The BBC has yet to receive an official complaint over its recent Panorama investigation into the Labour party’s anti-Semitism scandal, even though Jeremy Corbyn’s office briefed the media about threats to retaliate against the public broadcaster.
Last week, the Panorama investigation “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” featured whistleblowers who claimed that senior officials close to Corbyn interfered when the party was trying to deal with anti-Semitism allegations made against members.
Before the programme even aired, Labour took the unusual step of lodging an official complaint to the BBC — without having seen what the investigation uncovered — demanding that it not go to air. The broadcaster dismissed the complaint.
Then, immediately after the programme aired last Wednesday (July 10), Labour released a statement to journalists which, among other things, said the party would “be pursuing complaints [against the BBC] at every level”.
In the days after the episode, Labour stepped up its attacks on the BBC, with a Labour spokesperson briefing the media that the party intended to make a “full complaint” about what it claimed were “invented quotes and edited emails” and the “heavily slanted and inaccurate” reporting.
"Labour will call for the programme to be removed from BBC iPlayer until basic facts are corrected, full and unedited quotes are used, and an apology is issued,” the spokesperson said.
During a briefing for political journalists on Wednesday, Labour’s spokesperson was also asked whether the Panorama programme would lead to resignations within the party. According to the Daily Mirror, the spokesperson replied that it should actually lead to resignations within the BBC.
But a well-placed BBC source has told BuzzFeed News that despite all the threats, the broadcaster has not received an official complaint, more than a week after the programme aired.
“We haven’t received any official complaint from the Labour party post-broadcast, including any official request to remove from iPlayer," the source said. “We have read all about it in the papers.”
Asked on Thursday about the party’s plans, a Labour spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "We’ll release more information on this in the coming days."
It comes as the reporter behind the Panorama programme spoke out against attacks on the investigation. In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, John Ware said Labour’s attacks on the programme before it aired were “breathtaking” and reflected “Stalinist-level paranoia”.
“I expected them to be very cross and criticise the programme, but they went beyond that,” Ware told the Jewish Chronicle. “The degree of paranoia and personal invective that has become part of their briefing on this is staggering.”
On the morning before the investigation aired, Corbyn’s campaigning group Momentum tweeted out a 40-second video which attacked what it claimed was Ware’s recent journalistic track record, concluding by asking its followers, “Does this seem like impartial journalism?”
“It is like dealing with a cult,” Ware told the Jewish Chronicle. “They ascribe the darkest of motives to both us and the whistleblowers, and that is just really stupid.”
The row comes less than a year after Labour aborted an effort to complain about newspaper coverage of Corbyn to the industry regulator. The party had originally made an accuracy complaint to press regulator IPSO over several outlets’ coverage of Corbyn’s attendance at a 2014 wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia. It ultimately dropped the complaint.