To my former colleagues at ITV and the BBC:
ON this glorious spring day in 2021, the sunshine blasts its happy smile from the sky and I am finally able to find the strength to put into words the last year. I have attempted this on many occasions. It was all just too big, too important – too unsettling to put to paper, but here I try. Today, the sunshine hides the ugly truth; that gutless weasels at so-called mainstream news outlets and censorship by social media have turned journalism into a toxic mess. Today, however, I explain how you can change it for the better.
I began working as a journalist in 2000 for the Guernsey Press. I moved into TV in 2002 working as a reporter for ITV in Jersey, Birmingham and Oxford, until 2008, when I moved to the BBC as a presenter for BBC South Today and another brief stint as a producer for BBC Wales in 2012, where they offered me a full-time job. But I valued the job as a full-time mother over a full-time career. I then worked part-time for the National Union of Journalists, organising training courses for people in communications, marketing and journalism. One course in particular was called How to Shoot and Edit on an iPhone and at this point I just got it. I got it, everyone got it and it was the only training course that would sell out within a few hours.
When my children were older in 2017 I thought to myself, how on earth could I go back to the newsroom when I could see we could all control the narrative – we had mobiles, we had the tool to produce and publish. In 2012 when I saw the BBC cover up the vile sexual abuse of children by Jimmy Savile, I struggled to see how that brand would fit in with who I am as a journalist and a mother. How could I even consider a career back with the BBC – and here, I don’t even have time to go into detail, but many people had contacted me with concerns around some of BBC Panorama’s output. Accusations of dubious intentions, journalist’s links to the security services, underhand journalistic practices and a very biased agenda. Clearly the BBC was not for me anymore, but creating my own business was.
The mobile phone was the magic tool that I could see would change everything – but I was also able to predict a major problem. Trust had eroded from many organisations and people struggled to believe anyone or anything, because whistleblowers and citizen journalists have a platform to publish a different narrative. Media brands like the BBC and ITV have not caught on to this quickly enough in my opinion. And if back then they had found out about Savile had exposed it, apologised and removed him, they would have survived.
You might say they have survived. After all, the BBC are still here. Except they are not. Not in the hearts and minds of the generations to come. They exist but they are not alive and they are not alive because they are not trusted.
So in 2017 I launched Brees Media and soon began training corporate communications teams all around the country, showing them how to create professional on-the-day content with their mobiles at speed. In other words, forget about courting the traditional media with press releases, friendly calls and boxes of branded chocolates at Christmas, build your own message and channels through direct broadcasting. In the same way I would film and edit in TV, I could teach them how to do it with their mobiles. A lunchtime live, a vox pop, a two-minute news package etc; you can do it all on your mobile phone. You need a £15 microphone, a £25 tripod, an editing app like KineMaster and you are good to go. Get your brand out there and build it in a much more time-efficient way, where you are in control of the content.
I saw Boris Johnson in the run up to the general election in 2019 reject the traditional media interviews with the likes of BBC Radio 4, the Andrew Marr Show, Sky News etc. I knew he didn’t need it. If I had been his campaign manager I would have done the same thing. He would win via social. Who else won via social – Donald Trump. Which is why it isn’t social media, it is new media. Social media is the chat in the pub, the natter over the fence with your neighbour, a bit of gossip on your walk into town. The problem for the establishment was that it had become so incredibly powerful, it was gaining the hearts and minds of the public, their time, their attention and controlling the narrative. It was a full on war between the big box (TV) and the device in our hands.
People trust their family and friends more than a TV presenter or reporter who they don’t know and have never met. And please, everyone needs to remember I completed my Broadcast Journalism training at Highbury College in Portsmouth in just nine months, the newspaper course was just three months. And you didn’t need a degree to get on this course, it was preferable but not mandatory. Then think for a moment how much trust you place in the hands of these people and compare that to the doctors and professors you have ignored and how long their training took.
So while of course some people are still not on “social” media – there are many who are and they trust it, they get it, they feel they have a voice, a community, they can engage with content, produce content, watch their views go up on each post and feel they finally have a voice.
With my figures on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter I am an individual with a mobile – as large as many traditional media brands such as WalesOnline, Channel 4, in terms of reach. My reach might be global rather than regional or local, but it is huge. A good month in the world of Brees Media: Two million views and one million engagements on my Facebook page; 32 million retweet reach on Twitter and 850,000 profile views, 10 million minutes watched on YouTube.
It all comes down to trust now. A BBC Wales Today reporter I bumped into in Cardiff told me he is filming and editing a court report on his iPhoneX straight to broadcast on BBC1. I thought they were capturing some footage on mobiles, but had no idea all the editing was taking place too. He said we can film in 4k, the quality is incredible and the whole process from filming, editing and sending back to the newsroom incredibly quick. So on an important quick turnaround piece such as a court hearing, mobile journalism works.
These voices are growing. And for the likes of me and Alex Belfield, also ex BBC, our profile and our channels are becoming huge – and a problem. In fact Alex has been arrested five times because of it. The BBC and the police don’t like him, they don’t like his power.
So Alex and I both experienced something very similar. In March 2020, as lockdown was launched, so were we. Our YouTube channels grew at such incredible speed. For me it was all a bit accidental. I didn’t want to be a voice, presenter or a brand. I was enjoying the training – I wanted to empower and educate.
Back in March 2020 I was turning work away, with a conference booked with Wales and West Utilities, two days lined up teaching golfers at the Professional Golf Association and a trip to teach the comms team for the Sparrows Group in Aberdeen. I was travelling the country with my own bespoke two-day course – and absolutely loving it. Earning six times more than a freelance reporting shift at ITV in Birmingham. My own boss, my own passion and good money – all part-time so I could continue to be around for my children, a wonderful life.
But then all of a sudden I was trapped in my home, the school was shut and all of my work was postponed. I saw a press conference of two doctors removed from YouTube – it had 5.5million views. On April 24th, two Bakersfield doctors, Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, held a press conference questioning the California’s stay-at-home order. They compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and called for the end of lockdown. These doctors may have been wrong but they were removed from YouTube. The fact that they were removed is what frightened me.
I could see very quickly that censorship and surveillance was coming. I could feel it creeping up on me, like a cold chilling breeze that made me shudder. It was at this point that the journalist kicked back into action. I had to get involved, for my children, for all of us.
I started doing pieces to camera to my YouTube channel and soon attracted some attention.
Professor Robert Endres from Imperial College London commended me on my reporting of the corona crisis and the lockdown measures on LinkedIn on the 30th May 2020 and shortly afterwards gave an interview. He said the BBC was not providing a counter narrative and was highly critical of the science behind Prof Neil Fergusons’ modelling report (also at Imperial). So I had to do something. That interview remains on YouTube. I felt he needed a platform to be heard, and I needed to help.
And then they just kept coming, professors, doctors, barristers, teachers – all saying my old employer the BBC was not providing a counter narrative. I was horrified by the BBC and remain so to this day, the gutless weasels, who have done absolutely nothing to protect our democracy, our children, our future, our voice. When you see the likes of acu2020, PANDA, World Freedom Alliance, Great Barrington Declaration, Doctors 4 Covid Ethics, Hart, BIRD Group, Frontline Covid 19 Critical Care Alliance, Frontline American Doctors, Canadian Nurses. I could go on and on, there are so many groups of brave doctors and professors working hard to get their message out. There aren’t hundreds of doctors there are thousands. But what were the so-called mainstream journalists doing? Where were the journalist whistleblowers forming their own groups, or the journalists covering these important testimonials and allowing these professionals a platform to be heard.
I am in a tiny WhatsApp group of mainstream media journalists and direct message a few people who are at the BBC and ITV who are doing their best to reform from within. But the rest are gutless, spineless, pathetic individuals. Many have kids and they have no idea where we are heading, where this is heading.
One interview I did on my YouTube channel in particular really stands out, that being with Dr Rick O’Shea. Rick had once worked as a BBC sports presenter and is now a Cardiff GP. His interview was calm, balanced and fair, yet he was reported to his regulatory board for suggesting children needed to get back to a normal life and the BBC weren’t offering a counter narrative. He does not regret our interview and wants to be interviewed again. He isn’t as calm now, he is very angry.
Some doctors YouTube seemed to be happy with and they remained on the platform. Others such as Dr Roger Hodkinson didn’t. And again Dr Mike Yeadon had a full page in The Daily Mail on the October 31, 2020 but, by December, Facebook weren’t allowing any of his views to be heard.
One of the biggest censorship shocks is when YouTube gave me a community strike (three and you lose your channel) for sharing a video of interviews from the London Trafalgar Square Protest on September 26, 2020. One where Dr Heiko Schoning who had come over from Germany to speak to us, was jailed and put in Wandsworth Police station for the night. For what? A doctor travelling from Germany to London to help us with a point of view he felt we needed to hear and we locked him up. He was speaking at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park when he was arrested.
The next day someone gave me the number for Sue Reid from The Daily Mail. I called her and she was horrified and said this should be on the front page of every Sunday newspaper today. Needless to say it wasn’t. And again I got a strike on YouTube for covering the speech he made when he left Wandsworth police station. I do not blame Sue for this, she genuinely seemed upset and concerned that this information wasn’t being shared.
I will never forget that protest in London, all those brave people I spoke to who had travelled from all over the UK. Speaking to them, I discovered almost all of them had never been to a protest before, yet they were censored. There was a chef who had lost his £60k-a-year job and was living on £5k of savings, a former BBC employee, retired teacher and many more. A simple vox pop of voices REMOVED and called medical misinformation. How disturbing is that?
But some interviews stayed up, the early ones, with Dr Renee Hoenderkamp and Dr Rick O’Shea.
I spotted Prof Martin Kuldorff from Harvard Medical School on Twitter. He had spoken to a tiny BBC station and again I could see he was someone who needed a platform. So I was one of the first to interview him. He is part of the Great Barrington Declaration along with Professor Sunetra Gupta (University of Oxford) and Professor Jay Bhattacharya (University of Stanford), which was launched shortly after our interview and now has 14,000 signatures from medical and public health scientists, 43,000 medical practitioners, and 787,00 concerned citizens.
Then I started getting powerful testimonials from around the world, they still exist on YouTube there are 150 of them. They were honest, from the heart – so incredibly moving and all of a sudden my YouTube channel started to grow rapidly. Here I was providing a platform for the people and a platform for the professionals who were not being heard on the media brands they had trusted for so long.
I contacted former Crimewatch and Children in Need presenter BBC Presenter Sue Cook. In our interview she told me she had switched off BBC Radio 4 in disgust after 40 years – for their biased and at times toxic coverage of the pandemic and lockdown.
Dr Roland Salmon was at Public Health Wales, now retired. He was their media spokesperson and former Head of Diseases, he said lockdowns don’t work. This had been covered by BBC Wales but the voice and coverage was small. I did mobile video training for the Public Health Wales communications team in 2018, and I often wonder how they are dealing with this crisis situation.
More recently I saw Dr Tess Lawrie’s address to Boris Johnson to look at ivermectin as a means to treat covid at all stages. She had seen Dr Pierre Kory’s address to the Senate in December 2020 and had spent all of Christmas and New Year looking at the evidence. Dr Lawrie, based in Bath is the Director of the Evidence Based Medicine Consultancy. Looking at whether a treatment works is what she is an expert at, and had done work for the WHO and the NHS. She was brave, professional and distressed to see that we weren’t using ivermectin as a bridge to the vaccine. Something that could save thousands of lives every day. So I interviewed her, Dr Pierre Kory and made sure I included Daily Mail Journalist David Rose and put all three interviews together. A strategy I thought would ensure that it was less likely to be censored from YouTube. But that was March 1st 2021 – now ivermectin cannot be spoken about on Facebook and more recently Twitter. Although here I must thank Twitter, as I have personally experienced no censorship issues on this platform, but I know others have.
But when it comes to Facebook and YouTube, I have a few weeks where the bans are lifted and I try and get out an interview with another brave doctor or professor. And I never know what is going to happen, some YouTube or Facebook allow through but for others they impose a two-week or 30-day ban on my account.
A nationwide leaflet campaign is probably the only way forward, but as each month passes the censorship is getting a lot worse and it is getting very worrying.
So while all of this was going on, conversations were happening off the record. BBC insiders and others in the mainstream media started contacting me and saying well done. They were doing their best trying to reform from within, but they had mortgages and kids etc. I respect that and their privacy and I know many are doing their very best.
One reporter from a mainstream media publication came up to me at that London protest to say well done, while at the same time expressing shame for their own publication. When that same publication tried to do a smear piece on me, I called this reporter up and recorded the call. So I don’t expect another smear piece from them.
And then there was Prof Richard Ennos from the University of Edinburgh, who I interviewed on September 11 2020. He said a BBC reporter admitted to him that she had been sent to smear protestors as conspiracy theorists at a protest in Scotland. She contacted him after seeing our interview which remains on YouTube and asked him to ask me to take it down. I, of course, said no.
And going back to that term, I say they work for the “mainstream” media, but I refuse to call it that because mainstream is social media, as that appears how we are voting for our future leaders. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok will be the future when it comes to political campaigns. Simple video messages straight to camera on your mobile, speaking from the heart – your values, your principles, asking others to join, listing your hopes for your party and the future of society.
So there is a ray of light from this past year. I see it like a wildfire – I look out and see fire and death and a barren land – everything burnt to the ground. But yet I still see this tiny little shoot of life – a sign of life that is strong and growing.
We are the media and we now have a chance to choose our future. Right now it is ugly, messy and frightening and falling apart – but in time we will come to see how the old media, corporate and money controlled narrative, does not serve our species, it does not serve our future, our freedom or our children.
And back to those media insiders, if you work for an organisation that people do not trust and one where the public’s views are not reflected, one where professionals are not allowed to debate with other professionals, where no counter narrative is offered – in 10 years time your media brand will not exist. To those journalists who are compromised, lying and cowardly hiding and waiting for this to all be over – this is a direct plea to you.
And a huge thanks to the mainstream media insider who helped me write this…
UPDATE The day I went to cover the London Protest on the 24th April 2021 my YouTube channel was removed.