Wednesday 9 September 2009

BBC News and the G20 protests: an update

Readers of Next Left might recall that Guy Aitchison (at open Democracy) and I have been asking the BBC to comment on BBC News' coverage of the G20 protests and related issues of policing.

We argued that the BBC News coverage of the protests and their policing was unacceptably poor, e.g. an article on the BBC News website which contained basic factual inaccuracies about the nature of 'kettling', and failing in general in reports to make a clear distinction between violent protests and non-violent protests (such as the April 1 Climate Camp at Bishopsgate).

Guy and I sent a first letter of complaint, posted here and at openDemocracy, in May. We received a very quick reply which we considered to be generic and, hence, superficial in terms of addressing the specific questions we asked.

So Guy and I quickly sent a second letter, posted here and at openDemocracy, asking for specific replies to our specific questions. Last week, the BBC finally responded. They have replied denying, in effect, that any of our criticisms have any validity whatsoever.

Guy has posted the BBC's reply over at openDemocracy, along with some discussion which points out the weaknesses in the reply. For example, as Guy explains, the BBC's attempt to show that the BBC News website article on kettling was accurate is not very convincing.

What strikes me about the reply (which can be read at openDemocracy) is the extremity of its defensiveness. I wouldn't necessarily expect the BBC to agree fully with every criticism we made. But a healthy institution would feel able to accept some intelligent criticism (which I take ours to be). In my view, in tenor and content, the reply has all the hallmarks of an institution lacking self-confidence and trying to bluster its way out of a tricky position.

There are one or two claims in the BBC's reply about which Guy and I are seeking further clarification with the BBC. We will provide an update at the end of the week on these points. Watch this space.

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