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I saw this on Facebook today:

enter image description here

50,000 people in London protest austerity outside the BBC. BBC completely ignores them.

Facebook indicates that the meme was posted on June 22, 2014. The accompanying text read:

More than 50,000 anti-austerity protesters in London marched outside the BBC and Parliament Square today but the BBC refuses to cover them. SHARE this to break the media blackout!

Comedian Russell Brand addressed the crowd: "Austerity means keeping all the money among people who have loads of it. This is the biggest problem we face today--all other problems radiate from this toxic swindle. We can organise a fairer, more just society than they can. These demonstrations are the start."

Brand said the group will hold the biggest protest in British history later this year, "Soon we will reach a size and influence where neither the BBC nor this austerity Government will be able to ignore us."

Is there any truth this?

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    Ignores them as not reporting about them? Or as not paying attention to them? – Avrham Aton May 25 '15 at 10:20
  • There was nothing wrong with the original grammar. Protest is can be a noun. – dwjohnston May 25 '15 at 11:32
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    Note that the post in question is dated 21 June 2014, so this post discusses an alleged protest taking place around that time. It would be helpful if you could edit this into your question. (I was initially confused because I assumed the reference to "today" meant today, 25 May 2015.) – Nate Eldredge May 25 '15 at 19:53
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    I'm baffled as to what sort of response the meme poster expected. A relatively small, peaceful protest on an unsurprising topic doesn't qualify as major news IMO. Did they expect the BBC to treat them differently simply because the protest was held in the vicinity of BBC headquarters? :-) – Harry Johnston May 27 '15 at 2:49
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    @dwjohnston: it's no Euromaidan or Arab Spring. Sure, a complete blackout (if nobody reported it at all) would be suspicious, but it hardly seems like front-page put-it-on-the-air-right-now material. (Personally, if I were asked to write an article on it, I'd be awfully tempted to start with something like "20,950,000 people didn't attend an anti-austerity protest held in London yesterday...") :-) – Harry Johnston May 27 '15 at 4:41
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Quick summary

  • The exact claim, "...completely ignored...", became untrue the day after this post was published. There were a few clips on the BBC 24hr rolling news channel around the time the post was published, but the BBC had nothing online about the protests anywhere until the following day, and nothing on any regular scheduled news broadcasts.
  • There is evidence for a reduced version of the claim. The BBC's coverage was limited to small slots on three relatively niche news outputs - its 24hr news channel, Radio 4, and regional (not national) London online news. The BBC acknowledge that they did not provide "extensive" coverage, as a deliberate editorial decision. It wasn't "completely" ignored - but most BBC news consumers would have seen and heard no coverage.
  • The photo used in this post was misleading, from a different, larger protest on a similar theme, from 2011 (demonstrated in Oddthinking's answer)
  • The rest of the claim is largely true, although it's debatable whether the number of protesters was definitely above 50,000 (see georgechaloub's answer)

More detail

At the time the post was published, there was nothing on the BBC website about the protest, and no other BBC coverage anywhere except a few clips on the BBC 24hr News channel (see sources below). There were other media outlets which had covered the protest in their mainstream reporting (the Guardian, and ITV tea-time news are given as examples in one article).

There was, later, some limited BBC coverage:

  • The BBC's 24hr rolling news channel included clips from the protest in 5 cycles later that evening, after 8pm, according to a BBC statement below
  • On the following afternoon, a very short article with 23 seconds of film footage appeared in the local London section of the BBC news site.

    • US Uncut, who made the post here, comment that this wasn't posted until "after our meme went viral. I think we shamed them into covering it".
    • Despite being in the London local news section, and containing very little content, comments under the original post claim it reached #2 in the BBC's most viewed videos list.
  • There are also claims that there was one 25 second report on BBC Radio 4
  • The BBC mention unspecified coverage "on social media"

It seems there was no coverage on regular BBC TV or radio news, and nothing on the national sections of the BBC news site.

This is based on the BBC's reply sent to many of the people who complained about the coverage of this protest, quoting unnamed "senior editorial staff at BBC News", an example of which can be read here, with a key part copied below:

We covered this demonstration on the BBC News Channel with five reports throughout Saturday evening, on the BBC News website on Sunday, as well as on social media.

They go on to acknowledge that this falls short of "extensive coverage":

We choose which stories we cover based on how newsworthy they are and what else is happening and we didn’t provide extensive coverage because of a number of bigger national and international news stories that day, including the escalating crisis in Iraq, British citizens fighting in Syria and the death of Gerry Conlon.

This is the BBC national news homepage as it was at midnight after the protests, to give some context as to what the competing stories were. It appears to contradict the BBC's statement - there's actually almost nothing about Iraq or Syria (just one story, low down, about a family's response to a Jihadi video, and a mention in an "in the news" roundup article). Source:

enter image description here


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    @Oddthinking The Facebook link notes "Saturday June 21 11:30pm". – March Ho May 25 '15 at 17:06
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    I do wish some people would look up the correct definition of the word 'meme'. It's emphatically NOT a single event like this, but a cultural idea that's passed from person to person. See e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme – jamesqf May 25 '15 at 17:15
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    @jamesqf: In popular use, a new definition of meme is "an image with a superimposed pithy caption". Maybe that's not what you think it should mean... – Nate Eldredge May 25 '15 at 19:58
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    @Nate Eldredge: What I think is irrelevant. What's important is the actual dictionary definition. I can call my horse a cow, but that doesn't mean I can milk him :-) – jamesqf May 25 '15 at 21:53
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    Can you chaps please have this debate somewhere other than the comments section below my answer? The notifications are getting annoying. Thanks :-) – user56reinstatemonica8 May 25 '15 at 21:57
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George Chalhoub's existing answer addresses the basic question of whether a protest happened recently, and whether it was ignored by the BBC.

I wish to address another implied claim in the meme image - that the image represents the ignored protest.

NO, that is NOT a photograph of a recent protest.

The image is of a protest in March 2011 - reportedly ten times the size - and has been appropriated from an article in The Guardian which attributes the photo to Dominic Lipinski/PA. (Twitter account)

Original Image

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    Aha, so not only the claim is made out of context but the picture is too. – Shougo Makishima May 25 '15 at 11:32
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    @user568458: My motto this year has been "Ideology doesn't trump facts." Just because there is a core of truth to the claim doesn't give carte blanche to lie and mislead. Showing a protest ten times the size is misleading and, IMO, indefensible. – Oddthinking May 25 '15 at 13:57
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    I'd definitely agree with that. It's just also important to address the core of an argument, in addition to pointing out any failings in a particular formation of the argument you encounter - ("principle of charity"). – user56reinstatemonica8 May 25 '15 at 14:30
  • @user568458: Agreed. I thought that was pretty much covered by George's answer. I am a bit surprised mine is appearing voted above George's, as his is a more direct answer to the question, and mine is more supplemental. – Oddthinking May 25 '15 at 16:07
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First, the protest happened and was reported on Saturday 21 June 2014 20.45 BST by theguardian.com in a news article called:

Tens of thousands march in London against coalition's austerity measures

It is estimated that 50,000 people were protesting:

An estimated 50,000 people in London addressed by speakers, including Russell Brand, after People's Assembly march

The protest was near BBC News Broadcasting House:

An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.

The protesting was against austerity:

People's Assembly spokesman Clare Solomon said:

It is essential for the welfare of millions of people that we stop austerity and halt this coalition government dead in its tracks before it does lasting damage to people's lives and our public services.

The real question here is: Was this event completely ignored by BCC News Broadcasting?

No, it didn't. BBC News Online posting this article and video; adding "no commentary" on the video:

enter image description here

Therefore, saying that BBC completely ignored the protest is wrong.

NB: This answer doesn't discuss BBC's coverage: major or minor - international or local (but user568458's answer does).

| improve this answer | |
  • Your BBC spokesman quote, news photo and video link are about a different protest march in Manchester 2013 (not London 2014). Criticism of that march's coverage (example) focused on non-BBC press, the tone of BBC TV news, and BBC Online treating it as 'local' news tucked away in the Manchester section, with nothing on the national home page, despite it being one of the biggest national protests anywhere in the UK since 2011. – user56reinstatemonica8 May 25 '15 at 12:19
  • @user568458; ok. This post is about London 2014 protest only not Manchester 2013. – Shougo Makishima May 25 '15 at 12:23
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    @user568458; I see your point. But the claim is that "BBC completely ignored the protest"; which I proved wrong. I have no interest in analyzing BBC's coverage of the story. Feel free to add a separate answer following up my answer (don't forget to reference your claims). – Shougo Makishima May 25 '15 at 13:00
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    The discrepancy between estimated 50,000 and over 50,000 is also misleading. But that is minor enough that both versions could plausibly be explained by a single original source having estimated a slightly higher number. – kasperd May 25 '15 at 13:05
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    @user568458: I stroke huge. – Shougo Makishima May 25 '15 at 15:47

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