Monday 1 April: Extinction Rebellion’s challenge to the BBC – climate change is no April Fools’ joke

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Monday 1 April: Extinction Rebellion’s challenge to the BBC – climate change is no April Fools’ joke

  • Internal BBC ‘Planet Pilot’ memo given to Extinction Rebellion show some BBC staff are now taking the climate and ecological emergency more seriously
  • Extinction Rebellion to stage BBC Staff Survey outside BBC HQ 11am – 2pm Monday 1 April

This Monday 1 April, Extinction Rebellion will launch a new mission – to discover whether BBC staff feel their organisation is telling the truth about the terrifying dangers we all face from accelerating global climate breakdown.

This news comes as Extinction Rebellion publishes an ‘encouraging’ leaked BBC memo which shows that the BBC is beginning to take the crisis more seriously following Extinction Rebellion’s high-profile protests last December outside of 10 BBC locations across Britain – plus in Berlin – which demanded that the corporation declares a climate and ecological emergency. [1]

11am-2pm Monday 1 April – BBC Staff Survey at BBC Broadcasting House

From 11am to 2pm on Monday 1 April, an Extinction Rebellion team will turn up the heat by returning to BBC Broadcasting House (Portland Pl, Marylebone, London W1A 1AA) in London to conduct a BBC Staff Survey putting a series of searching questions to BBC staff on their lunch and coffee breaks. There will also be good-natured entertainment including live music from ClimateKeys.

The aim: to discover whether BBC staff support Extinction Rebellion’s challenge that “The BBC places the climate and ecological emergency as its top editorial and corporate priority – integrated into all aspects of the BBC’s output, not just environmental sections – by adoption of a climate emergency strategic plan, at the level of urgency the corporation placed on informing the public about World War 2. [2]

This positive engagement event is intended to provide a platform for BBC staff to air their views. They are invited to let the world know whether they agree that it is high time Tony Hall, and the BBC as a whole, treat this crisis with the public service urgency required,” said Lola Perrin, founder of ClimateKeys and member of Extinction Rebellion.

Leaked BBC ‘Planet pilot’ memo – dated 18 March

An internal BBC memo, entitled ‘Planet Pilot – two weeks in’ and dated 18 March, has been given to Extinction Rebellion. Written by Jon Zilkha, Senior Project Director for News Change, it shows that BBC teams are being instructed to give greater prominence to the climate and ecological meltdown now driving crises ranging from rises in refugees to the collapse of insect populations. [2]

“It is encouraging that the BBC hierarchy is beginning to react positively to the pressure of growing public calls for the corporation to treat climate change as the dire emergency it is. Maybe protest does work?” added Lola.

“We urge friends within the BBC to help us bring transformational change to the nation and the world, to face the ecological crisis – both in what they broadcast and how they work. We know that the BBC, once it puts its mind to it, can do amazing things.”

Lack of response from BBC Director General Tony Hall

Prior to the December protests at the BBC sites, Extinction Rebellion in a letter to BBC Director General Tony Hall detailed an eight-point plan of how it could play a pivotal role in the transformation to face the climate and ecological crisis. [1]

“We issued a plea to BBC bosses to live up to their role as public service broadcasters by fully informing the public of the existential threat faced by the human race unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions. Our requests for a meeting with BBC Director General Tony Hall to discuss our demands were refused,” commented Sophie May from Extinction Rebellion.

The response we received was a pithy email from their ‘Complaints’ department. Given that the urgency of the situation is getting worse by the day, we are hopeful that there will be a frank face to face discussion soon.”

Coming up

These are the XR requests from our original letter

  1. The BBC Director General Tony Hall agree to a meeting with a delegation from Extinction Rebellion to discuss how the corporation can meet its crucial moral duty to tell the full truth on the climate and ecological emergency. Including especially the current perilous failure of the Government to take appropriate action.
  2. The BBC declares a Climate and Ecological Emergency – we need to act now; the extinction of the natural world is happening and we face the collapse of our civilisation.
  3. The BBC places the climate and ecological emergency as its top editorial and corporate priority – integrated into all aspects of the BBC’s output, not just environmental sections by adoption of a climate emergency strategic plan, at the level of urgency the corporation placed on informing the public about World War 2.
  4. The BBC to divest all pension funds, investments and bank accounts from fossil fuel corporations and their bankers.
  5. The BBC, its subsidiaries and its supply chain to agree to be zero-carbon by 2025.
  6. The BBC to publish an annual eco-audit of all BBC operations, including summary of key ecological and carbon data.

    7. The BBC to take a lead on encouraging other national & global media corporations to join the global efforts to save humanity / nature from existential crises.

    8. The BBC to only allow think-tank spokespersons or lobbyists on-air to discuss the climate and ecological emergency whose funding is fully transparent.

[2] BBC ‘Planet Pilot’ internal memo text:

18 March 2019

Dear all,

I’d like to give you a short update on our pilot testing how we commission content across BBC News.

We’re now two weeks in to the work on a new way of planning all stories coming under the heading of the Planet. We’re looking at whether we can do more to reach new audiences and get the best material to go further.

We’ve immediately been struck by the level of interest across all programmes. A vast amount of information and number of ideas have been put forward, and we’ve seen good collaboration between teams as we try to better coordinate our coverage.

Last week for example an idea from BBC Minute on the climate protests was the starting point for this digital video. A report from Politics Live about Bath declaring a climate emergency was reworked for Newsbeat Online, a video about the plastic in red noses also made a story for radio bulletins, while Martha Kearney’s reports from the Arctic for Today also ran on BBC Breakfast, BBC World News and the BBC News Channel over the weekend.  

And the pilot team’s work taking the story of Greenland’s winter rain to new audiences had a boost thanks to an unexpected celebrity retweet.

The team has also been hard at work generating new planet story ideas and areas we can work together on in the coming weeks. These include new digital and interactive formats such as the Climate ‘strike’ bot published on Friday. Other stories include an innovative carbon capture scheme, airline emissions and recycling nappies.

We’re keen as many of you contribute as possible. Here is a reminder of how you can get involved:

  • Before starting work on any story related to ‘the planet’, contact the pilot team so we can coordinate coverage across News. You can do this by emailing, or calling 0203 614 2777 (02 42777)
  • Pitching your planet story ideas at the twice weekly open pitching meetings at midday on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the George Cowling Room, 2nd floor, NBH.
  • Visit the new Planet community on the J-Portal to see current stories and ideas

I’ll continue to share updates as the pilot progresses, but don’t hesitate to email with any queries in the meantime.

Thank you for your support.


Jon Zilkha – Senior Project Director for News Change

[3] About Extinction Rebellion

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by its Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s topline demands:

  • The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
  • The Government must enact policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels
  • A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

Declaration of Rebellion:

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