THE BBC have responded to a complaint they misrepresented a speaker at a student protest with a correction to the article.
Alfie Meadows, the philosophy student recently cleared of violent disorder after being struck over the head with a police baton, had been speaking at Sussex University where students have occupied a building in protest over plans to outsource university support services to the private sector.
The public broadcaster originally directly quoted Mr Meadows telling protesters, on Saturday, March 25: ‘We need revenge for the way students, protesters and the austerity movement were brutalised by police [during the 2010 student protests against tuition fees],’ but later that evening replaced the quote with: ‘He spoke of wanting revenge for how protesters were treated then.’
A complaint was later made after an eagle-eyed supporter of Defend the Right to Protest spotted the change.
In the complaint the BBC were accused of removing reference to the police ‘brutalising’ the protesters and austerity movement and more seriously implying Mr Meadows was inciting ‘revenge’.
In its response the BBC rejected the first part of the complaint on the grounds that it has not been proved that Mr Meadows was struck by a police baton despite his comments being in relation to how protesters and the austerity movement were treated in general by police as opposed to his personal experience.
However, it acknowledged the second part of the complaint and changed the paragraph to read: ‘He spoke of protesters “needing revenge” for the way campaigners were treated during the 2010 tuition fees rally.’
In it’s response the BBC said: “Alfie Meadows has always claimed he was hit by a police baton but this has never been proven and the IPCC inquiry into what happened to him was suspended at the request of his lawyers.
“Clearly, for these reasons it cannot be said to be ‘not contentious…that protestors etc were brutalised’ so while we accept that what we used was a valid and accurate quote we did have detailed discussions about whether there was a better way of telling this particular part of the story.
“On your second issue I believe you raise a fair point and we have altered the sentence again to “He spoke of protesters “needing revenge” for the way campaigners were treated during the 2010 tuition fees rally.”
Sussex University has since taken out an injunction to prevent further protests on campus after, it said, property was damaged following a demonstration on Monday.
Yesterday it applied for a possession order to reclaim the occupied building, however, the case was adjourned until this afternoon after students requested more time to prepare their case.