A complaint against BBC presenter Andrew Marr has been upheld after he was found to have broken editorial guidelines over his comments about Israel and Palestine.
On BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, broadcast on 8 April, Marr said: “The Middle East is aflame again, there’s lots of Palestinian kids being killed further south as well by the Israeli forces.”
Jonathan Sacerdoti, a broadcast journalist and UK and Europe Correspondent for I24news, told Press Gazette he was “unaware of any Palestinian kids that had been killed” at the time of broadcast.
He said that after doing his own research he found nothing to support Marr’s claim and so made a complaint to the BBC.
In his complaint Sacerdoti said: “This is completely incorrect and is made up. This was irrelevant to the conversation on Syria… and also completely false,” according to the Mail On Sunday.
Under the BBC’s editorial guidelines the broadcaster requires their coverage to be “well sourced” and “based on sound evidence”.
The BBC complaints department decided that although there had been five deaths of “younger” Palestinians it did not constitute “lots of children” that Marr referred to.
Although the BBC argued the comment was made as part of an informal discussion of the news they acknowledged that it “risked misleading audiences”.
In a letter to Sacerdoti, seen by Press Gazette, Fraser Steel head of executive complaints said: “The BBC’s guidelines require that output is ‘well-sourced’ and ‘based on sound evidence’.
“The programme-makers point to five younger people reported killed between the beginning of the year and the date of the programme.
“Figures from the World Health Organisation show a large number of children injured and requiring hospital treatment in the period 30 March – 6 April.
“A number of Palestinian children and younger people were killed by Israeli forces in the weeks following the broadcast.
Steel added: “However, in the absence of any evidence to support the reference to “lots” of children being killed at the time of transmission it seems to us to have risked misleading audiences on a material point.
“We therefore propose to uphold this part of your complaint, which means that we agree that there was a breach of editorial standards, and this will be acknowledged on the public record in the form of a summary of the matter to be published on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk.”
Sacerdoti also complained that the comment from Marr acquainted deaths of Palestinians with the chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, which was also discussed in the same part of the show.
Steel’s response said: “Mr Marr’s comment (“And the Middle East is aflame again”) clearly moved the conversation on from Syria, and we do not believe the proximity of the stories would have given viewers a misleading impression of what had happened to the Palestinian protesters.”
A note of the finding is to be published on the executive complaints pages of the BBC “in due course”.
A spokesperson for the BBC said: “This complaint was partly upheld and we note the feedback from the Executive Complaints Unit.”
Complaints made to the BBC that are not resolved directly with the corporation may be eligible for appeal with broadcast regulator Ofcom.