BBC didn’t ‘censor’ audio of crowd booing over Boris Johnson clip

6 June 2022
What was claimed

Footage from Boris and Carrie Johnson’s arrival at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee thanksgiving service was manipulated to remove booing.

Our verdict

The audio was not manipulated. A version of the clip shown minutes later used sound recorded by a different crew.

Claims that the BBC “censored” footage of Boris and Carrie Johnson arriving at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee thanksgiving service to remove audio of the crowd booing have been shared widely on social media

The claim is based on a comparison between two clips from the BBC News channel’s rolling coverage of the event on 3 June. 

In the first clip, which is taken from the live broadcast of Mr and Mrs Johnson’s arrival at around 10:40am, booing can be heard very clearly as the couple ascend the steps to St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Presenter Jane Hill, who was in the process of interviewing author Catherine Butcher and royal historian Professor Anna Whitelock, interrupts the interview to note: “There is really quite a lot of booing actually, a substantial amount. Didn’t see that coming—that’s quite a moment.” 

In the second clip, taken from a few minutes later in the broadcast at around 10:43am, Ms Hill continues her interview while earlier footage of the Johnsons’ arrival is shown, though the booing is less clear. 

This has led to claims that the BBC, on the second showing of Mr and Mrs Johnson’s arrival over the top of a live interview, had deliberately manipulated the audio. 

While there are clearly differences between the audio in the two videos, this is not because they have been purposefully altered to present the Prime Minister and Mrs Johnson in a more favourable light. 

Instead, the BBC said the sound is different because they were recorded by two different crews at the event. 

A spokesperson for the BBC told Full Fact: “The BBC did not change or edit the sound on any of its recordings yesterday and its coverage clearly demonstrated the crowd’s reaction to the Prime Minister’s arrival.

“As is standard for an event of this nature, there were a number of different crews filming. Jane Hill was filmed commentating live on the arrivals at the service and the crowd’s reaction. 

“Other BBC coverage used a ‘clean feed’ of the arrivals, that is, sound and pictures from another crew which did not have commentary on top.”

This has also been corroborated by accounts of sound engineers on social media

If the BBC had used the audio of the Johnsons’ arrival from Ms Hill’s feed when it replayed the footage at 10:43am, her commentary would have clashed with the live interview she was continuing to conduct with the two royal experts. 

There are other examples, even within the BBC, of different levels of booing in the sound from the event. In a version available on BBC iPlayer, commentated on by David Dimbleby, the volume of the booing is even lower, and different again in footage shared by Sky News

Conversely, there have also been widespread claims on social media, including YouTube and Twitter, that the BBC overemphasised the booing in the crowd in order to cast the Prime Minister in a negative light. 

A similar clip of Mr and Mrs Johnson arriving at St Paul’s Cathedral to both loud boos and cheers was shared by a wide range of broadcasters and newspapers, including Reuters, the Times, and the Telegraph and Sky News

Those at the scene have also confirmed that booing could be clearly heard as Mr and Mrs Johnson arrived. For example, ITV News royal editor Chris Ship tweeted: “The facts are, and I was there, the boos were very loud indeed. No escaping that.” 

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