#NoMoreAusterity coverage – a response from the BBC

I have received a reply from the BBC to my complaint, as follows (with my comments inline):

Thanks for contacting us about coverage of the People’s Assembly anti-austerity demonstration on 21 June.

We understand you feel there was insufficient coverage of this demonstration by BBC News.

We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this story. In order to use our TV licence fee resources efficiently, this general response aims to answer the key concerns raised, but we apologise in advance if it doesn’t address your specific points in the manner you would prefer.

Your concerns were raised with senior editorial staff at BBC News who responded as follows:

“We covered this demonstration on the BBC News Channel with five reports throughout Saturday evening, on the BBC News website on Sunday, as well as on social media.”

I kept looking for a report on the BBC News website and their iPhone app throughout the weekend and never saw anything. The BBC did tweet just before 11am on the Sunday, at exactly the same time I was writing my complaint and blog post (having waited, I feel, a very reasonable length of time before doing so). The news report consisted of three short paragraphs, with a link to a video of 24 seconds of footage of random marchers with no commentary and no mention of any speakers, despite these being the usually high-profile Russell Brand as well as an elected member of parliament, Caroline Lucas.

The BBC reply continues:

“We choose which stories we cover based on how newsworthy they are and what else is happening and we didn’t provide extensive coverage because of a number of bigger national and international news stories that day, including the escalating crisis in Iraq, British citizens fighting in Syria and the death of Gerry Conlon.”

Also reported extensively that day was a fire in a retailer’s warehouse in which nobody was hurt, as well as a story about a man who tried to grab the Queen’s baton. Both “bigger national and international news stories” I’m sure.

The point here is that nobody is expecting the BBC to prioritise a peaceful march (even one by 50,000 people) over the stories about Iraq and Syria they cite above, but to include it as part of their normal news coverage on the website and the app. In the old days (i.e. before the Internet), TV and radio programmes were the BBC’s only news outlets, and those bulletins obviously had a time-limit (and still do, 24-hour rolling news channels notwithstanding). A website and app however can contain and feature as much content as they want it to, and can be updated whenever they like as news changes. The story about the march was plainly buried on both platforms.

“We frequently report on the UK economy and what it means for the British public. We also reflect the concerns of people such as those demonstrating, and others who hold opposing views, across our daily news output on TV, radio as well as online, and we also explore them in more depth including in our political programming and current affairs investigations, debates on ‘Question Time’ and during interviews and analysis on programmes such as ‘PM’ and ‘Newsnight’.

Ooh, sounding a tad defensive there. I wonder why?

“Inevitably, there may be disagreements over the level of prominence we give to stories, but we believe our coverage of this subject has been fair and impartial.”

Dear BBC. Please don’t patronise me. During the European elections all Nigel Farage had to do was fart and the BBC News app was updated to inform us within seconds. We all know you have an agenda. Or are you trying to tell me that it’s purely a coincidence that your new head of press and media relations, who starts in post next month, used to work for the Department for Work & Pensions?