The Culture Secretary has said that the BBC “made an error” by not referring to Hamas as terrorists in its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.

Questioned by MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Lucy Frazer would not be drawn to condemn Israel over allegations journalists are being locked out of Gaza.

She told MPs it was “wholly incorrect” that she repeatedly brought up the BBC’s coverage of Gaza at a meeting with the corporation.

She said: “We discussed during that meeting that the BBC did not refer to Hamas as terrorists, it was a matter that I had called the BBC out on publicly.”

Ms Frazer also said: “I think the BBC made an error… which I have been very public about, in refusing to recognise the term ‘terrorists’.”

She also said that she “put forward a number of points” and had told the “BBC she might raise it at the meeting”.

The BBC’s current policy is that Hamas is described as a proscribed terrorist organisation.

During a robust exchange with John Nicolson MP, she was accused of taking five minutes to not express a view on the treatment of journalists by Israel.

Cabinet meeting
Lucy Frazer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Nicolson, SNP member for Ochil and South Perthshire, said: “I can’t find you on the record anywhere condemning Israel for locking journalists out of Gaza.”

Ms Frazer defended her record saying that she has done “a number speeches” about journalists reporting in the world and on the deaths of reporters in Gaza.

Mr Nicolson asked if she shared his “shock” about the situation, and Ms Frazer said she was “very keen” to go to Israel.

He added: “It’s not a question of you having to be on the ground. In Israel, you don’t have to go to Israel to have a belief in the principle of independent journalism, you can’t visit every country in the world to do an on the ground report.”

Ms Frazer said she wanted to “look at evidence”, and Mr Nicolson fired back, saying that if “journalists are locked out of Gaza, you can’t look at the evidence, by definition”.

“I will stand-up for those who are unable to do that,” she replied.

“I would like to, if you’re putting something to me. It’s my job to assess the evidence. That is not a matter on which I have assessed the evidence. But I would be very interested to do so.”

Mr Nicolson continued: “The committee will note that you’ve been given more than five minutes to express a view on whether Israel should lock journalists out of Gaza and you’re choosing not to answer that question,” to which Ms Frazer responded: “If that is the case, it is wrong. But I would like to look at the evidence.”

The Culture Secretary also backed Ofcom after it warned GB News that it faces fines or a revoking of its licence over recent breaches.

Ms Frazer was asked about a recent finding by the broadcasting regulator, which found that the People’s Forum: The Prime Minister broke impartiality rules.

The watchdog said it was starting the “process for consideration of a statutory sanction against GB News” following a “serious and repeated breach” of the rules and the hour-long programme where Rishi Sunak took questions from the audience.

Ms Frazer said: “I think that Ofcom is doing its job in terms of making sure that the Broadcasting Code is complied with.”

When asked if the media regulator had been “tolerant” of GB News, Ms Frazer appeared to defend Ofcom saying that it has “found various breaches” of the channel.

“I would say Ofcom is doing its job,” she added.

On the subject of BBC impartiality, Ms Frazer said the corporation “has more work to do.”

She said: “What I’m saying isn’t controversial, the BBC needs to be impartial and I think that it isn’t always impartial and that is something the director-general and the BBC accepts and this is one of their priorities and they say more work needs to be done.”

She added: “I do think the BBC has more work to do on impartiality and I think the BBC absolutely accepts that.”

Asked if the BBC has a “special burden” on impartiality that other branches of the media do not have, she told MPs: “All public service broadcasters have particular duties, the BBC is special because it is governed by the charter and under the charter is has particular responsibilities and it’s governed by the charter because it’s funded by the taxpayer.”