BBC News controller defends interview with wheelchair-using protester Jody McIntyre

An interview on the BBC News channel with Jody McIntyre, the student protestor who was allegedly pulled from his wheelchair during the student demonstrations, has received a “considerable” number of complaints, controller of the channel Kevin Bakhurst said on the BBC Editors blog yesterday.

In the post, Bakhurst said there has been a web campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC about the interview with the “broad charge” being that presenter Ben Brown was too challenging. Bakhurst defended the interview, claiming that Brown “interviewed Mr McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioned any other interviewee in the same circumstances”.

In the interview, a copy of which is posted in the BBC blog, Brown questions McIntyre on why he has not yet complained, before asking him whether: he was rolling towards police in his wheelchair; provoking police; or if he was injured from the incident. (The quotes below are taken from part of the BBC video clip).

Brown: And you didn’t shout anything provocative or throw anything that would have induced the police to do that to you?

McIntyre: Do you really think a person with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair can pose a threat to a police officer who is armed with weapons?

Brown: But you do say that you’re a revolutionary.

McIntryre: That’s a word, that’s not a physical action that I have taken against a police officer. That’s a word that you’re quoting from a website. But I’m asking you, do you think I could have in any way, posed a physical threat from the seat of my wheelchair to an army of police officers armed with weapons. This whole line of argument is absolutely ludicrous because you’re blaming the victims of violence for that violence. In fact it reminds me a lot of the way the BBC report on the Palestinian conflict…

Brown: When are you going to make your complaint to the police then?

McIntyre: I will be making my complaint very shortly, in the near future.

Bakhurst says he is interested in hearing more from those who have complained, about why they object to the interview, as well as other views. His post has so far received more than 330 comments.

23 thoughts on “BBC News controller defends interview with wheelchair-using protester Jody McIntyre

  1. Not a Person

    How can Jody be described as wheelchair bound if he was pulled OUT of his wheelchair? To imply he is wheelchair bound is to state that he is by BOUND as in ‘tied’ to his wheelchair. He’s not. He is a person with an impairment who USES a wheelchair.

  2. Ellie

    What that excerpt doesn’t show is how, after the questions had been answered (very well incidentally, Jody McIntyre is very articulate), Ben Brown continued to ask them all again. There’s difference between being challenging and just being rude for the sake of it. I didn’t complain, I didn’t think the interview was that out of order and Jody performed very well, but nor do I think Ben Brown came out of it looking particularly good.

    You aren’t being balanced because you ask a guy in a wheel chair if he went looking for trouble before the police dragged him onto the ground. Maybe he was looking for trouble, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he found it so easily. Where was the other interview with a representative of the police asking them what Jody did that could possibly have prompted that response? *That* would have been balanced reporting.

    Also, there wasn’t a web “campaign”. The video went viral because of it’s shocking nature and the person that posted it also posted a link to the BBC complaints page. Obviously enough people were sufficiently upset by what they saw to act. Writing that off as a “web campaign” fails to take into account the legitimate views of those people.

  3. Pablo Luis Gonzalez

    I have no issue on the way that Brown interviewed McIntyre. My issue is that Brown’s questions were leading to get a pre-decided conclusion (that the police were right and the students were wrong – the reality is that demonstrations are messy, and many police officers behaved like thugs in uniform, and the commanders allowed that behaviour), on this respect this was not good journalism.

  4. Oh dear

    That is not what wheelchair bound means at all, it is more subtle than that. What is your real motive for posting what you did?

  5. Vonjon

    The fact is that Ben Brown implied that mr. McIntyre deserved the treatment he received because of his pollitical views, disgusting. Also is moving in the general direction of the police a crime? If not, why ask the question “were you rolling your wheelchairt towards the police at the time?.”
    The whole interview was an attempt to discredit a man’s legitimate claim of police brutality. I did not support the protests, but this interview is not unlike what you would expect to see on state television in a dictatorship.

  6. SDes

    I was disgusted with the way Brown interrogated this man. My disgust stems from Brown’s smarmy attitude, suggesting that:

    a) If McIntyre had have been ‘rolling’ towards the police, the following brutality could possibly be justified (I could not believe my ears when asked if it was true that he’d been rolling towards police).

    b) If McIntyre had previously described himself somewhere online as ‘a revolutionary’ that would also somehow justify the action taken by the police. As though opinions stated on a website means he deserves what he got. As though the police had any idea of who this man was, or what his opinions could be.

    Since when have the BBC been in the business of taking sides against the public? I do believe that on separate footage, some other BBC imbecile suggested that the police ‘deserved medals’ for their work during the protests. Medals?! For making an already volatile situation worse? For beating, kettling and staging mounted attacks on a group of people (many of whom have no right to vote yet) protesting against their rights to an education being taken away?

  7. Peter A

    Some people with disabilities think descriptions should avoid crude “labeling”. Just as in the interview Jody challenges the word “revolutionary” as a word and not a description of his actions that day, so I think it’s legitimate to challenge the clumsy label “wheelchair-bound” in this headline (which then gets repeated in other blogs, Twitter linked tweets, etc).

    We can defend Jody as ably he defends himself without patronising him. For some discussion about what wheelchair users think of the use by journalists of the label “wheelchair-bound”, see the Ouch! discussion board:

    This is a blog is about journalism, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s inappropriate to discuss how it reports things, too.

  8. Not a Person

    My response – to Oh dear Says:

    “December 15th, 2010 at 10:14 am
    That is not what wheelchair bound means at all, it is more subtle than that. What is your real motive for posting what you did?”

    My ‘real’ motive for posting is stated above, why not re-read my post?

    The term wheelchair bound is not subtle at all.

    Definition of bound: 1. Confined by bonds; tied: bound and gagged hostages.

    Are you saying its subtle because you are trying to paint a picture? And using emotive words and phrases to portray one side as the ‘victim’ (in this instance: wheelchair bound).

    For the majority of disabled people living in Britain, inappropriate language and imagery in the media can have a deep effect on their lives, their friends and families. Words and images reinforce negative stereotypes, leading to general assumptions being made about what disabled people can and can’t do. These assumptions can, in turn, lead to the continued exclusion of disabled people. You need to think about the pejorative terms like “suffer” and “suffers from’, which you probably also think add an emotive element to a story. It’s no wonder disabled people are continually excluded when the media constantly bombard with words like “helpless,” “victims,” “dependent” and “wheelchair bound” when they read about disabled people. Please reject hackneyed stereotypes and start to use thorough and accurate representations and consign lazy journalism to the dustbin where it be longs.

  9. rev green

    Not a person , are you mental?
    Whats your point as an old rght wing racist hate students support the police tory even I thought this was beyonfd the pale, his treatment by the police and Brown questioning, were yourolling toward the Police.
    It was the sort of questioning I would have excpected from
    Alan Partridge or David Brent.
    If he had equipped his wheels like Ben Hur or Boadicea
    I could see the point.

  10. Joel Gunter

    Commenter Peter A says:

    “This is a blog is about journalism, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s inappropriate to discuss how it reports things, too.”

    It is perfectly appropriate to discuss the way in which we – and other news organisations – report issues and the language that we use. We welcome criticism of our choices and in this instance recognise that the term used has caused offence, which was not, of course, our intention.

    To that end the headline has been changed.

  11. Vonjon

    I would like to add, that to my knowledge there is no internet campaign to get people to complain. I myself saw this interview on the internet and felt compelled to complain off my own back. It is the first time I have ever felt so appalled by a programme that I felt the need to do so.

  12. stan howard

    the inteview was sympomatic of obvious bbc news bias toward the present con dem goverment.fortunately it backfired spectacularly, pre the election bbc news was biased toward the consevatives only. the bbc news (not the bbc as an organisation)its editors are disgrace, you need only look at their names to see tory infiltration.

  13. Stu

    I watched the interview after getting an email from a friend that had complained. To be honest I wasn’t going to bother, but after watching it I had to.

  14. Jack Frost

    I just like how Kevin Bakhurst’s arrogance toward BBC viewers mirrors Ben Brown’s arrogance toward Jody McIntyre.

    Neither one can seem to understand that their inane justifications for state aggression – whether it be a police baton or a profoundly biased reporter – isn’t quite the easy sell they think it is.

    Kev, please maintain your haughty ignorance and indignation because I’m enjoying reading the 700+ comments on the BBC complaints page.

  15. GS

    Does anyone have an address for Ben? I’d like to send him a police uniform I’ve made him so that he can be just be like the big boys and girls. First we had BBC reporters pretending they were part of the army now some have joined the Met. I used to value the BBC, but no more. What a choice Murdoch or the State.

  16. Vonjon

    So the BBC is allowing no more comments on Bakhurst’s blog, calling it a day (without response) at 1,065. I imagine Ofcom is about to be inundated

  17. Gramskii

    FYI the number of comments was closed when it reached 1000.

    The BBC just says ‘ This dicsussion is now closed’

  18. Slightly miffed

    All Kevin Bakhurst’s editorial blogs are down now, apparently ‘closed temporarily for maintenance’. I can’t wait for Ben Brown’s next ‘battle report from the front-lines’. I wonder on which side he will be standing – I’ll bring my camera along!

    “This is Ben Brown reporting for the BBC from behind the police lines. I’m under concerted attack by anarchists in wheelchairs… (sounds of heavy breathing)… Shit! They’re rolling towards me… Help, help!… ” …transmission ends… static… cut to Sophie Raworth in the studio with a solitary tear upon her lovely fair cheek.

  19. B

    ‘..there wasn’t a web “campaign”. The video went viral because of it’s shocking nature and the person that posted it also posted a link to the BBC complaints page…Writing that off as a “web campaign” fails to take into account the legitimate views of those people’.

    Let me point out soemthing really obvious to those that continue to make this point.

    When Kevin Backhurst posted his Blog, the complaints were the result of an internet campaign. Then the video was posted on Youtube and people made complaints based on the interview. This happened afterwards.

    The reality is that the BBC will often be the target of organised lobby, because people with an agenda want favourable coverage.

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