Why did the national media ignore the unprecedented NHS rally in Manchester?


9:29 am - October 1st 2013

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by Giselle Green

When you take part in a special event you can be forgiven for being so wrapped up in that you think it’s the most important thing happening at that moment and everyone should be aware of it.

When that event involves 50,000 people from across the country protesting about an issue that concerns every person in the country and causes massive disruption to one of the country’s major cities, you would certainly be forgiven for assuming everyone should be aware of it. You would be wrong.

Sunday’s massive anti-austerity rally through the centre of Manchester, which coincided with the start of the Tory Party conference, received shockingly scant coverage. I’m not one for conspiracy theories but you’ve got to wonder why the main BBC news that night gave the event just 20 seconds of airtime, contained no clips of organisers or participants, and had us believe it was just a load of protesters shouting “Tory scum”. This certainly was neither the tone nor the objective of the rally I attended.

Greater Manchester Police went out of their way to praise the “peaceful and lawful” crowd, which also makes you wonder why Sky News focused much of its fleeting report on a single arrest – which represented half of the total number of two arrests. ie. 0.004% of the crowd.

Good TV pictures no doubt but not reflecting the actual story. And, as in the BBC’s news report, the colourful pictures of demonstrators were used merely as wallpaper for a political correspondent to talk over and provide yet further details about the Tory conference. ITV News at Ten’s coverage isn’t even worth mentioning.

Despite the depressingly poor national TV coverage, I expected to wake up the following morning to front page photos like this:

A quick flick through the newspapers brought nothing of the kind. With the exception of the Daily Mirror (which carried photos, an article and a leader comment), I spotted not a single word in the Mail, Express or Sun, just a photo in the Times, describing protesters as “health workers”, and a paltry few, easy-to-miss words in the Telegraph.

Worryingly even the Guardian had merely a minuscule article, ironically preferring to give far greater prominence to a far smaller protest against health care reforms – on the other side of the Atlantic, in Washington. The Independent, FT and others opted for the image of a single fusilier heckling the Tories inside the conference hall rather than the fifty thousand people heckling outside. 

I am seriously at a loss to explain the total media disinterest.

A demonstration by 2,500 cyclists over the summer in London received far greater coverage. And imagine the column inches and TV exposure that would be given if fifty thousand bankers marched through the City of London protesting against a cap on their bonuses?

As a former BBC Radio 4 news producer, I can only wonder if news values have changed over the past decade. Are we jaded by old-fashioned, anti-government demonstrations? Were there not enough protesters? Were they the wrong type of protesters? Is there a media conspiracy, as many have been suggesting on twitter? Of course we all know where the political allegiances of the press lie, but this media silence went beyond the normal party lines.

I genuinely don’t have the answers and would really like someone to answer the question – who and why decided that journalists shouldn’t properly report news of national importance on their own doorstep on Sunday?

—-
Giselle Green is Head of Press for the National Health Action Party and a former BBC Radio news producer

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Reader comments


How about the owners and controllers of the media outlets?

You would think that contributers to an ostensibly left-leaning site would at least understand such concepts as ‘owning and controlling the means of production’.

Sorry, dear.

Everybody knows lefties don’t like Tories- demonstrating that by walking along a street may be fun for you but for everybody else it is just…well, boring.

If you want media coverage you have to break a few windows or do something more newsworthy.

“Unions and lefties shout at Tories” is rather dog bites man don’t you think?

Given that the NHS has been turned into a quango for channelling public money to private health care providers it would be a bit like reporting on a man seen bolting the stable door whilst his horse galloped into the distance.

@Tim Worstall

Yes Tim, it’s exactly that kind of blind, unthinking prejudice that the OP was complaining about.

If the media have no interest in peaceful, democratically engaged protest that is their fault, not the fault of the protesters. If the media are only interested in ‘if it bleeds it leads’ then that, again, is their fault.

Ignoring events like this is not only a dereliction of the media’s democratic duty but it encourages more extreme and spectacular forms of protest because that’s the only way that some points of view – and really quite mainstream, middle of the road points of view for the most part – can get heard sometimes.

But of course that’s what the media want. Their duties as organs of public discourse have withered away to almost nothing. Their only real duties these days are to their oligarch owners and the dictates of circulation/hits/viewing figures (depending on their medium).

Who the protesters were and what they were saying is beside the point with respect to how they should be covered in the media. Were this another Countryside Alliance march do you seriously think that it would be dismissed, ignored and misrepresented in this way? Of course not. That kind of event would fall squarely within the realm of ideological acceptability for the majority of the media and so it would be covered at the very least fairly, perhaps even enthusiastically.

And for any genuine democrat such a bias should be unacceptable, whatever your political persuasion. Blithely accepting the marginalisation of particular mainstream points of view purely because you disagree with them is highly undemocratic.

A lot of the problem can be lain at the door of the protest organisers.

Who even knew a protest was scheduled to take place?

I doubt I have ever been so ignorant of 50,000 people “planning” a protest before. I know a number of the media were caught off guard by it as well.

Maybe the reason the media downplayed it is because most of the media didn’t know it was going to happen, didn’t have cameras etc in the right places to record it, etc.

That can only be down to poor planning by the organisers.

Oh, and supporters tweeting the wrong photo probably didn’t help.

Enough of the snide patronising – does pagar want people to commit acts of violence to gain publicity? Is that the establishment’s game? Because the moment windows are broken the media will start up the “demonise the left” (poor shop-keepers, having to get their windows replaced: though I imagine the glaziers would be grateful for the work) propagandising again, and hi-jack the message the protestors were trying to send. It’s this old game which is stale and insultingly hackneyed, though at least it exposes whom the media really serve.

Perhaps the organisers should be pleased.

“The gang surrounded me beside a Costa coffee shop and demanded to know, again, who I was with. ‘If you don’t put you f**king camera way, we’ll smash it off your face’. ‘Go and f**k off back to your conference, you p***k’, they said after I managed to escape to the Premier Inn.

I’m not the only one to have a negative experience with the marchers. The Times‘ Tim Montgomerie was spat at, while activist Mahyar Tousi was racially abused while walking down a street.”

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/09/a-warm-tuc-welcome-to-manchester/

@5 Philip

‘Ignoring events like this is not only a dereliction of the media’s democratic duty ‘

Do the media have a democratic duty? Who decided that they have this duty?

Shorter Briar – give us what we want or we will terrorize innocent bystanders.

Thus establishing the likes of Briar and the other leftie blackmailers here as part of a continuum with al-Shabab.

most media people love Cameron. look at the bbc programmes supposedly exposing benefit fraud. they’re doing their best to get a tory majority in 2015.

12. Kate Butler

It’s worth noting that on the same day as the protest in Manchester, an incident on a boat in London from which 30 people were rescued unharmed, received a full broadcast news report from the BBC complete with a reporter at the scene, live pictures and interviews. 50,000 peacefully protesting on an issue that affects us all wasn’t enough to stir anything of note from the BBC’s multimillion pound flagship outpost at MediaCity in Salford. Damning, indeed.

nice one cjcj ,balanced journalism in the spectator !

20 people demonstrating in favour of Cameron would get top news item on sky and bbc

15. Robin Levett

@Fungus #9:

Do the media have a democratic duty? Who decided that they have this duty?

Well they claim to have a duty – that’s the basis on which they claim privileges not available to the rest of us, like phone-hacking, bribery of police officers etc etc etc. They tell us that if we don’t let them do that, then they can’t do their job of rooting out crime and corruption.

16. John Lenin

In fact the most immediate results of the privatisation of health service provision that this Coalition has carried through, apart from the sloughing off of 10 to 20% of our National Insurance Contributions from front line services to pay for fat cat salaries and shareholder dividends, will be means testing for access to these services which means almost immediately a two tier health service. Needless to say New Labour are already looking into this via their proposed merger of health and social services.

I think there’s two things.

1. I didn’t know this thing was happening until the day of the protest. And I’m a guy who reads blogs like this, follows leftwingers on twitter, is in a union etc etc.

2. 50,000 trade union affiliated people marching peacefully against the Tories and changes to the NHS that have already happened isn’t that interesting from a news pov.

Sorry, it just isn’t. Sad but true.

I’m a left winger, love the NHS and can’t stand what the Torys are doing to the NHS – but even I wasn’t that bothered.

You know why? Because it seems that nowadays, protests do precisely nothing. It’s like we’ve reached a saturation point where every day I’m hearing about so and so protesting against this or that. I’ve stopped noticing, and I imagine many others have to.

Think of it like this – when cars first became mainstream, every car crash was big news. Nowadays, would you even expect to hear about one on the local news?

You need to pick your fights. Activists may believe that the more they talk about something the more it’ll stay in their minds, but in reality it just makes the public immune to it.

19. The Thought Gang

Maybe it’s unrepresentative, but the photo in this article makes it look like little more than a Unison march. I hate to say it.. but the public aren’t very interested in Union protests. More often than not, I find that most people I encounter are positively hostile towards them.

If you want your issue to get coverage, then you need to prove that people other than the usual suspects are motivated enough to protest… and a good way to get nowhere close to achieving that is to have everyone marching with a Unison branded placard.

The BBC is chaired by Chris Patten, who is not only a former Chairman of the Conservative Party who continues to receive that Whip in the House of Lords, but also an employee of at least one company with interests in the privatisation of England’s NHS.

Therefore, not only did Andrew Marr do everything short of curtsy to David Cameron, but the BBC entirely ignored the pro-NHS demonstration today in Manchester, the 50 to 60 thousand attendees at which massively outnumbered the delegates to the Conservative Party Conference.

Give that a moment to sink in: the TUC and anti-austerity demonstration against the Conservative Party Conference is now larger than the Conservative Party Conference itself. This is the main event. That is the sideshow. The numbers speak for themselves.

Except to the BBC.

Not for the first time, we need to look elsewhere in order to find out what is happening in Britain – http://rt.com/in-motion/nhs-uk-cuts-march-509/ .

Or in order to find out what is happening to British citizens living on British territory – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-fCE3UC8zI .

G4S prevented filming? Then how come RT managed it? Come on, Auntie. Stop using the Yes, Prime Minister excuse that, “You can blame security for anything.”

In answer to the OP, there seem to be a number of factors:

It was outside London.

Much of the press is owned by right-wing millionaires who did not want it covered.

The Guardian is more concerned with the preoccupations of metropolitan chatterati or Alan Rusbridger’s latest hobby.

The BBC is controlled by a bunch of overpaid, entitled cnuts who are scared the nasty government might take some of their privileges if they don’t toe the line that they imagine the government would like them to. And it wasn’t in London.

I think that’s about it.

22. Richard Carey

Anyone who’s ever gone to a (peaceful) demonstration will have experienced the same thing.

I note that Femen never seem to struggle to get coverage, even though no-one’s quite sure what they are protesting about.

the news is the governments lapdog especialy the bbc ,thwe government is threatning them over eavsdroping jurnos so the media is now saying whatever the government wants

24. George Hallam

As Head of Press for the National Health Action Party you should know that on January 26th there was a local demonstration in support of Lewisham hospital in which over 20,000 people marched. (Official police estimate. This was very much a local affair which means that around ten per cent of the adult population of Lewisham participated.

“And imagine the column inches and TV exposure that would be given if fifty thousand bankers marched through the City of London protesting against a cap on their bonuses?”

Leaving aside the fact that the number of people receiving sabstancial bonuses is well short of 50,000, the coverage would depend on who controlled the press and the TV.

I note that Femen never seem to struggle to get coverage, even though no-one’s quite sure what they are protesting about.

Hmm. This sounds like the beginnings of a very good plan, not only would it generate media interest where it would normally have ignored, but it will also greatly annoy the right sort of people. It’s bloody win-win!

26. George Hallam

I wrote:
“on January 26th there was a local demonstration in support of Lewisham hospital in which over 20,000 people marched. (Official police estimate. This was very much a local affair which means that around ten per cent of the adult population of Lewisham participated.”

I meant to add that we didn’t get any serious national media coverage either.

The BBC website carried an estimate of, I think, of around 6,000, even after we pointed out that the police estimate was 20,000.

It’s difficult to believe that this absence of coverage an accident.

The BBC are based in Salford. Smack bang next door to Manchester. Press releases were sent to media. Sky News covered it as did ITN. Russia Today did a prominent piece on the march. As for those saying “protests do precisely nothing”… How did slavery end? How ever did women get the right to vote? Every step of human social advancement and our hard won rights have been achieved through protest. As for those saying they’re bored with protest; if it’s too boring to watch then why not actually join in and make it more interesting? All progress depends on YOU. Live with that. Then read this… http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/10/01/all-progress-depends-on-the-unreasonable-person/

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

As a former BBC Radio 4 news producer, Giselle Green’s quick flick through the newspapers, was typically one eyed. The Morning Star had on its front page a banner headline with a photograph that too up around half the page, and the beginning of about 15 column inches of reporting, besides six separate reports on the Tory Conference. The BBC has a newspaper review most nights, but they never seem to notice that the Morning Star is a national newspaper that covers left wing interests thereby giving a different view from the common view of the capitalist press of whatever politics they profess. As for all of those supposedly left wing corespondents here who didn’t know the demonstration was planned, they too should get the Morning Star to be properly informed, but it is hard to imagine that anyone with access to the internet could have failed to know about the event. Lots of websites and FaceBook pages and postings have been covering it for months.

@27 rocksteady

Though the BBC has a base in Salford I bet all the senior staff were back in London on a Sunday, travelling on expenses no doubt.

“Why did the national media ignore the unprecedented NHS rally in Manchester?”

Maybe it was because they couldn’t be sure if the pictures they were showing were genuine…

ONN livestreamers were there on the day. I livestreamed the march from the beginning to the end just to prove to people how many participating. Glad to know we assisted in the Twitter Storm that got the BBC to report upon it, albeit as local news.

1 hour 9 minutes.
http://bambuser.com/v/3966078

More collated here.
http://occupylondon.org.uk/mass-rejection-of-tory-attacks-on-the-poor-and-the-nhs/

33. Stu Phillips

When we started the social media revolution, we took all of the worlds governments by surprise.
They realised that we were building momentum at an incredible rate.
We were not only using the social media to upload our films and pictures, we were also posting the “official” state media coverage.
When the governments of the world struck back, it was in this form …
1) They all agreed to stop any state coverage of all events, all around the world.
2) Coerced youtube, facebook and twitter, to pull down any and all pictures and films of protests, put up by individuals.
ALL of this is historical fact, that can be checked and verified. It is not a conspiracy theory, it is conspiracy fact.
If you wish to PM me for more information on this matter, I would welcome your enquiry.

I was there and proud to be there on behalf of our children and grandchildren , on behalf of humanity xx

Could there be a “D Notice” issued? I had heard rumours a few months ago. If so I guess the politikers are scared of civil disobedience, given what happening in Europe (Greece, Turkey) and the Arab Spring. “Monkey see monkey do” concept?

36. jacqui white

The only newspaper worth reading is the mirror.I also subscribe to the week which filters through the rest of the tory led ” newspapers” to keep me informed. This country has never had a successful left wing newspaper that is telling. You get the government you deserve. Many people who really should vote r confused frightened and dissillusioned. The tories are well trained and always vote. I remember the last time people in numbers demonstrated against the poll tax. They never did understand this was a tory move to disenfranchise the poor. If u did not register on the electorate enabling u to vote u could not be traced to pay the poll tax

Worryingly even the Guardian had merely a minuscule article, ironically preferring to give far greater prominence to a far smaller protest against health care reforms – on the other side of the Atlantic, in Washington.

Result: USA Government Shutdown, UK Government Cutdown.

It wasn’t in London, therefore it wasn’t worth reporting.

re,the N.H.S. protest,demonstration,in my home city of manchester,recently,it is glaringly obvious,to anyone,the media,is politically-corrupt.the object of reporters,is to report, NEWS, now that being so,political allegiances,have to be put aside,and -facts- ONLY-REPORTED,alas as we are all to aware,the PRESS,and the MEDIA,are just PROPAGANDA- arms,of the conservatives,which by definition,is CORRUPTION,and is robbing,the british public,of NEWS-ISSUES.i CHALLENGE-ANY–PRESS-,NEWSPAPER,OR MEDIA OUTLET,TO REFUTE,MY CLAIMS,,I AM PERFECTLY-WILLING,TO DEBATE,LIVE ,ON–NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL,TELEVISION,,AND DEMONSTRATE,PUBLICLY,-WHY -I -BELIEVE,-THE -BRITISH -PRESS,AND–MEDIA,ARE BY LAREGE PART,EMBROILED IN CORRUPTION,WITH THE ODD-EXCEPTION,OF THE MIRROR,AND THE GAURDIAN,I BELIEVE,IT WOULD BE BETTER ,TO SHUT DOWN,POLITICALLY CORRUPT,PRESS,AND-MEDIA,RATHER THAN ALLOW,THEM TO SPOUT,GOVERNMENT –PROPAGANDA,–WHICH–IS–ANTI–DEMOCRATIC.ANTI–THE–BRITISH–PEOPLE,-AND–ANTI–THE–MONARCHY,,I BELIEVE,WE NEED TO INTRODUCE,IMMEDIATELY,PEOPLE -PANELS,TO POLICE,THE PRESS,AND MEDIA,WITH UNLIMITED,POWERS,AND COMPLETELY FREE–OF POLITICAL,INTERFERENCE,THE PANELS,COULD BE ELECTED,IN THE SAME WAY JURERS,ARE ELECTED,IT MUST HAPPEN –SOON,FOR THE SAKE OF –BRITISH–DEMOCRACY,,


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