BBC defends Channel crossing coverage after thousands of complaints: ‘We don’t believe it was sensationalist’

The coverage was met with a negative reaction with some critics calling it insensitive and voyeuristic.

Simon Jones BBC Breakfast

The BBC has defended its decision to show live coverage of refugees making the journey across the channel, saying it doesn’t believe the footage was sensationalist.


The broadcaster received upwards of 8,000 complaints from viewers, with many criticising the coverage for being excessive.

But in a statement released today, the BBC said (via Metro), “We don’t believe our coverage has been excessive or sensationalist. The topic of Channel crossings is of huge importance and one which we always endeavour to cover sensitively.

“The crossings are of significant public interest and political debate. August has seen a record number of migrants making the crossing for a single month.

“Across our reporting we have looked at the response of the UK and French governments, and the criticism of that response from, amongst others, groups that work with migrants.

“We have also explored where the migrants come from, why they are making the crossing and what happens to them after they are intercepted.”

“We always think carefully about how we cover any story. Our aim is always to be impartial, factual and fair.”

A BBC Spokesperson added to, “This report was a stark illustration of the significant risks some people are prepared to take to reach the UK.

“Channel crossings is a topic of huge importance and we always endeavour to cover the story sensitively. In this instance the Dover Coastguard were aware of the boat before our crew spoke to them and at no point did they, or those in the boat signal that a rescue operation was required.

“The Coastguards instead alerted Border Force, who then safely picked up the occupants and took them to shore.”

The original backlash against the BBC’s coverage came following a report on BBC Breakfast earlier this month, which saw Simon Jones reporting from a boat alongside a group of Syrian refugees who were themselves bailing out water from their vessel.

Jones told viewers, “We have seen them trying to get water out of the boat, they’re using a plastic container to try to bail out the boat. So obviously it’s pretty overloaded there – it is pretty dangerous, just the number of people on board that boat.”

In addition to the complaints sent to the BBC, the report prompted a negative reaction on social media, with many users calling the coverage insensitive and voyeuristic.

The approaches taken by both BBC Breakfast and Sky News also came under criticism from elected politicians, with Labour MP Zarah Sultana writing of Sky’s coverage, “We should ensure people don’t drown crossing the Channel, not film them as if it were some grotesque reality TV show.”


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