corbyn fringe group Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) to support their case.
Journalist John Ware’s documentary, ‘Is Labour Antisemitic?’, is on a shortlist of four in this year’s current affairs category of the prestigious TV awards, with the final results due to be announced on July 31.
In a letter to Krishnendu Majumbar and Amanda Berrie, respectively the chair and chief executive of Bafta, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman, former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn, and Professor Natalie Fenton, chair of the Media Reform Coalition, denounce the Panorama programme and say it “should never have passed the BBC’s editorial compliance regime” in the first place.
The writers claim that the programme “pursued a highly skewed, politicised and distorted account” and say that those giving witness in the film were actively working “to wreck Labour’s election chances and to remove Corbyn as leader”. They urge Bafta to reconsider the Panorama nomination.
In parallel, in a private Facebook forum for Bafta members, director Tony Knox, who has worked on the South Bank Show, says a former Jewish girlfriend was “astonished” at the Panorama nomination and had asked him to publish JVL’s “rebuttal of the arguments in the film”, originally posted by the fringe group after the programme’s transmission in July last year.
Bill McCoid, a producer on films including Car Park: The Movie, then comments: “I agree with you and Ken Loach, Bafta has demeaned itself. The programme was clearly a stitch-up. Speaking to the Canary, filmmaker Ken Loach called it a ‘disgrace’. And Jewish academic Justin Schlosberg stressed that by essentially rewarding ‘a collapse in journalistic standards at the BBC,’ Bafta has ‘demeaned’ itself”.
Mr McCoid later describes the Panorama programme as “a hatchet job” and “effective propaganda”, and claims that the people who took part in it “were spending a lot of their time trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”.
When admonished by other members of the group for using the forum for “overtly political purposes”, against Bafta members’ guidelines, Mr Knox defends himself. He says he is merely “inviting fellow-members preparing to vote to listen to a variety of different points of view.”
A Bafta spokesperson said: “Our voting processes are fair and robust, with voting for the winners of the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards already complete and under verification.”