On the 17th of March, I sat at my computer awaiting the Twitter posts from the ‘Save Our NHS’ rally in central London (which I’d like to have been at but just couldn’t afford the trip), with the TV on in the background showing what the BBC News 24 channel would have to say on the matter. And while hundreds of posts were piling into Twitter sharing the image of armed police turning up along with the blue caps TSG units to ‘kettle’ the protesters, nothing was mentioned on the BBC news channel. I even flicked back and forth to the SKY News channel to see if they might have something on it, but there was nothing. Not a single mention.
Even after Twitter users started asking why armed riot officers policing a peaceful demonstration wasn’t worthy of coverage by BBC News, nothing has been said. A search of the BBC News’ internet pages finds no mention of it.
The total lack of coverage resulted in a lot of activists to email and phone complaints to the BBC. I decided to use the online complaints form. I don’t have the exact copy of what I wrote, but here’s the rough outline.
I was staggered to see the BBC give absolutely no coverage to a Save Our NHS rally in London today, despite armed police officers and the MET’s Territorial Support Group being deployed to police a peaceful demonstration. Instead, the BBC News producers decided to give over airtime to a demonstration outside the Syrian Embassy, which you kept going over to LIVE even after the demonstration had ended and all protesters had gone home!
You would think that police with automatic weapons kettling, detaining, questioning and searching PEACEFUL protesters would be newsworthy! But it seems to go along with the overall attitude the BBC has had to the Health and Social Care Bill. On the day it was passed in The Commons for the 1st time, the BBC’s main news story ALL DAY was that 20 economists were calling for the 50p top rate of tax to be abolished as it was hurting the UK economy. After it was passed, it was mentioned on the main BBC 6o’clock news like it was nothing.
On the day that UKUncut organized the Block the Bill/Block The Bridge protest, it was given about 120 secs of coverage, while TWO live outside broadcast teams were reporting on the marriage of Paul McCartney ALL DAY LONG!
On the day it was passed in the House of Lords, it got 25seconds on the 6o’clock news, while Bruce Forsyth receiving his Knighthood got over 4mins of coverage!
The way the BBC has handled the reporting of opposition to the Health and Social Care bill has always been minor and after the fact, and it’s high time the BBC started reporting the news instead of managing it for the Government.
Or words to that effect. Here’s what they replied.
Thank you for contacting us.
We understand you believe BBC News did not sufficiently report on the ‘Save Our NHS’ rally, which took place in London on 17 March 2012.
BBC News has reported extensively on the opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill across our news programmes and bulletins since the Bill was originally proposed. We have reported on the health, political and business dimensions of the debate during our flagship news programmes and news bulletins and have heard from politicians, NHS workers, public sector workers and members of the public alike, as well as from supporters of the bill.
There have been numerous protests and demonstrations held in opposition to the Government’s proposals. Such shows of opposition have been varied in size and were spread across the different stages of the bill’s formation. We believe we have accurately and fairly reflected the nature of this opposition in our news coverage.
While you were unhappy about the level of coverage given to the rally on 17 March, the political opposition to the Bill culminated in the House of Commons emergency debate on 20 March. Accordingly, the Commons debate featured heavily in our news coverage on the day and was the lead story during our main news bulletins.
The Health and Social Care bill has been one of the biggest UK stories over the past few months and we believe we have afforded it the appropriate level coverage in a fair and impartial manner, allowing viewers and listeners to make up their own minds on the matter at hand.
Please be assured your concerns were raised with the relevant editorial staff at BBC News.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
What a load of TWADDLE! My initial complaint was the fact that armed riot police were deployed on the streets of London because of a protest rally against the NHS being taken apart, and this didn’t seem news worthy! Something which they still haven’t mentioned, even as an after thought on the BBC News website. And if you search the web you’ll be lucky if you find more than a dozen links to BBC News Website pages about the Health and Social Care Bill. But you can find the videos uploaded by the protesters of cops with automatic weapons, and of TSG officers giving people a little nudge. Just enough to knock them off their feet. Much in the same way that cop did to Ian Tomlinson, you know, just a little love tap to get them moving along or cause internal bleeding.
But sadly no. It seems the BBC aren’t interested unless there’s a riot going on, some criminal damage which they can spin to make all protesters look bad. “Keep Calm and Carry On, that’s the official line. Nothing to see here, the Government has your best interests at heart. We’re all in this together.” Bullshit! I don’t know why they don’t just appoint Andy Coulson as the next Director General of the BBC and be done with it!
Well I’ll be damned if the BBC haven’t proven me right! Tonight as I poured over Twitter looking at news, reading the odd blog, I came across this one from SKYWALKER1964. The blog starts by stating that the reply to Denise Chester, the complainant, “didn’t, in her complaint, make any reference to any kind of rally”
Well now we know why it contains a reference to a rally. Cos it’s practically the same reply that I got three months earlier to my complaint. Is it possible that someone at the BBC in the complaints department couldn’t be bothered dealing with complaints properly? Or has a standard set of responses been made up a while back, then they get the same person who tweets the news to add a bit on the end to give it that personal touch? Anyone?