Today, Extinction Rebellion are holding a good-natured and musical event – ‘Climate change is no April Fools’ joke‘ – outside the BBC HQ at Portland Place in London between 11am and 2pm. They are hoping to speak with staff as they enter or leave, to get their views in a short survey about the BBC’s coverage of environmental issues. A leaked security memo shows that the BBC is aware of the action and that the building will be in lock-down with only one side entrance in use.
Last year, there were several protests at the BBC over their paltry coverage of environmental issues. At one of these, Real Media interviewed green activist Jon Fuller who had persuasively documented massive failings in BBC output relating to major climate-related news stories:
In what may be a sign that the pressure is having some effect, an internal memo has been leaked to Extinction Rebellion which shows that some staff are taking the issues more seriously, and BBC teams are being asked to give greater prominence to the climate and ecological crisis.
BBC ‘Planet Pilot’ internal memo text:
18 March 2019
I’d like to give you a short update on our pilot testing how we commission content across BBC News.
We’re now two weeks in to the work on a new way of planning all stories coming under the heading of the Planet. We’re looking at whether we can do more to reach new audiences and get the best material to go further.
We’ve immediately been struck by the level of interest across all programmes. A vast amount of information and number of ideas have been put forward, and we’ve seen good collaboration between teams as we try to better coordinate our coverage.
Last week for example an idea from BBC Minute on the climate protests was the starting point for this digital video. A report from Politics Live about Bath declaring a climate emergency was reworked for Newsbeat Online, a video about the plastic in red noses also made a story for radio bulletins, while Martha Kearney’s reports from the Arctic for Today also ran on BBC Breakfast, BBC World News and the BBC News Channel over the weekend.
And the pilot team’s work taking the story of Greenland’s winter rain to new audiences had a boost thanks to an unexpected celebrity retweet.
The team has also been hard at work generating new planet story ideas and areas we can work together on in the coming weeks. These include new digital and interactive formats such as the Climate ‘strike’ bot published on Friday. Other stories include an innovative carbon capture scheme, airline emissions and recycling nappies.
We’re keen as many of you contribute as possible. Here is a reminder of how you can get involved:
Before starting work on any story related to ‘the planet’, contact the pilot team so we can coordinate coverage across News. You can do this by emailing PlanetPilot@bbc.co.uk, or calling 0203 614 2777 (02 42777)
Pitching your planet story ideas at the twice weekly open pitching meetings at midday on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the George Cowling Room, 2nd floor, NBH.
Visit the new Planet community on the J-Portal to see current stories and ideas
I’ll continue to share updates as the pilot progresses, but don’t hesitate to email PlanetPilot@bbc.co.uk with any queries in the meantime.
Thank you for your support.
Jon Zilkha – Senior Project Director for News Change
Although the memo is a potentially positive development, so far BBC Senior Staff have refused to meet with activists to discuss any change in output relating to the multiple ecological crises we face, instead resorting to what Extinction Rebellion describe as ‘a pithy email from their Complaints department’. More protests will no doubt be announced soon.