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theweeksubDisabled activists have targeted the BBC to protest at its “biased” coverage of the impact of the government’s welfare cuts and reforms on disabled people.

Campaigners from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and the Mental Health Resistance Network, working with members of the mainstream anti-cuts movement, locked their wheelchairs together at the entrance to Broadcasting House in central London.

The peaceful protest was part of DPAC’s Reclaiming Our Futures week of action, and saw the front entrance to the new Broadcasting House blocked off for an hour.

Although police officers did arrive and talk to the protesters, there were no arrests.

The protesters said they were there because the BBC had played a key part in deteriorating public attitudes towards disabled people.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s steering group, said that current affairs programmes like The Future State of Welfare, Saints and Scroungers, and We All Pay Your Benefits were “pitching disabled people and benefit claimants against the working poor”.

And he said that the BBC Trust’s decision last month to criticise The Future State Of Welfare “proves that actually this is not just an abstract accusation, this is happening right across the BBC”.

He said that disabled people were being held responsible for the government’s cuts, with BBC radio phone-ins full of callers claiming that “most disabled people are swinging the lead”.

He added: “The only thing we seem to be talking about is how the poor in this country are to blame for being poor and need to sharpen their act and work harder at not being poor.

“The barriers in society are not being addressed. Nobody is holding politicians to account, while individuals are being demonised and hounded throughout the media. It is not right that a state-owned broadcaster is participating in this propaganda.

“Why are they not holding these politicians to account? Why are they not challenging the narrative and creating spaces for us who are challenging it to be heard.”

He called on the BBC to provide an “unbiased and balanced opportunity” for those disabled people affected by the government’s cuts and reforms “to have their say” and hold politicians to account.

Conan Doyle, another of the DPAC protesters, said: “The idea of the BBC is fantastic. It makes some of the best programmes in the world on such a tiny budget.

“I love the BBC – but when I see how much they misrepresent us, that is when it makes me angry. They are complicit in the propaganda of the ‘benefit scrounger’.”

He added: “I know a lot of disabled people who work. They are called scroungers just because they look different.”

In the last few weeks he said he had been having difficulty walking and “somebody just shouted ‘benefit scrounger’ at me”.

He said: “I think all media outlets play a part in that. By giving only one side of the story in the way it does, the BBC is one of the most complicit television networks.”

Paula Peters, from the Mental Health Resistance Network, said: “We want the BBC to start hearing our voice and start giving a more measured argument.

“We have got a voice, we have got a right to be heard and we are going to keep coming back until we are heard.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We don’t comment on security matters.”

2 September 2013

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