Environmental protesters staged a sit in at BBC Bristol in this morning calling for the corporation to declare an immediate climate and ecological emergency.
Using the social media hashtags Tell The Truth, Climate Breakdown and Reclaim the BBC, the Extinction Rebellion group (XR) claim that state broadcaster isn’t being honest when reporting on global warming.
XR say the BBC is failing in its duty to tell us that our climate is on the brink of unstoppable change.
The group also picketed 11 other BBC sites in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cambridge, Bangor, Sheffield, Truro and Oxford as well as the BBC’s bureau in Berlin.
At 7am people began chaining themselves together across the entrance to BBC Bristol which has been the home of the Natural History Unit for over 65 years.
The unit produced the recent critically acclaimed Blue Planet as well as the landmark Life On Earth series which highlighted the ecological harm caused by human activity.
Avon & Somerset police had been informed about the peaceful protests and had warned the public of possible disruption.
Accusations of reporting bias
XR say that the BBC still report global warming as a debate over whether human pollution is the cause despite this being proven.
As part of a co-ordinated protest, the group plan to cause disruption by jamming the BBC phone lines with complaints over what they claim to be 3 breaches of the broadcasting code in June and July of this year (see panel above).
They say the need to be truthful far outweighs the BBC’s desire to appear to be fair to both sides in the argument.
Under the terms of its charter, the BBC has a duty to inform as well as entertain the public. XR say that the BBC has been failing in it’s duty to report the seriousness of climate change.
Yet despite many such claims of bias, the corporation was voted the world’s most trusted news source in 2017. If these new complaints are upheld then the BBC will be forced to apologise and issue retractions.
The psychology of protest
Dawn Miller is a Bristol based therapist working with those affected by environmental issues and shared her professional opinion with Bower News.
After looking at the XR’s mission statement, she spoke candidly about the psychology of activism.
BBC response to today’s protests
In a press release the broadcaster responded by saying, “The BBC has a proud record of leading the way in sustainability in the media industry and we’ve set out further action including cutting energy use further, eradicating single use plastic and minimising the impact of necessary travel.
In the last Charter period, we reduced our carbon footprint by a third. People can also see the clear impact programmes like Blue Planet II and Dynasties have had on public debate about the impact of humankind on the planet.”
Some members of Extinction Rebellion claim that the BBC colludes with government in order to protect it’s licence fee income.
Bristol protesters locked onto BBC Bristol entrance today, all three made passionate speeches urging the BBC to start taking climate & nature breakdown seriously now!!!🕊🌍 #ExtinctionRebellion #bbcbias #tellthetruth #ExtinctionR #BBC pic.twitter.com/hq0snZzAlB
— Karen Sillence (@KarenSillence) December 21, 2018
Others suggest that it’s caught up in an outdated desire to always present marginalised voices – even when those voices aren’t trustworthy – with the pre-Brexit referendum coverage being another recent example.
Ofcom found BBC guilty of inaccuracy in Nigel Lawson interview
In April this year the broadcast watchdog ruled that an interview with former Chancellor Lord Lawson on Radio 4’s Today programme broke rules which state that “news, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality”.
During his interview with Justin Webb in August 2017, Lord Lawson said that temperatures had, in fact, declined in the past 10 years. The BBC apologised for not correcting this factual error in October 2017.
“Neither statement was correct, or sufficiently challenged during the interview or subsequently during the programme,” said the Ofcom ruling.
This was the second time the BBC had been found to be lacking in interviewing the former Chancellor who is seen as a climate change denier. Editorial lapses such as these have persuaded some that the BBC is colluding with big business.
Some darker motives for a BBC coverup?
— wotsatwsed (@Aderynglas1815) December 21, 2018
Finding British Climate Change programmes
Despite the impact of programmes like Blue Planet, global warming is a subject that’s rarely covered in non-news programming. If you want to dig deeper you have to dig around.
- There’s one 6 minute documentary on one of the members of Extinction Rebellion on BBC3 called Generation Activism
- BBC Radio currently has 15 programmes from the past 18 years its publically accessible archive as well as an ongoing environmental programme, Costing the Earth on Radio 4
- Channel Four’s documentary archive shows just 6 out of 152 Unreported World episodes have been about environmental issues, although it does have 4 episodes of it’s annual Britain’s Wildest Weather
- ITV doesn’t have any factual programmes about climate change on it’s catchup service – although it does list news items by ITN.
- Sky has its Ocean Rescue campaign
Overseas TV programmes
The only English language documentary series specifically about climate change is the 17 part Years of Living Dangerously produced by Showtime and National Geographic. The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary series in 2014 and is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.
In the US National Geographic showed a 10 part documentary series in March this year called One Strange Rock but it’s producer Darren Aronofsky said the programme was not a call to arms (over climate change) but more of an appreciation of the planet. In fact the programme makes no mention of manmade climate change. In the UK this is available to buy on DVD.
In August The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Apple TV will produce Losing Earth a drama based on Nathaniel Rich’s novel. It’s based on more than 18 months of original reporting, more than 100 interviews and thousands of archival documents, many previously unreported, from US government and industry sources.
Call to Action
Extinction Rebellion have a number of events coming up in January – notably a week of meditations based upon the five elements.