BBC chief grilled by Conservative MPs over Israel-Gaza coverage

Conservative MPs have been questioning the BBC’s director general over its coverage of the conflict in the Middle East.

attended a special meeting of Tory MPs, which the BBC said had been arranged in July as part of regular discussions with politicians.

The private meeting is understood to have focused on the BBC’s coverage of the Israel-Gaza war and migration.

A BBC spokesman said Mr Davie stressed “why the institution matters” to MPs.

One MP present told the BBC: “There’s one thing today that’s united the whole of the backbenches and that’s a disagreement with the DG about Hamas being a terrorist organisation and the ability to say so.”

Another described it as “a forthright exchange of views”.

Many Tory MPs and Israeli President Isaac Herzog have been angered by the corporation not describing Hamas as “terrorists”.

Mr Davie said the word was far from banned but the corporation took care to say who was describing someone as a terrorist. BBC reports regularly refer to Hamas as being a proscribed terrorist organisation by the UK government.

A spokesman added later: “We are impartial… it’s not about being neutral, it’s about being able to report in the UK, in Gaza, in the Middle East, whereas if the BBC is seen to be an arm of the UK government, that makes our journalism very difficult and it impacts the way it’s perceived and trusted.”

Reports from inside the 1922 Committee, which represents backbench Tory MPs in the House of Commons, said that Tory Natalie Elphicke was among MPs to question Mr Davie on the BBC’s coverage of small boat crossings.

The BBC is launching assessments of its migration output and its editorial guidelines.

“Every four to five years, as a matter of course we look at our editorial guidelines. That’s next due to happen next year,” a BBC spokesperson said.

The questions led to desk-banging, traditional sign of appreciation at the meeting and cheers of “more”.

A BBC spokesman said Mr Davie had attended the meeting because he had been asked as part of his regular meetings with political parties.

“We have meetings with all sorts of parliamentary groups from different parties as part of our normal engagement. We were invited to come, we were invited back in July and here we are”, the spokesman said.

“We don’t do it thinking that we’re going to get a warm hug,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, BBC News Chief Executive Deborah Turness published a blog on the broadcaster’s coverage of the Israel-Gaza war.

In it, she set out how BBC reporters are moving away from using the word “militant” as “a default description of Hamas or Hezbollah fighters”.

“But we don’t ban words, and there may be times now or in the future when it’s appropriate to use the term,” Ms Turness said.

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