Media: Editors allege anti-Semitism

As if the rebellion by senior broadcasters were not enough of a headache for the BBC, the corporation now faces charges of anti-Semitism. Four employees claim that discrimination was rife in their department for eight years. As Kathy Marks reports, they will argue their case at an industrial tribunal.
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Four Jewish film editors have accused the BBC of dragging its heels in investigating their complaints of anti-Semitism, according to a report in today's Jewish Chronicle.

At a preliminary session before an industrial tribunal in central London earlier this week, the four - Adele Rubin, Steve Sack, Steve Sampson and Leigh Scheindlinger - were given leave to bring a claim of racial discrimination at a full hearing in November.

Their barrister, Andrew Short, told the tribunal that they had complained to managers on numerous occasions between 1985 and 1993 about allegedly being passed over for promotions and regradings, and not receiving their fair share of work.

"It was felt that allegations of anti-Semitism were not taken seriously," he said. The film editors were assured that the problems would be dealt with internally, he added, but the situation did not improve.

Mr Short said that it was not being alleged that the BBC operated a policy against Jewish employees. It was "not a policy, but a practice", he said. "There was a culture of discrimination.

"A practice developed in the 1980s motivated by anti-Semitism. That practice continued in the 1990s, because of the inertia [from the BBC management] that had built up."

The four worked as editors in the BBC's post-production and graphic design department during the period.

Mr Scheindlinger left in 1993 to work as a freelance director, while the other three remain employed by the Corporation.

The preliminary hearing was told that the BBC finally held an internal inquiry in 1995, and also commissioned a separate investigation by Vivienne Brown, a regional officer for the Commission of Racial Equality, who acted in a personal capacity.

The tribunal ruled that Ms Brown's report would form the basis of the employees' case when it was heard in November.

John Bowers, counsel for the BBC, had argued that complaints of racial discrimination dating back to the 1980s were "out of time" - beyond the legal period in which they needed to be lodged. He added that the case would be difficult to substantiate because of the time lapse.

The four editors are being backed by Bectu, the broadcasting trade union. A Bectu spokesman yesterday welcomed the ruling that their claims would be tested before a full tribunal hearing.

The BBC yesterday declined to comment. "We can't say anything about the case until it has been concluded," a spokesman said.