BBC disagrees in 'strongest terms' with 'Panorama' Euro 2012 criticism
Published Jun 7 2012, 16:51 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
The BBC has defended a recent Panorama
investigation into racism and anti-Semitism at Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine, and said that it disagrees in the "strongest terms" with the criticism from one of the programme contributors
The documentary, titled Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate
, included footage of Polish fans giving Nazi-style salutes, black players being heckled with monkey chants and a group of Asian men being viciously beaten at a club game in Ukraine.
But Jonathan Ornstein, the executive director of the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow, who was interviewed for the programme, hit out at the BBC's portrayal of the perceived problems in both countries.
In a letter sent to the Economist on June 6
, Ornstein said that he was "furious" at the way Panorama
had "used [him] and others to manipulate the serious subject of anti-Semitism for its own sensationalist agenda".
He added: "The BBC knowingly cheated its own audience - the British people - by concocting a false horror story about Poland. In doing so, the BBC has spread fear, ignorance, prejudice and hatred.
"I would urge the BBC to become more aware of its own negative stereotyping of Poles, before it goes pointing the finger of judgement."
However, the BBC hit back today in a statement to the magazine
, saying that it denies in the "strongest terms" that the interview with Ornstein was "misrepresented".
The corporation said that the programme's commentary made it clear that Ornstein believed "most Poles happily accept other faiths, but that football hooligans are yet to catch up with wider Polish society".
Certain comments from the BBC's hour-long interview with Ornstein were not included in the programme, including: "I mean I think we see Poland going in a very good direction in terms of Jewish relations and maybe the football stadiums and the football fans aren't going in that direction and that's something we need to work on as a country."
The BBC said that this quote "goes precisely to the heart of what the programme was about", and makes his later criticisms appear "somewhat baffling".
"It becomes even more baffling in the context of UEFA's comment to the programme, that by awarding the tournament to Poland and Ukraine it would shine a light on such societal issues of racism and anti-Semitism with a view to improvement," said the BBC.
"One wonders how UEFA's stated aim can be achieved in the light of the continued apparent failure of politicians, police, football officials and others in either Poland or Ukraine to condemn the racism, anti-Semitism and violence recorded by the Panorama
team at recent matches in both countries."
The BBC also said it "takes issue" with Ornstein's claims that he told the BBC interviewer to speak to two Israeli footballers at Polish club Wisla Kraków, but was apparently told that "this line of inquiry 'didn't fit their story'".
In its statement, the BBC responded: "The programme's producer and reporter deny refusing the offer to interview two Israeli footballers playing in Poland because it did not fit the story.
"Neither have any recollection of such a conversation with Mr Ornstein. Had such an offer been made, both say they would not have responded in the way Mr Ornstein alleges - in fact they would have jumped at the chance of interviewing them."
In a rather stinging conclusion, the BBC added: "Given that Mr Ornstein acknowledges in his statement 'that problems do exist', it could be argued that he has now handed those racist and anti-Semitic followers of football in Poland a big excuse not to mend their ways, to find 'the cure' as he put it, when he spoke to the Panorama
This is not the first time that Panorama
has caused controversy in international football, as the programme faced criticism in 2010 after airing an exposé of alleged corruption within FIFA
before voting on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup nations.