Wednesday 3 December 2008

Car supremacist BBC London News

Generally, the mass media does three inter-related things in the area of transport. Firstly, it muffles the reality that the greatest form of lawless killing and injury in British society occurs on the roads. The daily total of horror is usually ignored altogether and when it does get mentioned it is conceptually framed as “an accident”, as inevitable and arbitrary as bad weather. Secondly, it promotes the idea that motorists are a victimised group, forever persecuted by traffic wardens, speed cameras and unfair taxation. Thirdly, it demonizes cyclists. Quite trivial episodes of bad behaviour by cyclists are solemnly presented as ‘news’, whereas trifles such as cyclists crushed to death at junctions by turning lorries are ignored, and generally only rate a mention in local newspapers.

A classic example of these institutionalised 'news values' occurs today. BBC London News, which as far as I can tell has ignored every single instance of a cyclist being killed by a lorry in London this year, manages to make this into one of its lead stories:

A carer has paid her £80 parking fine in a wheelbarrow full of pennies in protest at the penalty. Maggie Gebbet, 63, was fined in South Street, Bromley, south London, after the ticket she bought peeled itself off her car's windscreen in hot weather.

“I'm furious about the whole business and most upset about being criminalised when I have not broken the law."

The mother-of-two wrote to Bromley Council's parking officers enclosing a photocopy of her ticket asking them to see sense and withdraw the charge incurred in South Street.

Ms.Gebbet has a poor grasp of law. She has not been “criminalised”, since a parking ticket is a civil matter.

It is not clear what kind of ticket is involved. By the sound of it, it wasn’t one from a machine, which would conclusively show the time allocated for parking. It was presumably the kind of permit you fill in yourself. A photocopy proves nothing. Anyone who gets a parking ticket could afterwards fill in a permit, put a false time, and claim it had dropped off the windscreen. I suspect the reason that Bromley disallowed her appeal was for fear of setting a precedent and then being flooded with claims from drivers claiming that their permits had also dropped down. Not much of a story, is it? But as far as the BBC is concerned, the war on the motorist never ends.