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February 5, 2024updated 06 Feb 2024 10:32am

Director Ken Loach Ofcom complaint rejected after being ‘maligned’ by Newsnight

Broadcast regulator found no need for BBC to get response from director before live programme aired.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Filmmaker Ken Loach complained he was treated unfairly by Newsnight for reporting he had been expelled from the Labour Party for supporting members accused of anti-Semitism.

Ofcom did not uphold his complaint, deciding that the BBC “took reasonable care to satisfy itself that material facts were not presented, disregarded or omitted in the programme in a way that resulted in unfairness to Mr Loach”.

It also found that the BBC was not required “given the particular circumstances of this case” to give Loach an opportunity to respond before the programme, which was live.

Loach complained about the 5 June 2023 edition of Newsnight, which included a segment about Jamie Driscoll, the Labour mayor for the North of Tyne Combined Authority, who claimed he had been banned from standing for election for the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority because he had appeared on a film panel alongside the I, Daniel Blake and Kes director.

Loach said the complaint was an important matter for “anyone whose good name is maligned and who is not present to defend him or herself”.

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Introducing the segment, presenter Victoria Derbyshire said: “One senior Labour MP said Jamie Driscoll was barred after appearing on a panel with filmmaker Ken Loach. He [Mr Loach] was expelled from the party for supporting members accused of anti-Semitism.”

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Loach said this was incorrect because he was in fact expelled from Labour as a result of his alleged support of a different political organisation, adding that “anti-Semitism was not mentioned in my expulsion” and he has “not supported anyone whose words or actions are demonstrably anti-Semitic or racist”.

Derbyshire did note at the end of the segment: “And just to say, Ken Loach is not accused of antisemitism. He was expelled in 2021 during the anti-Semitism inquiries.”

But Loach argued the second part of this caveat would have linked his expulsion with anti-Semitism “in the minds of the ordinary viewer”.

Ofcom: Newsnight ‘sufficiently clear’ Ken Loach not accused of anti-Semitism

Ofcom examined Loach’s complaint under the section of the Broadcasting Code which covers accuracy and right of reply.

Ofcom decided that although the start of the segment may have made it sound to viewers as though Loach was expelled for supporting groups accused of anti-Semitism, the programme as a whole made it “sufficiently clear” to viewers that he had not been accused of anti-Semitism and he had been expelled for complaining about the Labour process.

The watchdog said viewers “were provided with adequate information to form their own views as to Mr Loach’s expulsion from the Labour Party”.

Loach also complained about the use of a quote from Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, which was read out by Derbyshire and referred to him as “someone with these disgraceful views and track record”.

Loach said this “deeply offensive, vague and unspecific” comment was left unchallenged by the presenter who used it as the basis for a question. He added that he should have been given an opportunity to respond before the broadcast since Katz’s quote was obtained beforehand.

Loach also objected to a comment from studio guest Paul Richards, described as a Labour commentator and former special advisor, who said that if he had been on a panel with the filmmaker he “wouldn’t have spoken to him about movies, I would have challenged him on the odious and repulsive things he has said over this last 25 years”.

Loach said Derbyshire “took as given that my views were indeed ‘odious and repulsive’” and that her failure to challenge this comment suggested to viewers they had a sound basis and were generally accepted.

Ofcom said it was sufficiently clear that the comments from Katz and Richards were their own opinions and that Derbyshire acknowledged Loach was not there to give his own point of view.

Ultimately, it said, the focus of the segment was about Driscoll and not Loach.

[Read more: 34 jobs cut on Newsnight as it becomes interview and discussion show]

Standards complaints about BBC programming must go to the broadcaster first before they can be considered by Ofcom. However fairness and privacy complaints, like this one from Loach, follow a separate procedure and can go straight to Ofcom – although the regulator does still encourage people to follow the BBC’s complaints procedures first.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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