Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Camp for Climate Change

I've always trusted the BBC as a source of impartiality or,
if not impartial, then somewhat biased in favour of views
that I, as a left-wing liberal softie, might sympathise
with. But any impartiality is something I doubt more and
more, and a shocking report about the Camp for Climate
Change near Heathrow (shown on last night's ten o'clock
edition of BBC London News) serves to highlight that more
than anything. If the BBC isn't becoming a spout for
government propaganda then I'll be blown. Here's my
complaint to the BBC Trust, submitted this morning, which
goes into a little more detail:

"I was disgusted by Guy Smith's report, shown on the BBC
London News broadcast shortly after 10pm on 13th August, on
protests at the camp for climate change near Heathrow.

The report was anything but impartial, in fact the
antithesis of what should be rightly expected from the BBC's
correspondents. Mr Smith clearly had a chip on his shoulder
from the start of his report, in which he took a clear
stance against the protestors and became increasingly
aggressive as the report went on. He barged into the camp,
citing his right to be on what he termed private land,
whilst using the same argument (private land) to describe
the protestors' lack of right to be there. He also appeared
incredibly sexist, turning to speak to a male protestor over
two female protestors, as though he would be able to engage
more easily and get more sense from the man.

There was no balance to the report - whilst I accept that
the protestors were difficult to speak to, it was certainly
not beyond Mr Smith's reach to himself describe the
arguments, intentions and viewpoints of the protestors, to
balance the weight given to the arguments of BAA and to
balance, in addition, the arguments of local residents (who,
while opposed to the expansion of Heathrow airport, are so
opposed on different grounds to those of the camp
protestors). Local residents' views were given an
extraordinary presence within the report; considerably
greater than those of camp protestors. Further, if Mr Smith
had followed the guidelines set out by the protestors (shown
in notices at the border of the camp) he would have made
attempts to speak to the designated media team, and may have
had more luck this way, instead of simply barging through
and diminishing his integrity as a journalist in the
atrocious way that he did.

I was also enraged by Mr Smith's use of the term 'private
property' to describe a BBC camera when one of the
protestors put something over the camera, to obscure
filming, and was then accused of touching it. The BBC is a
public body, funded by licence fee-paying members of the
public. As such, Mr Smith has no right to claim that the
camera is public property - it is the property of every
licence fee-payer in the land. This includes, in all
likelihood, the protestor who allegedly touched the camera
during filming of the report.

This protest concerns far more than climate change - this is
a test of the right to protest in our ever-weakened
democracy. And the results are striking. The use of
stop-and-search powers entrusted in the police for the
prevention of acts of terror, is simply not acceptable in
these circumstances where there is no realistic threat of
such an act being committed. Every effort has been made by
the authorities to prevent this protest, and the seeming
compliance of media outlets, including the BBC, to broadcast
what appears to be an officially-sanctioned view of events,
wreaks of censorship and must be condemned at every level."


Timothy said...

[minor mistake] In your penultimate paragraph you write:

"..As such, Mr Smith has no right to claim that the camera is public property.."

When I'm sure you meant to say "private".

Thanks for complaining. I rarely watch the TV news these days anyway.

I was stopped and searched under the anti-terror legislation once (anti-refugee detention demonstration). Very disappointing that our supine parliamentarians aren't repealing such legislation given the way it is being used beyond its original justification.

Isn't that the sort of question the media should be raising? To hold our politicians to account?

Anonymous said...


Sion Touhig said...

It's quite possible the BBC cameraman was a freelance contracted to the Beeb who was using his own camera, which would have been his property. The BBC, like other media companies, outsources a lot of its stuff to external companies.

Messing with the camera would also have been common assault and the report also showed a protester attempting to cover the camera lens.

The BBC reporters point about private land was kinda irrelevant, in that it IS private land (owned by Imperial College) but all that means is, he was simply trespassing along with the protesters.

So the only question is - what authority did the protesters think they had to expel him? They had no authority to do so.

It's a damn sight easier to explain the protesters motives to Joe Public if you speak to the protesters themselves. The problem is the Climate Camp have a media/press office infrastructure of their own which is fundamentally antithetical to ANY journalist entering the camp, except under their draconian Ali Campbell-esque restrictions.

Where they think they get the authority to do that, is beyond me.

As someone else has said, they appear to be asserting the right to protest, but in strict privacy.

It's Alice in Wonderland activism.

What's the difference between protesters getting in the BBC journo's face and cops arbitrarily stopping people whose faces they don't like?

I actually agree with the aims of the climate camp, but I'm not the only journalist that's expressed dismay at the Climate camps belligerent attitude to the media:


The National Union of Journalists has also complained:


richc153 said...

The BBC reflects the views of the organisation that funds them - quelle surprise...

I really didn't think that you were this naïve, Chris...

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Your rant just seems to be a rant - you are clearly not being fair, accurate or impartial about the BBC reporter - what gives you the right to stop a bona fide "member of her majesty's press" (!) from walking onto private land when no one had given the protestors permission to be on it - that appears to smack of hypocrisy and a touch of authoritarianism.

It also seems that you have a rather large, greasy chip on your shoulder about the power relationship between genders.

Good luck with future demonstrations - perhaps you may learn for next time that we all live in a democracy and trying to control/manage/manipulate the media just antagonises them. If you want to get your message across to a wider audience then embracing "mainstream" journalism maybe a better policy, even if you don't believe it.