A group of nearly 100 Jewish directors, producers, screenwriters, suppliers and contractors across the television and film industry have sent an open letter to the BBC about cricket commentator Qasim Sheikh.

The letter to DG Tim Davie and Chief Content Officer, Charlotte Moore, accuses the BBC of double standards in not dealing with Qasim Sheikh’s social media posts with as much severity as other BBC commentators who have made controversial posts.

The letter is published below


As BBC staff, contractors, suppliers and contributors who are Jewish, from across the television and film industry, we write to you today in disbelief.

Qasim Sheikh was a key part of the Test Match Special team on Tuesday 4th June for the Scotland v England T20 game, despite the fact the BBC knew he has in the past few months on social media posted (and re-posted) rhetoric that is both racist and wholly undermines civility in public discourse. One tweet on “X” likens our Prime Minister alongside other prominent Western leaders including Netanyahu to Hitler, denouncing them collectively as the “Kids Killer Union”.  Significantly, following the brutal massacre of infants, children, men, women and the elderly on October 7th in Israel by Hamas terrorists, another tweet by Mr Sheikh claims that the terrorists were justified in their indiscriminate mass rape and slaughter in order “to defend themselves”.

By stark contrast, we wish to point out a monumental double-standard in relation to the BBC’s actions and the Test Match Special’s own commentary box. When in 2021 Michael Vaughan was accused of racist comments (made in 2009, which he categorically denied) he was promptly dropped from the BBC commentary team. A mere accusation was enough for him to be suspended from all cricket commentary with the BBC statement: “While he is involved in a significant story in cricket, for editorial reasons we do not believe that it would be appropriate for Michael Vaughan to have a role in our Ashes team or wider coverage of the sport at the moment..” The BBC also did not hesitate to drop the radio show Vaughan co-presented with Phil Tufnell. Indeed, Vaughan was axed from the BBC’s sporting commentary for the best part of two years until the ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Committee cleared his name.

It is in this same vein we write to you today: What of the Jewish members of staff deeply affected by the indisputable rise in anti-Jewish racism since October 7th? What trust can any of our community have in the BBC when these double standards are so explicitly demonstrated? Yet again, the BBC appears entirely deaf to news of its contributors’ racism against Jews. Invoking images of Hitler (specifically) to portray Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, and its allies is Holocaust inversion and antisemitic by every definition. Qasim Sheikh’s justification and legitimization of the mass murder of (principally) Jews in Israel is ostensibly not a sufficiently “significant story in cricket” to merit any repercussions. So please explain to us why Qasim Sheikh was in the box today? If your answer is that the BBC’s social media guidelines do permit his posts they are clearly unfit for purpose. If it is that his tweets predate his hiring, why did you hire him?

If your due diligence was insufficient and you only discovered his posts recently, are you arguing his weak apology ‘for any offence caused’ was sufficient for a first offence? Is applauding October 7th and comparing Rishi Sunak and other world leaders to Hitler and calling them child killers merely a grotesque libel rather than grounds for cancelling his BBC booking?

The authors of the BBC Sport BAME Advisory Group and 5 Live Diversity Group were despondent at the perceived “lack of empathy [and] leadership” from the BBC in 2021 in relation to the Michael Vaughn incident. We too are despairing, despairing at the total absence of courage, morality and understanding that BBC leadership repeatedly demonstrate in relation to Jews time and again. We can now add the case of Qasim Sheikh to the ever growing canon that the BBC must answer for.

Jon Creamer

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