Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dear BBC Newcastle

You state your mission is to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain; and some of your values being things like independent, impartial and honest, as well as respecting each other and celebrating our diversity so that everyone can give their best. Source

I have difficulties reconciling this with the recent angle you imposed on cyclists in Newcastle. You started your radio programme (BBC Radio Newcastle, Wednesday 20 November 2013 between 16:00-18:00) with briefly describing the recent road carnage in London. Sadly six people had been killed on London's streets using their bikes in the short spell of a fortnight. A tragic subject worth exploring, debating and possibly resulting in drawing some big conclusions about politics, policy, society, transport and equality.

But following the mention of the road deaths, the programme went on to focus on cyclists in Newcastle who did not have their lights on. I was then left to 'collectively justify' on air why that was the case. As far as I can see there was nothing in the programme that put responsibility on drivers to get 'their house in order' and stop killing people on bikes (to put in emotively - as I believe it is the road layout and design that creates the conflict and ultimate damage and death). I was left saying, let's all take two steps back and look at the bigger picture. Something I would have liked the eminent BBC to do 'for me' and with me. The bigger picture is much more pressing to be discussed but was left untouched. The increasing KSIs of cyclists on our roads when generally road deaths are falling.

I think your programme's angle on this subject was badly out of balance. It defied the tragic reality and, at the very least, lacked creative thinking (another one of your stated values).

It was not independent or impartial - it simply portrayed the car-centric status quo (thereby supporting the oil/petrol/road./car lobby whipping up fear in a herd-instinct society and pulling wool over politicians eyes) that many of us are trying to challenge and change. The Categorical Imperative tells us that a world ruled by motor cars can not be fair and square for obvious reasons of space sparseness, pollution and cost to society.

It did not celebrate diversity. It put it in a corner and stabbed it.

Above all, it was not decent. People have lost their lives in tragic circumstances. The programme's focus was in disregard to road victims and their families and friends.

And I can only see your reporting style and angle, in this instance, as uninspiring in the least and victim blaming at the worst.

You say "we are one BBC: great things happen when we work together". Let's work together!

In the meantime, and forever more, rest assured that I will do my bit and remain saying to my fellow cyclists battling Britain's roads in atrociously hostile, aggressive and dangerous environments: Please do switch your lights on. And I pray for you that drivers will see you on this not-so-level playing field that is the not-so-great British roads.

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Updated 19 December 2014

From: Andrew Robson-Newcastle>
Date: 16 December 2013 10:53
Subject: Cycling
To: "Katja Leyendecker Cc: Jon Harle


Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to me by Jon Harle.

We regularly look at the subject of cycling on BBC Newcastle.  Topics we cover range from the implementation of cycle hire in Newcastle, to the debate about proposed investment in cycle track provision in the region, to the recent news story about cyclists killed in London. Cycling is a topic which always stimulates much debate with our audience. 

In terms of balance, because we cover the topic of cycling so often we need to be able to take a different approach to the topic each time we cover it.  On occasions we take opposing views on air at same time such as the Alfie and Charlie phone in, on other occasions we focus on one particular aspect of the subject we are covering.  We do seek to be balanced in our output over time.

BBC Newcastle has many keen cyclists in the building, some like Jon commute to work, and others, like myself cycle for fitness.  I can promise you we have no agenda to bias our output.

Thank you for your email.

Andrew Robson
Managing Editor
BBC Newcastle

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From: Katja Leyendecker
Date: 23 November 2013 13:03
Subject: Not quite a complaint
To: Jon.Harle Cc: Carlton Rei

Hi Jon
Maybe next time you could consider taking a different, more equitable, angle?

Please note that I always like to see cycling in the news, even if it is about road deaths and tragic events as these clearly need to aired and discussed. But seeing cycling reduced to "put your lights on and wear hiviz" - especially with the tragic London backdrop - really hurts.

- - - - Newcastle Cycling Campaign
- - -

1 comment:

  1. Well, if it's any consolation, It's not just cyclist they treat like this. In Michal Hussein's interview this morning on the Today programme on Radio 4, with a journalist "embedded" with the Greenpeace team in the arctic and with the Greenpeace UK director, not a word passed her lips to challenge or condemn the illegal thuggery of the Russian authorities. Not a word to admire their courage and determination in pursuit of their cause in the face of such danger. Instead she more or less said, hadn't the Arctic 30 just brought it all down on themselves?

    I was sick to my stomach. It almost makes me want to stop listening to Today.

    Especially after their execrable interview with Stanley Johnson (Boris' dad) and Virginia Ironside dissing all those elderly and infirm people who are less sprightly than themselves and who want more time to cross the street. Apparently Mssrs Ironside and Johnson can manage fine thankyou, so nothing more is needed.