BBC’s New Year fireworks broadcast received 500 complaints for Black Lives Matter tribute

The BBC’s New Year fireworks display broadcast backed by Sadiq Khan received 500 complaints for a symbolic tribute to Black Lives Matter.

The annual event organised by the Mayor of London’s office was put together for broadcast with the help of the BBC after Covid-19 restriction made spectating  crowds in the capital impossible.

The display featured drones using lights to create numerous images in the sky, including the clenched fist symbol of Black Power which has become linked with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Viewers made 500 complaints to the broadcaster about the New Year’s Eve tribute to the organisation which spearheaded protests across the UK in 2020, according to a corporation report.

The summary of complaints over the festive period noted that some audience members were "Unhappy the New Year fireworks display referenced ‘Black Lives Matter’."

The viewer backlash against the display came as 14,350 were received by the BBC during the Christmas period, according to a fortnightly report on viewer reaction.

According to collated figures from last year Happy New Year Live! show received more complaints regarding Black Lives Matter than any other BBC broadcast specifically referencing the group in 2020.

Anger over the clenched fist symbol came just days after more than 200 complaints were made about a Christmas special of the Vicar of Dibley, in which Dawn French’s Reverend Geraldine Granger took the knee and delivered a sermon about the anti-racism movement.

The BBC has not outlined any further action that will be taken as a result of the viewers voicing their concerns over the New Year broadcast.

A statement said:  “We received some complaints about the content of the Happy New Year Live! display.

“The New Year midnight celebration, created and organised by The Greater London Authority and broadcast on BBC One, featured references to significant moments from 2020.

“We note you feel this was inappropriate and thank you for getting in touch.”

The traditional London fireworks display to ring in the New Year was reduced to a 10-minute light show broadcast on BBC One due to Covid-19 restrictions being introduced.

It was organised by the Mayor of London and events company Jack Morton Worldwide with the help of the BBC, and contained nods to prominent events and causes from 2020, including tributes to NHS staff.

Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised millions of pounds for the NHS by walking in his back garden, was among those honoured

Sir David Attenborough was also referenced in the drone display for his environmental message. 

Mayor of London Mr Khan has defended the symbolism of the display and said he was “proud that the eyes of the world turned to our capital”.

A spokesman for the Mayor added in defence of the show:  “It reflected some of the defining moments of what has been a very challenging year for our city and country, including the significant impact of Black Lives Matter, Captain Tom’s incredible fundraising efforts and our appreciation for the NHS.”

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