Confused anti-vaccine protesters stormed what they thought was a major BBC building on Monday, apparently unaware the corporation largely moved out almost a decade ago.
Rather than target the BBC’s news operation, which they hold responsible for promoting Covid-19 vaccines, a handful of protesters gained access to Television Centre in west London, which is now predominantly rented by ITV to film its daytime shows such as Good Morning Britain and This Morning.
The circular building was vacated by the BBC in 2013 and has since been converted into flats and a private members’ club.
The BBC retained three studios on the site under its commercial for-profit Studioworks arm, which are largely rented to other broadcasters and provide the permanent base for many of ITV’s shows. However, the vast majority of London-based BBC staff and its news operation are based five miles away at the corporation’s Broadcasting House on Portland Place.
The Loose Women co-host Charlene White thanked the security team who kept protesters out of the studio while her ITV programme was on air on Monday afternoon.
“Not sure what protesters were hoping to achieve, but all they would’ve found was me, Jane, Nadia and Penny on Loose Women talking about the menopause,” she said.
Many of the protesters outside the building appeared to be operating under the belief they were targeting a major BBC building connected to its news coverage, with live streams and promotional material for the event mentioning the building’s BBC links.
Among the individuals outside was Piers Corbyn, the brother of the former Labour party leader, who was recorded on one live stream as saying “we’ve got to take over these bastards”, while other individuals on the protest described the media as “the virus” and criticised the BBC’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of people outside the studio building chanted “shame on you”, with small scuffles breaking out with Metropolitan police officers guarding the entrance to the studios, although other protesters stepped in to separate the two sides.
Police reinforcements and a helicopter were later deployed to the scene, while a smaller group of demonstrators did later march to Broadcasting House in central London.
The BBC has had to deal with an increasing number of verbal and physical attacks on its journalists by anti-lockdown protesters, with Newsnight’s political editor, Nick Watt, targeted outside Downing Street earlier this year.
The BBC’s director of news, Fran Unsworth, has warned that abuse of her journalists is a growing problem and has urged staff to train on how to deal with an in-person attack.
The BBC said it did not comment on security matters. A Met spokesperson said no arrests had been made.
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