Should the BBC be going to Specsavers? I was listening to BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Good Morning Ulster’ (a lot of Ulsters in there) this morning and they were reporting on the rioting at Ardoyne shops last night. A group of people blocked the road in advance of the Orangemen coming back and parading through the area, and the PSNI moved in wearing full riot gear and dragged them clear. Rioting followed.
This morning, Karen Patterson had a senior police officer in the studio, who talked about the cost of the policing operation (£650,000) and said that what was needed was a ‘systemic solution’, whatever that is. Karen asked after the condition of a woman police officer hurt in the rioting. The senior police officer admitted that some civilians had been hurt, in particular a woman hit by an iron bar (i.e., the rioters hurt her, not the police). We had Gerry Kelly MLA on saying that ‘the parade is the issue’ and Nigel Dodds on saying rioting was never right, not now or ten or fifteen years ago. Both politicians denounced last night’s protestors.
What we didn’t have was a single interview with a single protestor. The TV cameras showed them with big signs reading ‘WE’RE RESIDENTS, NOT DISSIDENTS’ but no attempt was made to establish if this were true. No one spoke to them to find out why they saw fit to block the road, what they hoped to achieve, whether they thought they were damaging the community. We were told that among the protestors were members of éirígí. Why then was none of them asked questions? The last time I checked, éirígí was a legal political organisation. Come to that, why weren’t there live cameras down at the protest? That way, we could have seen for ourselves what the protestors and those behind them were doing and how the police responded, rather than being given a heavily-edited film tape.
We’re told repeatedly that these people are anti-social thugs, but it looks increasingly as though they’re something more. The job of the media is to seek out the truth and report it. If they aren’t getting the cameras down to show things as they happen and they aren’t seeking to hear the views of those involved in rioting, you begin to think they’re perhaps nervous of what they might see and hear. And correspondingly, what we might see and hear.
We had all this twenty years ago with the ludicrous broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin. Are we now going to have more of the same sort of thing, except this time it’s not the British government that’s muffling the media, it’s themselves.