Letters to the Editors

Letter to the Editors, April 2022: complaining to the BBC

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History Reclaimed
Written by History Reclaimed

I submitted the following complaint to the BBC about a television programme which aired on BBC2 on 13th March 2022, The Misadventures of Ramesh Ranganathan.

From Mr Chris Tett

I submitted the following complaint to the BBC about a television programme which aired on BBC2 on 13th March 2022, The Misadventures of Ramesh Ranganathan. Just one of the many instances where Britain’s involvement in the slave trade was described without mentioning African involvement or British efforts to free slaves. This is particularly relevant because it covered Freetown in Sierra Leone set up by Britain specifically for freed slaves but you would never know from the programme. I could have written a lot more but was limited to 2000 characters.

The complaint would have more weight if others complained too.

To the BBC:

Romesh Ranganathan visited Freetown and a fort on Bunce Island where slaves were held until being shipped to the Americas. This nasty fact should not be avoided but history was then distorted by the choice of facts covered. Statements made:

• That the British held the fort for 138 years. The fort was sacked in 1728 by a local African slave trader who resented the loss of business caused by the British presence. It was out of action 20 years – not mentioned.

• That ‘raiders’ captured people and brought them to the fort. The ‘raiders’, who turned free people into slaves were Africans not British, but you would never know.

• That 30,000 slaves were shipped from Bunce Island. In 1808, Britain sent the Royal Navy to stop the trade and records show that over 150,000 African freed slaves were brought to Freetown – not a mention.

• That Freetown was a place where freed slaves were taken. It was Britain negotiated with local chiefs to found Freetown and took slaves there but no mention.

In Freetown, slaves freed by the Royal Navy walked through the ‘Freedom Arch’ to the Old King’s Yard to be given treatment and food. Declared a National Monument in 1949, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its website says:
The Gateway to the Old King’s Yard compares with the Statue of Liberty in the United States in enduring as a highly potent symbol, inspiring contemplation of ideals such as freedom, human rights, democracy and opportunity…

Surely such a monument was worth showing. But no mention.

Ranganathan said that slave trading was something ‘..the white British did..’ A racist statement ignoring African involvement. British involvement in the slave trade was shameful but could not have taken place without active involvement of Africans.

The programme covered the history of Freetown without mentioning who set it up or efforts by Britain to end the slave trade. African involvement in the trade was not mentioned at all. A defamation of Britain by a biased selection of facts.


BBC reply

Here is the relevant part of the reply.

Thanks for watching the programme and sharing your thoughts with us. I checked the examples you provided. The 138-year period was an overview. However, a single programme or report wouldn’t always be able to break down extensive historical information as much as we’d like due to time constraints. This is the same for other areas you highlighted in not including such as the ‘raiders’, the number following the abolition as well as the local chiefs point. There is always a lot more to include and we appreciate that not everyone will agree on what’s discussed. With regards to ‘white British’, this was looking at Britain’s involvement on a British series with a British presenter. That was the main focus; it wasn’t to suggest no other parties existed too.

As you can see, the reviewer ignored my main complaint. Woke seems deep rooted in the BBC. I thought I would let you know.

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History Reclaimed

History Reclaimed