Confused anti-vaccine protesters stormed on Monday what they thought was a large BBC building, apparently unaware that the company was largely relocating nearly a decade ago.
Instead of targeting the BBC’s news operation, which they are responsible for promoting Covid-19 vaccines, a handful of protesters gained access to the Television Center in west London, which is now predominantly hired by ITV to film its daytime hours, such as Good Morning Britain and This Morning.
The circular building was vacated by the BBC in 2013 and has since been converted into apartments and a private members’ club.
The BBC kept three studios on site under its commercial, profitable Studioworks arm, which is largely leased to other TV stations and forms the permanent base for many of ITV’s shows. However, the vast majority of London-based BBC staff and its news operations are based five miles away at the company’s Broadcasting House on Portland Place.
Loose Women co-host Charlene White thanked the security team for keeping protesters out of the studio while her ITV program aired Monday afternoon.
“Not sure what the protesters were hoping to achieve, but all they would have found was me, Jane, Nadia and Penny about loose women talking about menopause,” she said.
Many of the protesters outside the building seemed to function under the belief that they were targeting a larger BBC building associated with its news coverage, with livestreams and promotional material for the event mentioning the building’s BBC links.
Among the individuals outside was Piers Corbyn, the brother of the former Labor party leader, who was recorded on a live stream to say “we have to take over these bastards”, while other protesters described the media as “the virus” and criticized BBC coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of people outside the studio building sang “shame on you”, with small quarrels erupting with Metropolitan police guarding the entrance to the studios, though other protesters stepped in to separate the two sides.
Police reinforcements and a helicopter were later inserted to the place, while a smaller group of protesters later marched to Broadcasting House in central London.
The BBC has had to deal with a growing number of verbal and physical attacks on its journalists by anti-lockdown protesters, with Newsnight’s political editor Nick Watt targeting off Downing Street earlier this year.
The BBC’s news director, Fran Unsworth, has warned that the abuse of her journalists is a growing problem and has urged staff to train in how to deal with a personal attack.
The BBC said it did not comment on security issues. A spokesman for the Met said no arrests had been made.