Even if you do add in Russell Brand, it doesn't necessarily make your march newsworthy. Photo: Getty
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No, the media didn’t ignore your anti-austerity march – it just wasn’t that interesting

There’s no organised “media blackout” on reporting protest marches. More often than not, they just aren’t that much of a story.

Another protest march, another set of howls that there has been a “media blackout” to prevent the reporting of marches. It’s become an article of faith among the hard left in the UK that the BBC in particular has been ordered not to cover protest marches.

First off, as usual with these events, photos of legions of marchers circulate, along with tweets along the lines of “HOW IS THIS LEGION OF REVOLUTIONARIES NOT NEWS, BBC?!? THERE ARE MILLIONS OF US! #Mediablackout”

These fall into two broad categories – firstly, and most commonly, the shot of a march from years ago which had bigger numbers, like this one, which was tweeted hundreds of times alongside grumpy comments. That’s actually from a march in 2011; you can tell instantly it wasn’t from Saturday, because the trees have no leaves, but Saturday’s march was held on midsummer’s day. Just as a clue, retweeting that sort of fake image hurts rather than helps your claims of relevance.

The second is the shot taken from among the crowd – which really is from the right march, but shows the crowd without actually showing the scale. The one I linked to is from Trafalgar Square; at first glance it looks like a big march, but there’s probably 80 people crammed into that shot. It’s not intentional fakery, but it’s naive to think the fact you are surrounded by people means that the march is newsworthy.

Secondly, as usual with these events – it’s not true that there was no coverage. There was coverage; on both BBC national and local radio, and on the BBC News Channel in the evening news, from 8pm onwards. It’s the British “Broadcasting” corporation – the clue is in the name. The inability to find something on the BBC news website does not mean there is a “media conspiracy”.

These demos, and the complaints of a blackout happen all the time – take the Manchester anti-cuts march. It’s an article of faith among the left that this was the subject of a “media blackout” – so much so that Andy Burnham wrote to Ofcom to complain the coverage was “cursory”. Yet here is a supercut of all the BBC coverage of the day – including the BBC political editor talking about the protestor’s specific demands. On the day, there were two articles on the march on the front page of the BBC website – but still, the myth of the “media blackout” persists.

The wackier end of these conspiracy media blackout theories include the idea that “armed police were deployed to stop us“ – usually posted by people unaware that the police around parliament habitually carry guns, so that’s not unusual. There’s also the usual cry that “Russia Today gave it loads of airtime”. It just goes to demonstrate that the more people tell you “the mainstream media are lying to us”, the more they are probably lying to you.

If you buy into this narrative – as supported by the Morning Star – then all that stops the revolution from happening is the fact people just don’t know about what the Tories are doing. If only the BBC would run an article with the full text of Russell Brand’s speech on the front page of its website, then within 24 hours the country would be at a standstill, with barricades in the street, and within a week, Owen Jones would be prime minister, passing the Socialist Utopia (Creation Of) Bill.

That’s just not true, guys.

It’s not that the general public don’t know about assorted cuts – those are covered by the press on a daily basis. It’s not that the general public don’t disapprove of the cuts – there’s plenty of evidence of that, too. Yet Eoin Clarke still asked “Please give me 1 good reason why the BBC News Website has not covered this anti-Austerity march in London today?”

Here’s the reason – the government don’t need to order a media blackout because the sad truth is “Lefties march in moderate numbers, again, and then go home, again”, isn’t much of a story. That’s it. That’s why the BBC didn’t cover it.

It’s not new – demonstrations happens with those numbers three or four times a year in London alone, usually with the same people carrying the same banners. The metropolitan police tell me they don’t keep a log of how many, but that they “facilitate thousands of demonstrations in London every year”.

People marching – even if there are 50,000 of them – just isn’t a big story. Yes, it’s enough to win one parliamentary constituency, but it’s not a revolution. Sure, BBC editors are being selective in their coverage – but that’s an editor’s job.

It’s often said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. People need to wake up to the fact that marches, for all their symbolic value to the left, just aren’t that relevant or newsworthy anymore. Even if you do add in Russell Brand.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.