As you may have noticed this has been on my mind recently and I was very happy to join with green activists and importantly I feel 'non-greens' too, all of whom share concerns about the BBC failing to meet their own constitutional guidelines regard impartiality. A fascinating day, with a few 'well I didn't expect that' moments.
Prior to meeting the 38 degree team and Green party activists outside of BBC's broadcasting house, I sat outside a neighbouring building 'The Langham'. An exclusive hotel, Europe's first 'Grand Hotel' host to royalty and foreign dignitaries since the 1860s and nowadays more recent aberrations; 'celebrities'. Cars worth more than most people's houses arrive one after the other, and a sycophantic manager enthusiastically hugs and oozes over each new guest, as the drivers open doors and bellhops cart luggage without acknowledgement.
The manager calls out to two girls that are sitting in front of me 'are you sure they are here girls?'. They sit poised with smart phones in hand, camera software running. I ask who it is the manager was referring to. They tell me a band name (I can't remember who) apparently they were 1 direction's support act the other night and rumours on twitter are that they are now staying in the Langham.
The young woman shows me pictures of the band members and focuses in on the blurred background behind the band members faces. She tells me, that if I look closely at the shape of a particular lamp post and the distance between road markings, that she is pretty convinced that the picture was taken when they were standing just in front of the hotel and points to a patch of pavement. Impressed with the forensic analysis but unconvinced and confused by the motivations behind it, I wished them luck and turned my head to the left to face BBC Broadcasting house.
You know what I'm thinking, how the proximity of the 2 buildings is unavoidably symbolic regard how the broadcaster struggles with its own impartiality, establishment pleasing behaviours and 'clickbaiting' aka 'Farageism'
In the words of one BBC commentator; Robert Peston who spoke out last week:
If I'm honest, the BBC's routinely so anxious about being accused of being left-wing, it quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, [a] rather right-wing direction, so that it's not accused of that.
There's a slightly 'safety first' thing at the BBC - that if we think the Mail or the Telegraph is gonna lead with it, then we should lead with it I happen to think that's mad.
Natalie Bennett was finally interviewed on election night at around 2:30 am in the morning, all other leaders and a plethora of other political figures and commentators came first. But omision or quantity of coverage is one issue. Quality is another. I recall seeing David Dimbleby interviewing Caroline Lucas briefly as local election results were unfolding. He dismissed, interrupted and closed the interview down very quickly before moving on with undeniable enthusiasm about all things UKIP. It is not subtle; there really is a culture of arrogance at play, a feeling of being above reprehension.
The Greens gained an MEP in the South West region; Molly Scott Cato who appeared on the Sunday Politics show yesterday. The context for the interview was that the Europhobe/right wing vote had been split by A party of the ilk of UKIP (One of 6 political parties that have been set up by former UKIP members, this one had concerns about Farage's authoritarianism). The implication or thrust of the broadcast was that Molly Scott Cato was elected not on her own merits, but rather by a political quirk. So from the off, had to defend her position. Insert expletives here. Nothing to do with positive politics, having very popular policies and running a solution focused campaign.
The galling thing is of course that it is the BBC's own coverage over the past year that has helped deliver us UKIP and shifted the debate to the right, i.e. been instrumental in creating this situation where 2 right wing parties were standing in the south west region in the first place. As I have mentioned in previous articles, the only person to appear on Question Time more than Nigel Farage over the last year is David Dimbleby.
In the minds of many who were beginning to believe the BBC was all getting a bit too pro-UKIP, the election coverage certainly corroborated those suspicions. The Greens can at least take pride in the claim that per unit of time of media coverage, they were the party with the biggest impact on May 22nd.
Despite this, the Green Party still manages to have more representation in more political arenas than UKIP (An MP and the London Assembly) and is polling neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats for next year's general election. Despite the BBC's cloak of green party invisibilty, the party somehow manages to be significant and membership has risen by 23% in the first 5 months of 2014.
On with yesterday! Handing in day.
The point of the day was hardly even a peaceful protest. There was no plan to spend much time at broadcasting house, rather it was a handing in of 2 related 38 degree petitions. We were there in a show of solidarity for this grassroots campaign. A small group of pacifists, no chanting or shouting, just handshakes and photographs. We were not expecting an immediate detailed response there and then, or promises of remedial actions. This would hopefully occur in the next few days from the political editors having had time to read the letters and so on.
We did however expect to be able to hand the petitions in.
Initially we were told to wait and management would come and speak to us and receive the petition. So we waited. Security guards then proceeded to erect a fence, which seemed somewhat disproportionate to the size of our small and peaceful gathering, our numbers weren't increasing.
As we were setting off Tory MP David Davis walked past and said he agreed that the BBC had become a centre-right wing broadcaster that was unfairly biased against the green party. Good form.
Is all of this great grassroots campaigning going to make a difference? Will the green party leader speak at the televised election debates in 2015? David Cameron thinks this should be the case. Ed Milliband does not. Will there be representative coverage in the build up? With regards UKIP who have received media representation well in advance of their political representation up until now, they have now been 'delivered' and having performed well in the European elections, can now justify all coverage they receive. In any case, the campaign for fair coverage is certainly well underway and the pressure does not stop here. Young Green Portia Cocks is certainly determined and won't let it drop:
I am dubious as to whether I'll get a direct response, even though I requested one, but I can assure you I will be following this up with a series of phonecalls and emails until I do.
THE RIGHT WING COUP AT THE BBC IS SO POINTED; THOSE INVOLVED MUST HAVE DECIDED IT WORTH RISKING THEIR JOBS
AN OPEN LETTER TO LORD ASHCROFT: PLEASE CONSIDER ADDING GREEN PARTY DATA TO YOUR POLLING SUMMARIES
DAVID CAMERON SUPPORTS GREEN INCLUSION IN TV ELECTION DEBATES 2015. ED MILLIBAND DOES NOT.
TAKING STOCK AND MOVING FORWARD. 10 KEY THINGS FOR THE GREENS