BBC under fire for 'lack of coverage' of pro-EU march

Rachel Roberts

The BBC has come under fire from some of those who went on yesterday’s pro-EU march who claim the broadcaster did not give the event sufficient news coverage.

The Unite for Europe march saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets of London to express their discontent over the Government’s handling of the referendum result as the country teeters on the brink of a so-called “hard Brexit”.

Police figures suggest around 100,000 people attended the march, but several passionate protesters took to social media to complain the BBC was not giving the event due prominence in its bulletins.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams said on Twitter: “Absolute disgrace that BBC TV News gives just 5 seconds coverage to pro EU march by 50,000 people but gives extensive time to UKIP news.”

Others agreed, with one user replying: “100,000 official by police, BBC think it was a bunch of naughty children having a day out.”

BBC online coverage of the march in the afternoon was criticised by some because the headline focused on the minute’s silence for the victims of the Westminster terror attack rather than the Brexit protest.

The initial headline read: “London attack: Victims remembered at anti-Brexit march” – which was later changed to “Thousands take to streets in anti-Brexit London march”.

Members of a pro-Remain Facebook group, The 48 per cent, reacted with anger to this initial headline.

Katherine Gwen said: “Appalling editorial. This has NOTHING to do with the attacks. We marched against Brexit.”

Dozens of members of the group said they had complained to the BBC about what they claimed was a lack of coverage in the afternoon, when it was initially reported by BBC London before it later made the national news bulletins at 6pm and 10pm.

When contacted by The Independent, the BBC said it would not immediately give out figures on how many complaints it had received about individual stories or events, although they can be obtained eventually under the freedom of information act. It did not provide information on how many minutes coverage the march had received across its platforms, and not all its news programmes are currently available on iPlayer.

While the broadcaster declined to comment, it pointed to coverage it gave to the march on its rolling news channel and the national evening news bulletins on radio and TV. The BBC also pointed out it is common practice to alter the headline of an online story as events develop.

Although it now stands accused of supporting the Government's stance over Brexit, the BBC has previously been accused of a pro-Remain bias, a charge frequently levelled at the organisation during the referendum campaign.

And it was recently forced to defend its impartiality after it was accused of anti-Brexit bias by a group of mainly Tory MPs.

In a letter published in pro-Brexit newspapers The Daily Mail and The Telegraph, 70 MPs accused the publically-funded corporation of focusing on those who regret backing Brexit at the expense of Leave voters who are perfectly content with the outcome.

The BBC’s director general Tony Hall wrote in response to the accusation of anti-Brexit bias: “We go to great lengths to ensure that we balance our coverage and address all issues from a wide range of different perspectives. It is one of the reasons why the public trusts the BBC more than any other source of news.

“I agree with you that these are consequential times. For that reason, it is more important than ever that the BBC’s journalism is independent of political pressure.

“We will continue to listen respectfully and respond wherever appropriate. Above all, we will guard our independence, report the news diligently and impartially, and continue to fulfil our mission on behalf of all our audiences.”

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