Blackout

In which The Author doesn’t hear a news story on the BBC (again)

I’ve just picked up on an interesting little news story via a Scottish blog named Bellacaledonia. I followed it up, and found the same story on the Guardian website, filed by Robert Booth just after midday yesterday.
Police erected a 2 metre metal fence around much of Parliament Square on Tuesday and arrested 15 demonstrators including Green party peer Jenny Jones.
Lady Jones, 64, chairwoman of the London assembly’s economy committee and deputy chair of its police and crime committee, was arrested for “obstructing police” as they moved in to break up the demonstration. She was “de-arrested” after giving details suitable for a summons.The politician could now face prosecution, Scotland Yard said.
“The evidence in this case will be considered and a decision made whether to proceed with a prosecution,” a Met spokesperson said.
Jones had been to see what was happening at the Occupy London protest on Tuesday morning after her office had been contacted by protesters complaining about heavy-handed police tactics.
The Greater London Authority said the fence was erected to enable the grass to be reseeded. Protestors insist it is their right to use the square to campaign on issues such as the privatisation of the NHS, tuition fees, the bedroom tax and benefit cuts for people with disabilities.
“They shouldn’t have arrested anybody here,” said Jones. “They should have just listened and left them alone.”
According to its website, the goal of the Occupy Democracy campaign is to “direct the energy from current single-issue struggles into a critical mass that can radically challenge the corrupt and unrepresentative system”.
A GLA spokesman said: “The fencing is in place to uphold the byelaws affecting Parliament Square and the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. The protesters refused to comply with instructions to keep off the grass and enable workmen to get on with vital repairs and maintenance that are needed as a result of their actions.”
Jones is scheduled on Wednesday to give an address to the protesters on policing and civil liberties. She went to the protest on Tuesday after hearing that the police had arrived in as many as eight vans and their response to the protest was “disproportionate”.
Speaking after she was released, Jones said: “The police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest in this country which people have a legal right to do, but that appears to end as soon as you come within shouting distance of the Westminster village. The people who run this country should not be able to tuck demonstrators away out of sight. Parliament needs to listen and people should have the right to get their voices heard.”
The swoop by police follows a crackdown on Sunday night when large numbers of officers converged on the square to enforce a “desist notice”.
Scotland Yard said in a statement on Tuesday: “This morning there were around 15 people demonstrating in Parliament Square. The group on the grassed area had been sleeping on a tarpaulin which is prohibited under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act of 2011, namely they have items with them to enable them to sleep in Parliament Square.
“We informed them of the breach of legislation and asked them to leave, this was done on a one-to-one basis. They were told that if they failed to leave they would be removed from the site and would be liable to summons for the offence.
“The tarpaulin has been removed and 15 people have been arrested for failing to provide details suitable for a summons. They have been taken to a central London police station. Our role is to facilitate peaceful protest whilst balancing the needs of London communities and minimising any disruption. We will not take sides, but we seek to apply the law fairly and proportionately.”
I listened to the whole of BBC Radio 4’s PM last night, and the half-hour news bulletin immediately following it. If I hadn’t looked through the Guardian website this morning, following a link which one of my friends had shared on Facebook, I wouldn’t have known anything about this police action at the heart of our democracy.
Once again, the BBC have chosen to ignore something which was going on right under their noses. Don’t tell me that one of the many correspondents who virtually inhabit the entrance lobby of the Palace of Westminster didn’t see what was happening. The mere fact that a senior member of the GLA was arrested should have been enough to rocket the story up the news agenda. But no – once again, the BBC ignored a legitimate protest in the nation’s capital.
If this was the first such occurrence, I might not have commented on it. However, it’s far from the first time the Ministry of Truth has chosen to censor any coverage of events like this. During the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, over fifty thousand people marched past the venue protesting about the privatization of the National Health Service. Unsurprisingly, the BBC failed to mention it. Just under a year ago, I related how a media blackout had been imposed on similar anti-austerity protests across the UK. Once again, almost all of the mass media turned a blind eye yesterday.
It’s perhaps significant that a Green Party politician should have been at the centre of yesterday’s news story. The Green Party, with their elected MP Caroline Lucas, has been frequently sidelined or ignored entirely by the BBC and the right-wing media. Only the Guardian, a left-of-centre paper with a strong following among environmental campaigners, seems to remember that Ms Lucas and her party even exist.
On the other hand, the UK Independence Party has gained far more news coverage and publicity from the BBC over the last two years than anyone would imagine. Its spokesmen – and they are men, without exception – have been given free rein to voice their rabid right-wing agenda and odious personal opinions on Question Time and Any Questions, in spite of UKIP’s having absolutely no parliamentary representation until a fortnight ago. I think it’s fair to assume that if Nigel Farage had been arrested yesterday, PM would have devoted over half the programme to the story, and a fair chunk of the main news bulletin as well. In the meantime, the Green Party struggle to get a mention, even as an afterthought, throughout the BBC’s daily news output. They’re just ‘a minority party’, you see.
The blatant censorship of a major news event less than a mile from Brainwashing House, which the assembled hacks can’t have failed to observe, makes me wonder just what legitimate anti-government protestors need to do in order to get their voices heard on the BBC. In fact, I’m starting to question what on Earth has happened to Auntie’s infamous ‘left-wing bias’?
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