On December first I was both shocked and severely disappointed by the lack of overage about World AIDS Day by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in the UK. I was particularly appalled to see that there was not even a MENTION of World AIDS Day in their much-viewed 6pm news programme. So much so that I did something quite out of the ordinary for me and wrote a complaint. It went as follows: (Please note that there was a word limit, and I was quite angry at the time so it is possibly not the most coherent thing I’ve ever written)
With HIV/AIDS as the biggest disease to face the world in over 600 years; to have claimed 25 million lives; and to be currently infecting over 34 million people, I find it astounding that you failed to even mention it during your news coverage this evening on World AIDS Day.
As someone who, like many others across the UK and abroad, uses the BBC as my main news source due to its respectable and accurate coverage, I had much higher expectations from you. Your recent articles on your website have been excellent, however, only those who are already interested [in HIV/AIDS issues] will have read them. Not only do I feel that World AIDS Day is extremely worthy of at least a mention in its own right, there was ample news coverage that could have been used for a news story. Obama addressing the world alongside Bush, Clinton, Bono and others for example is surely a significant occasion to be noted.
Furthermore, I have failed to notice ONE person on the BBC today wearing a red ribbon to mark the occasion. Holding a unique position to reach millions of people across the country, I expected the BBC to have taken their responsibility to educate the nation about this extremely pressing issue much more seriously. Now is the time to make people act against this global pandemic and the BBC should be playing its part.
I would appreciate if you strongly considered your lack of action of this issue.
They duly responded a few days later:
Dear Mr Thomas
Thanks for your contact about ‘BBC News at Six’ on 1 December.
Whilst I was pleased to read of your appreciation for online coverage of World Aids Day, I appreciate you had concerns with regards to coverage during news broadcasts. I also note your comments about presenters not wearing a red ribbon to mark the day.
On BBC One on 1 December, throughout the broadcast, World Aids day was covered, this happened at 06.00, 07.00 and 08.00 and on BBC News Channel there was a full report broadcast at 10.00. On BBC Radio 4’s flagship ‘Today’ programme, an in depth report on World Aids Day was also broadcast.
Choosing the stories to include in our bulletins; the order in which they appear and the length of time devoted to them is a subjective matter and one which we know not every viewer will feel we get right every time. Factors such as whether it is news that has just come in and needs immediate coverage, how unusual the story is and how much national interest there is in the subject matter will all play a part in deciding the level of coverage and where it falls within a bulletin. Essentially this is a judgement call rather than an exact science but BBC News does appreciate the feedback when viewers feel we may have overlooked or neglected a story. I can assure you that we appreciate your feedback and your comments including those relating to the wearing of red ribbons, have been fully registered on our audience log.
This log is made available to all members of the BBC, including the ‘News at Six’ team and senior BBC management. This ensures that your comments and others we receive are considered across the BBC.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Whilst I was very happy to receive a response from them, I remain unsatisfied by its content. I was particularly frustrated that one of the reason World AIDS Day was not covered in evening broadcasts was due to “how much national interest there is in the subject matter”. As I noted in my complaint – the whole idea of reporting about World AIDS Day was to INCREASE awareness, after all, there is no need to preach to the converted.
I sincerely hope that they have actually noted the angry reaction of myself and many others – I know I was not alone in tweeting at BBC accounts on the day about their lack of red ribbons.
On a side note: not that I am in the spirit of encouraging competition between TV channels, I was very happy to see that contestants on ITV’s XFactor were wearing red ribbons despite it being December 2nd. Perhaps they had caught wind of the complaints the BBC were receiving? That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.