Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts has lambasted media coverage of the London riots – but not for ignoring Woolwich, whose town centre was wrecked in the disturbances a fortnight ago.
Roberts accused Sky News of glorifying looters in a column in this week’s edition of council weekly Greenwich Time, and criticised the BBC for not allowing the council to show images of suspects on its big screen in Woolwich town centre.
He also said Woolwich did not need “a fixation with burnt-out buildings” – likely to be a reference to the Woolwich wall on the side of the Great Harry pub, painted over on Monday morning. There is no direct reference to the wall in Greenwich Time, despite it being covered by other local and national media.
This website understands Roberts declined two offers of interviews with Sky News when the channel’s reporters arrived in Woolwich to film at the wall last week, claiming that coverage of the damaged town centre would further stigmatise the area.
“It is galling to witness Sky News interviewing rioters, dressed as though they were attending a paramilitary funeral, on the shores of Greenwich and then permitting them to walk away after confessing their crimes on camera,” he said.
“After the News of the World, it appears our media have learned no moral lessons on how about behave.”
He continued: “Even the BBC has not distinguished itself. They own our Big Screen in Woolwich, and yet, despite showing the riots live and screening programmes like Crimewatch, they refuse to let us post CCTV images of rioters on their screen in Woolwich [sic].
“The last thing Woolwich needs at this time is a media circus. What we need… is not a fixation with burnt-out buildings, but getting back into all of our shops and all of us buying what we need from our local businesses.”
Despite the damage caused to Woolwich, the media all but ignored the area until nearly a week after the riot, when the Woolwich wall attracted the interest of Sky News, which returned the next day for a follow-up feature.
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No VIPs have visited the area either as locals come to terms with the damage done. Only junior minister Bob Neill (pictured above talking to police officers with Roberts) has come to Woolwich so far.
Greenwich Time is one of only two council weekly newspapers in the country. The council’s cabinet decided to continue publishing it earlier this year even though it defies a government code which aimed to restrict council papers to appearing four times each year.
The code also states that council publications should be “objective”, “even-handed”, “appropriate”, and “be issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity”.