A search on the BBC website for ‘Occupy Wall Street‘ brings up pages of articles within the last month (the first appearing on 23rd September). There are now well over thirty articles just about the U.S. protests from that period.
Compare that to an equivalent search for the ‘Tea Party‘. The movement took off in a big way during the first three months of 2009 and by April some half a million people were taking part in Tea Party protests across the United States. How did the BBC cover it? Very differently.
Somewhat belatedly, the first article to appear was a full-length one by Kevin Connolly, entering the world on 15/4/09 (the one with the “tea-baggers” reference).
This was followed on 20/4/09 by a very brief, ironic aside (in the BBC’s Obama Diary) from Kevin Connolly (“the modern versions [of the Tea Party] do not quite have that regime-shaking intensity about them”).
On 27/4/09 there was a personal ‘voter’s view‘ from a Tea Party supporter as part of a series of voter reflections on Obama’s first hundred days.
There were a couple of ‘Newsnight’ blog-posts on 29th April, one from Peter Marshall (“the Tea Party people are almost exclusively white”), the other by Paul Mason.
There was then nothing for four months (May-August 2009), while the Tea Party continued going from strength to strength. The BBC looked away.
Finally, on 14 September 2009 Mark Mardell almost woke up, with a sneering aside in a blog-post about Congressman Joe ‘You lie!’ Wilson (“Listening to the “tax-payers’ tea party” in Washington on the radio over the weekend, it struck me that if I were reading a transcript blind of context, I would assume I was listening to a demonstration of a growing resistance to a brutal and undemocratic regime.”)
A day later there was the briefest mention of the Tea Party movement in another blog-post by Paul Mason.
Nothing more appeared on the BBC News website about the Tea Party movement during the closing three months of 2009, even though the Tea Party continued to go from strength to strength, enough to make every BBC reporter sit up and take notice in 2010 – whether they wanted to or not.