Better Ealing Streets’ Complaint to the BBC

We have serious concerns about a broadcast from the BBC Science and Environment Unit on 17 March 2021.

Environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt’s report was often factually incorrect, incendiary, and we believe broke BBC guidelines on impartiality.

BBC Editorial Guidelines state, “Where our content highlights issues on which others campaign, we must take care not to endorse those campaigns, or to allow ourselves to be used to campaign to change public policy.” 

The inflammatory tone of the piece blatantly broke these guidelines.

The report also broadcast falsehoods and failed in the BBC’s remit to inform and educate. 

Mr Rowlatt did not explain what LTNs are or what they are designed to achieve. He used none of the readily available facts on traffic volume or air pollution. He presented anti-LTN opinions as fact. Worst of all, he failed to fact check a claim that taxis would not drop women to their doors at night. A quick series of calls to local cab firms would have told him that all Ealing’s taxi cab services drop passengers to their door.

The incendiary nature of the piece was shocking. It was clearly designed to inflame fears about women walking alone at night. It was heavily weighted in favour of anti-LTN views, and did not give the pro-LTN argument sufficient air time. Mr Rowlatt happily claimed that the scheme was a cash cow for councils without any context. He broadcast instances of law breaking and road rage without question. Dangerous illegal behaviour was also described on social media by Mr Rowlatt as “brilliant.”

The BBC Science and Environment Unit has jumped into this issue without adequate research. Worse still, they have used a high profile broadcast to encourage dangerous illegal behaviour.

We believe the BBC should issue a correction and a full apology for the false information and the distress caused by this piece.