Biased Broadcasting Corporation? Black Out of Brexit Protests by BBC leads complaints on R4 Feedback

24/03/2018: Leeds: United Kingdom: Thousands march through Leeds on the Great Northern March against Brexit organised by Leeds for Europe and StopBrexit Ltd.

Lack of coverage of #GreatNorthernMarch in Leeds and other marches last weekend was the lead item on BBC R4 Feedback today.

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“A deliberate Black Out” and “Failure in duty of balance” were among the many accusations of bias by thousands of people who have been complaining to the BBC over the past week.

The disproportionate balance of coverage shown to Nigel Farage’s stunt of throwing dead fish into the Thames, and the gun control protests in the USA, while the marches and rallies to mark the anniversary of article 50 around the UK were not being covered at all, has angered people around the UK and reinforced suspicions that the BBC is no longer a reliable source of news.

Aside from the Great Northern March in Leeds, none of the marches and rallies from Edinburgh to Exeter and Pontypridd to Ipswich on 24 March, nor those in Newcastle and London on the following days, were deemed worthy of being reported by the BBC.

While some of the protest received coverage on local news, the South West March in Exeter was not reported at all, despite being the largest march that Exeter had ever seen.

Exeter march
The South West March was the biggest march ever seen in Exeter
The head of the March for Europe in Edinburgh
The rally in Newcastle on Sunday 25 March
The rally in Westminster on Monday 26 March

The response of UK News Editor, Richard Burgess, will have done little to assuage people’s concerns. His view that the marches weren’t as significant as the marches in the USA, make little sense as events in the USA don’t have an immediate effect on UK citizens while Brexit does.

His decision that none of the protests were newsworthy can be ascribed to an error of judgment. Yet the errors in the little local coverage there was, will make it hard for many listeners to accept this.

The programme mentioned how the BBC had originally claimed only hundreds marched in Leeds, when it was quite clear that there were at least several thousands.

Thousands marched at the Great Northern March in Leeds
Ben Bradshawe MP, speaking in Exeter, not Leeds, as claimed in a local BBC news report

The radio programme didn’t mention an error of what can be described only as “shoddy journalism”, as the original story on the online local BBC news claimed Ben Bradshaw MP spoke at the Great Northern March in Leeds, while he was actually speaking at the South West March and Rally in Exeter.

Speakers at the march in Leeds  included Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Greens,  Andrew Adonis, A C Grayling, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Richard Corbett MEP and the leaders of many pro-EU groups, including many youth speakers from OFOC among others. A full report is on the march and speeches available here on this website.

The big flag at the Great Northern March

Of course, this is not the first time that the BBC has ignored protests against Brexit.

Most notably this included the huge #StopBrexit march on the Conservative Party Conference in October, which was covered by over 360 TV and print news services worldwide, but ignored by the BBC – as we regrettably had to state in a similar report at that time:

Skewed Protest Coverage increases Suspicions of BBC Bias

We hope this will be the last time we have to write such an article, but the national broadcaster will have to do a lot to rebuild the confidence of its audience in the meantime.