ƒmWe, the undersigned, believe that giving uncritical coverage of fascists by the BBC and other media outlets is wrong, dangerous and diminishes political debate in Britain. We call on the BBC, as a key democratic institution, to refuse to allow violent political views to be broadcast unchallenged.
The BBC and other national broadcasters and press publications have to reflect seriously upon their responsibilities particularly at this time. Is it compatible with democracy for news editors to remain neutral on giving racist agitators a platform to justify their political views to millions of people? Should they form no opinion on allowing their outlets to act as a recruiting sergeant for violent racists?
BBC News – Manchester African-Caribbean community centre closed after racist threat
We accept that the BBC should not be “banning” particular views from being aired. We want racist and other views based on hatred to be consistently challenged and countered whenever they are aired. Choosing to give fascists a platform is not a neutral act, each time a fascist is allowed to speak without challenge, racists are emboldened to carry out their violent agenda. We have seen this in West London and Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and across the UK in recent days.
The BBC recognises that DAESH or Al-Qaeda because of their violent beliefs and means should not be allowed to portray their arguments without critical comment. This principle should be consistently applied to fascists. We believe that racism is not a legitimate part of democratic debate. Those who organise to destroy the lives of people of colour and migrants cannot be quietly listened to. We all have a responsibility to stop racists and we believe as a democratic society, we cannot allow those who despise these values to use the BBC as a rallying cry.
Freedom of speech means allowing individuals to express themselves. Freedom of speech does not mean all views are equally valid, some views are inherently anti-democratic and broadcasters have an important responsibility to point this out.
We cannot stand aside while racists use our democratic institutions to victimise and terrorise migrant communities and British people of all backgrounds.
The names below were collected in just under 72 hours last week, please add your name to the comments below if you agree with the open letter and wish to make your voice heard to the BBC
25.07.16 Update: The BBC replied to the open letter, see screenshot below or link here
London Campaign against Police and State Violence
Pragna Patel Director of Southall Black Sisters
Liz Harvey Kattou
Robert Armen Kazandjian
Ornette D Clennon
Black Activists Rising Against cuts, BARAC UK
David Osa Amadasun
Nottingham Solidarity Federation
The Monitoring Group
Dr Shazad Amin, MEND
Siana Bangura & Team No Fly on the WALL
Dhanveer Singh Brar
Hope Dickson Leach
Elisa Van Waeyenbergel
Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS, University of London)
286 thoughts on “Open Letter: The BBC must stop uncritical coverage of fascists”
This appeal merely petitions the BBC to apply the same critical standards that it does to other forms of extremism such as Islamic extremism. The BBC often laments the radicalisation of young and/or impressionable or vulnerable people due to their lack of critical insight into extremist Islamist propaganda, and hence seeks to challenge it at every turn. Rightly, it does not regard itself as neutral in the face of the Islamist extremist threat.
It is therefore difficult to understand why the BBC would adopt a standard of neutrality when right wing fascist views are being aired on their media platform (as was the case in the BBC’s letter of reply). Whether reporting is concerned with Brexit, or any other major political discussion, the viewer expects to be presented with a diversity of opinion on values and beliefs and ideas about society and the world we live in, so that they can contextualise the information that is being relayed to them. That is what helping viewers “make up their minds” should be about; not merely adopting a neutral position and abdicating the great responsibility that comes with being a heavyweight global media platform such as the BBC.
The BBC, precisely due to the vast reach and formidable power it possesses as a well-known global media platform, and the reputation it enjoys, cannot pretend that it can adopt a neutral stance. It is a ludicrous position because; purely by virtue of the global power that the BBC enjoys, it elevates whoever is on it, and whatever they are discussing, onto the global stage, and acts – in many ways – as an authority device for filtering opinions and political ideas (e.g. such as Brexit).
If all the viewer desires is unfiltered opinion they can just as well get that from social media platforms themselves. They do not need the BBC to merely regurgitate unchallenged the opinions and ideas that they encounter in social media and societal spaces; what they need is a diverse critique of them so that they can make an informed judgement for themselves.
By adopting a stance of neutrality towards right wing fascist views, and not actively challenging them, the BBC is – by default – aiding in legitimising and manufacturing consent for these views. It is not performing its duty as a public broadcaster; as it is not upholding the same standard for all extremist views that it encounters as a global news and media platform. Neutrality, in this case, is an abdication of journalistic ethics and standards. It’s not difficult to venture a guess why some extremisms would be regarded as ‘more equal’ than others at the BBC, but that is a topic for another discussion.
In this light the BBC’s letter of response can only be regarded as facetious at best; it reads as though it was written by a PR or “communications” unit, and not a serious and considered response by a group of senior journalists. This is corporate media at its worst, pandering to the worst sentiments within society merely to boost ratings. Jerry Springer can get away with remaining neutral and allowing the circus to take centre stage on his reality television show, but it is a sad day when the BBC casts itself in the same light and forsakes journalistic standards for ratings, or is reluctant to challenge right wing fascist views and ideology with the candour that the subject deserves.
Corporate media is killing society, let me out of here …
Long live citizen journalism!
I agree with this letter. Fascist views should not go unchallenged
I’d like to add my name to this as well. Santhie Goundar
I strongly agree with this letter
Alma Faith Crawford
Suzan Sevgi Judithchild