Breaking News: BBC’s Scottish HQ Occupied

January 25, 2009 § 6 Comments

I have just received news from activists that they have occupied the Glasgow offices of the BBC. The backlash against the BBC has been unprecedented. Having first slavishly followed the Israeli propaganda line, the BBC is now denying the collection of much needed aid for the long-suffering denizens of Gaza . This is not a trivial matter: as Tony Benn put it, people will die as a consequence of the BBC’s choices. And this in this case, its choices have been dictated by the Israeli embassy.

Update: Here is press statement from those occupying the BBC’s Scottish headquarters in Glasgow which I would encourage all to forward to their media contacts:

Around 5pm this evening about 50 demonstrators occupied the BBC Scotland headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow in a protest over the failure of the BBC to broadcast the DEC appeal for Gaza. (Photos here)

Scottish Television (based just next door) have refused to cover the story citing a policy not to cover demonstrations at rival media institutions.

Police were called and threats of arrests were made.

Notes from the occupation

Here is a report on the occupation from John Hilley of Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign.

BBC Glasgow occupied

Last night (25 January), saw our inspiring occupation of the BBC in Glasgow. We simply managed to walk in to the lobby of this sleek glass building and unfurl our banners, flags and placards before the police arrived in a panic to seal off the main doors. We also let some other late arrivals in through a side door.

Spirited chants filled the lobby as staff and police considered what to do. The message was aired loudly that the BBC are complicit in the war crimes against Gaza, and that their decision not to allow the DEC Appeal shows them in their true establishment colours.

After an hour or so, a senior police inspector announced that we had 15 minutes to leave or be arrested. We refused, explaining that this was a peaceful, moral protest in support of the 1.5 million already imprisoned and suffering in Gaza.

Various media outlets, including Sky and the Independent, started calling on mobile phones and arriving outside the locked doors – such publicity being the principal point of the occupation. Yet, ignoring our calls, the BBC had itself still failed to put any of its reporters on the story. The irony hardly needs stating: no need for the BBC to arrive when they’re already in the building.

At this point, Tony Benn called to express his support and his words were read out over a mobile to loud cheers. Other calls of support were received from George Galloway, Stop the War, and activist groups all around the country.

Eventually, Ian Small, the BBC’s Head of Public and Corporate Affairs was brought in to handle the matter, and our group nominated five people – including myself – to speak with him. As expected, Mr Small offers perfect insight into how such people get to be where they are at the BBC.

During our meeting – which we insisted take place in transparent observation of our group rather than the back room he had demanded – Mr Small was reminded of our movement’s previous letter passed to him itemising the BBC’s brazenly pro-Israel coverage of the Gaza crisis. We then asked him to explain the BBC’s decision to disallow airtime for the DEC Appeal.

What we got, predictably, was a set of template assurances that ‘our concerns would be registered’ with BBC Director Helen Boaden et al – a useful moment to relate, in turn, my own experience of this token procedure. While accepting that the BBC ‘doesn’t always get it right’, Mr Small denied my assertion of deep institutional bias, resorting again to standard claims of BBC ‘impartiality’.

Listening to Mr Small uphold the BBC’s statement on the DEC Appeal – while declining my request to have him air his own view on the matter – brings home the quite alarming capacities of such people to defend the utterly indefensible.

Our more pertinent demand was that the BBC come and report the protest occurring inside their own building. Mr Small agreed to convey this request to the newsroom, but could not, he said, guarantee that the protest would actually be covered. It would be “unethical”, he thought, to try and exert such influence.

A further meeting with senior BBC Scotland directors was secured. But, personally, I see little purpose in sitting in plush-panelled rooms speaking to power in this way. The real point of this action was, and is, to maximise support for Gaza and shame the BBC over its brazenly partial decision.

Having voted to leave the building, our objectives achieved, a number of press outlets – including the BBC – were waiting outside to cover the emerging, cheering crowd.

This action illustrates the real value of direct, peaceful civil disobedience. It also alerts us to the ways in which organisations like the BBC seek to manage dissent through such sham consultation.

John

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