General election: BBC criticised for ‘dissuading voters from registering’ with Facebook posts just before deadline

Apathetic posts described as 'grotesque', but broadcaster says that series had actually been meant to encourage engagement with politics

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 28 November 2019 14:52 GMT
A worker sweeps rubbish in the raod near a polling station sign in London on June 23, 2016, as Britain holds a referendum on wether to stay in, or to leave the European Union
A worker sweeps rubbish in the raod near a polling station sign in London on June 23, 2016, as Britain holds a referendum on wether to stay in, or to leave the European Union (NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)

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The BBC has been criticised for posting about being apathetic about politics just before the voter registration deadline – but the broadcaster says the posts have been taken out of context.

As many on social media rushed to encourage friends and family to ensure they were registered to vote, one of the BBC's official accounts posted a range of tweets that called politics "meh", encouraged people to send in suggestions of things that were more important than politics, and used a variety of bizarre stickers.

The posts were shared online and prompted a rush of denunciation as people said they were likely to encourage apathy about voting. But the BBC said that the posts had actually been intended to show that politics affected other parts of life, and that it had intended the posts to encourage people to become engaged with politics.

"This is a series of posts which clearly demonstrate that politics affects every aspect of daily life and to show the difference voting can make," a BBC spokesperson said. "To quote one selectively and claim we are encouraging apathy is completely disingenuous.”

The criticism comes as the BBC's coverage of the election comes under intense criticism for failing to properly hold the politicians involved to account.

The BBC has been forced to apologise for editing out footage of Boris Johnson being laughed at, and for replacing video that showed the prime minister had put a flower arrangement the wrong way up at the cenotaph.

Now it has been accused of helping to decrease voter registration and turnout by sharing posts on its Facebook stories that seemed to encourage young people to feel apathetic about the election.

The posts have triggered a widespread backlash for apparently suggesting that young people are disaffected with the election and would rather be doing something else.

"Our national broadcaster encouraging voter apathy in the young ... Grotesque," actor David Paisley wrote on Twitter.

"The worst thing in this whole election is the pervasive smug cynicism that says politics is boring and people must be bored of it," wrote journalist Niamh Macintyre. "Deliberately ignoring the exciting possibilities of joy, community, mutual care, a real future."

The BBC is yet to respond to the criticism after being approached by The Independent. The posts have since disappeared, as Facebook's stories feature only stay live for 24 hours.

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