BBC’s drama on UK riots banned
20 July 2012
A court order has banned the BBC from showing a dramatised film on the riots in London and other cities last August.
The docu-drama, written by the award-winning playwright Alecky Blythe, is based on confidential interviews with 270 of those involved in the disturbances, conducted as part of the Reading the Riots study for the Guardian and London School of Economics.
The film was due to be shown on BBC2 at 9 p.m. on Monday. It was pulled at the 11th hour after the ruling, banning its broadcast “by any media until further order”.
A short preview clip available for viewing on the BBC web site was also pulled after the order demanded it “be removed forthwith.” A second BBC film scheduled for Wednesday based on interviews with police officers was also banned.
The implications of the court order for democratic rights are all the more sinister given that, according to the Guardian, “For legal reasons”, it is forbidden to “name the judge who made the ruling, the court in which he is sitting or the case he is presiding over.”
In a brief statement the BBC said only, “A court order has been made that has prevented the BBC from broadcasting the programme The Riots: In their own Words tonight. We will put it out at a later date.”
Across the media the ban has been met with almost total silence.
This act of state censorship and the compliance of the media is of a piece with the official response to the riots, which erupted in Tottenham, north London on August 6 and swept across the capital and to other cities in England.
Triggered by the police killing of 29-year-old father of four, Mark Duggan, two days before, the disturbances spoke to the elemental social rage among thousands of young people against entrenched poverty, discrimination and police brutality.
From the outset, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, supported by the Labour Party, the media, minority community leaders and others categorically rejected any social causes for the disturbances. They insisted that the riots were purely the product of a criminal “underclass”.
This libel against young people was used to legitimise state repression, which saw thousands arrested and made the subject of summary justice before specially convened kangaroo courts.
To date 1,290 mainly young people have been imprisoned, often on the most minimal charges, including several who were jailed for four years because they had made Facebook postings supportive of rioting. Entire families were threatened with eviction from social housing and the loss of benefits if any member was involved in the riots.
In the aftermath of the disturbances, the government ruled out an official inquiry into its causes, establishing a “Victims Panel” in its place whose sole purpose was to recommend harsher policing and “emergency plans” to deal with “public disorder.”
In the absence of any solid information on the ban and the legal case it relates to, one can only presume that the docu-drama, in which actors repeat transcripted interviews with some of those involved in the riots, was considered to be damaging to this official presentation of events.
Reading the Riots—the only comprehensive investigation into the disturbances so far—confirmed that police brutality, poverty and social injustice were the primary motivating factors for the disturbances. Time and again, the thousands interviewed for the study—drawn from all ethnic backgrounds and, in the main, aged between 16 to 24—described Duggan’s murder as the major trigger for their actions.
The government crackdown on London gangs in the wake of last summer’s riots has backfired leading to “chaos, violence and anarchy” it was claimed today: here.