I sent this letter to the BBC on Wednesday following their coverage of the November 9th protests from students, electricians and taxi drivers. I’m still waiting on a reply.
To Whom it May Concern
Having participated in the student protests yesterday, before going to the Occupy London camp where I debated issues of marketisation and privatision of higher education with fellow students and supporters, I was absolutely disgusted at the BBC’s coverage of the protests on the News at 10. It seemed that you focused almost entirely on the possibility of violence from protestors, and the police response to the possibility of that violence, with the longest interview section of the piece devoted to the new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Not once did you mention the reasons as to why thousands of people were demonstrating on the streets of London (a large number, including myself, having travelled from other parts of the country).
Everyone I met on the march would have been happy to give you an articulate and full reason as to our strong objection to the Government’s plans to privatise UK Higher Education and you failed to broadcast any kind of articulate elaboration of why the protest was happening. Whether this was down to lazy reporting on your part, or more likely, a fear of being thought of (by the Daily Mail) as “biased” if you give any kind of airtime to the strong and growing movement against Government austerity plans, it was despicable. In case the producers of BBC News at 10 are unaware, we marched yesterday specifically to protest the White Paper going through the House of Commons next May that will introduce more of a market system into UK Higher Education, with the strong possibility of several institutions, including my own university, Warwick, going private. This would lead to an American-style market, with no limits on fees, no fair admissions policy, and poorer students priced out of the market. More generally, we, as students, lecturers, parents of future students, and supporters, are utterly opposed to this Government’s increasing commodification of education. Education is not purely a financial investment, and our world-class universities are not for sale to the highest bidder.
Our country has the worst record on social mobility of any developed country except the United States, a great deal of which is because of educational inequality, which this Government will make far worse with its introduction of higher fees, and the proposal that institutions “bid” for AAB students. This will mean that AAB students from poorer backgrounds will feel compelled to attend not the highest-ranking institution they can, but the one that will help them most financially. AAB students from rich backgrounds will have even less competition for places at good universities, and they are far more likely to have received high A-Level grades in the first place anyway, thanks to the combination of social capital and often, private education.
Even more generally, we marched against the increasingly harsh public sector cuts, caused by the need for a bailout of the financial services. This Government is pushing through a harsh privatisation agenda for which it has zero electoral mandate; not only in the education sector, but in health, welfare provision and every other aspect of our welfare state. As you are no doubt aware, the BBC is one of the many targets considered ripe for financial cuts under the guise of cutting the deficit; not giving full and fair reportage of the anti-cuts movement will harm your own institution in the not-so-distant future. For your report to ignore all the above issues, and instead treat the protests simply as another public disorder issue that our brave police managed to contain, even going as far as to link it to the summer riots, made me feel more angry and hopeless than I have in a long time.
I support the BBC and would campaign against cuts in its funding from a Government with a vested interest in its citizens having to rely on a mostly right-wing and inaccurate press, but the more and more you fall into the trap of conflating legitimate protest with rioting, the less and less worth your institution seems defending.
Yours more in sorrow than anger,