Broadcasters Need To Stop Documenting Migrants In Dangerous Waters Like They’re On A Sick Reality TV Show

The human beings fleeing dangerous countries for hopes of a better life deserve to be treated like more than just contestants in a spectator sport, writes Georgia Aspinall.

Migrants on English Channel

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Broadcasters following migrants' journeys across the English Channel are facing a backlash this week for documenting their plights in dangerous water as if they are filming a reality TV show.

BBC Breakfast and Sky News have both come under fire by viewers after posting videos of their reporters on boats attempting to interview the often vulnerable people fleeing dangerous conditions. In one video that went viral this week with over 3million views, the BBC filmed people on a heavily-packed boat trying to bail out water as they neared Dover.

In none of the footage from the BBC or Sky News do the reporters or crew attempt to help the people struggling aboard the boats. ‘Desperate refugees turned into a grotesque reality TV show,’ journalist Owen Jones said on Twitter to thousands of likes.

‘Journalists please note: I believe there is a sea-faring honour code that you should always come to the aid of a struggling vessel,’ comedian Katy Brand added. ‘What you're not supposed to do is film and bellow at them, and then drive off. It's not a fucking safari. If you don't get that, get off the boat.’

In fact, it’s not just an honour code to help a struggling vessel but maritime law – with Sea Law confirming that ships have a legal and moral obligation to help. Considering Sky News only yesterday reported that local fishermen on the Channel ‘regularly see boats packed with people running out of fuel’ you might think they would reconsider heading out to sea to record said people.

Because, as so many pointed out on Twitter, this is not just a news spectacle. These are harrowing stories of human beings fleeing their often unsafe home countries for a better life.

‘Not sure how many people watched this over their morning cuppa without truly fathoming that each person aboard is fighting for their life one way or another,’ commissioning editor at Ebury Publishing, Marianne Tatepo tweeted. ‘I feel deeply uneasy and sad about this disconnect and people bearing witness to something so sacred without due compassion.’

This type of reporting completely dehumanises people fighting for their lives.

As many like Marianne pointed out, this type of reporting completely dehumanises these people fighting for their lives, emboldening the ignorant anti-migrant rhetoric already awash in this country. And the fact that two of the most respected broadcasting institutions in the UK are resorting to this makes the entire industry look bad. So much so that journalists from each organisation have come out to condemn the reports, with commissioning editor Chris Allen tweeting (and since deleting) that he was ‘ashamed’ to work for the BBC.

Ultimately, we can only hope the huge backlash to these kind of videos allows broadcasters to rethink their attitudes towards reports like this. The humans risking their lives to seek safety in this country deserve to be treated as more than contestants in a spectator sport.

Read More:

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