The BBC’s Director of Television, Danny Cohen, has called for Israel to be protected from cultural boycotts.
Cohen joined senior figures from the Parliamentary lobby groups, Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel, in signing a letter published in the Guardian in October which claims that Israel is being singled out as a boycott target.
Cohen is a member of the BBC’s executive board and one of the most senior figures in the organisation. His role within the BBC demands neutrality and yet he has publicly made known his support for Israel.
He has faced no public censure from the BBC Trust – the governing body of the BBC – for doing so.
Will you take action?
Write now to the BBC Trust and demand to know if the Trust will be taking action against Cohen for breaching BBC rules on impartiality.
Cohen has huge influence within the BBC. He oversees the BBC’s four main channels, BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, and BBC Four in addition to BBC iPlayer, and online content for BBC Television. He also oversees the Drama, Entertainment, Knowledge and Comedy genres and BBC Films. Further responsibilities include the BBC Television archive and BBC Productions, Europe’s largest television production group.
His fellow signatories to the Guardian letter include Eric Pickles MP, Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, and Michael Dugher MP, Vice Chair of Labour Friends of Israel.
Of 12 other MPs who have signed the letter, seven are Parliamentary Officers of Conservative Friends of Israel and five are either members of the lobby group or have been on one of its delegations to Israel. There are no pro-Palestinian MPs among the signatories.
The letter states: “Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory” and goes on to call for “cultural engagement” in place of boycotts.
Write to the BBC Trust:
Rona Fairhead, Chair, BBC Trust, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, W1A 1AA
Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “It is highly disturbing to see Danny Cohen, who has huge influence within the BBC and is a member of its executive board, publicly speaking out against a cultural boycott of Israel.
“This is a highly politicised letter, dealing with controversial subjects, and the decision of the BBC’s Director of Television to get involved calls not just his impartiality into account, but also his judgement.”
Sarah added: “The Royal Charter, which is the constitutional basis of the BBC, demands that the organisation must be impartial in its reporting, and impartiality must also be a key requirement of its staff. The fact that Danny Cohen has signed this letter, in the company of openly pro-Israel figures, without subsequent censure from the BBC, reveals that this does not appear to be the case.”
Cohen recently announced that he would be leaving the BBC, but is currently still in post.
For more information: Director of BBC Television signs the Guardian’s pro-Israel letter
Write to the Trust now
Ask what action will be taken against Danny Cohen, and what steps the Trust is taking to ensure that the future Director of Television will not display such blatant pro-Israel bias.
The team at Palestine Solidarity Campaign