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.

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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