BBC headquarters in London, UK [File photo]
A former BBC executive who worked in Downing Street as director of communications under former Prime Minister Theresa May has come to the rescue of the ailing Jewish Chronicle. The community newspaper was put into liquidation earlier this month because of the “dire state of the media industry and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” explained long-term owner the Kessler Foundation, which had originally tried to merge it with the Jewish News.
The consortium is headed by Sir Robbie Gibb and includes a number of pro-Israel figures within the British media and political establishment. Three named by the Guardian are writer and former chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross; ex-Labour MP John Woodcock; and journalist John Ware. The latter made a BBC “Panorama” programme recently into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Further details of the financial backers of the consortium, which are said to be unknown to many within the newspaper, are expected in the coming days. According to the Guardian, ownership of the Jewish Chronicle will be placed into a trust in order to protect its future.
Outgoing Jewish Chronicle boss Alan Jacobs is reported to have said that the new owners had pledged to invest millions of pounds in the paper. Private donors who saved the JC when it was under threat last year will be repaid.
Under its new owners the JC, which was described by Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland as the “beating heart” of the Jewish community, is expected to follow a similar editorial line, even though it has faced a number of controversial libel lawsuits.
Anti-Palestinian commentator Melanie Phillips was allowed to express views in the JC which many believe were racist and Islamophobic. Dismissing the notion that Islamophobia even exists, Phillips said that the “the concept of ‘Islamophobia’” is anti-Semitic and “profoundly anti-Jew”.
In February, the JC was forced to apologise to a Labour activist over alleged “anti-Semitism”. The Electronic Intifada reported that the newspaper had admitted on its website that it had published “allegations about Mrs Audrey White” which were “untrue”. A libel settlement was reached with White.
Moreover, last year the JC was forced to issue an apology to the trustees of Interpal, a British registered charity which provides humanitarian relief and development aid to Palestinians in need. It also agreed to pay damages to the charity’s trustees.
The cost of paying damages in a number of legal cases is said to have pushed the JC towards financial ruin. In February, the weekly title announced that it would be merging with the Jewish News “to secure the financial future of both newspapers.” According to the Electronic Intifada, the group that owns the Jewish Chronicle’s newspaper and website operates at a loss of more than $2 million per annum, while the Jewish News has liabilities of more than $1.9 million.