G20 protests dominate British TV

BBC updated its Web site to handle coverage

LONDON -- President Barack Obama's visit to British shores ahead of the G20 meeting of world leaders played second fiddle on Wednesday to coverage of long-planned massed demonstrations against capitalism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and global climate change measures.

The protests -- under unusually sunny skies -- were met with a jaw-dropping array of media coverage across media old and new as events unfolded across the City of London's Square Mile business district.

The BBC updated its Web site in anticipation of the demand for coverage to accommodate input via Twitter, webcams, bloggers, video bloggers and cell phone submissions from the public in addition to its network of journalists.

News channels spanning BBC News 24, satcaster Sky News, Euronews and CNN all carried webcam, helicopter and on-the-ground reporting from the protests interspersed with cuts to Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's public appearances.

But the scale of the protests appeared to be far less inflated than the hype before, with police estimating 4,000 people hitting the streets before noon. Sky delighted in picking out comedian and actor Russell Brand in the crowd. When asked why he had turned out to protest, he told the news reporter to ask everyone else why they were there. "This is where I live," Brand said. "I am here to be a peaceful protester."

By late afternoon, the hungry media had only some minor scuffles, broken windows at a Royal Bank of Scotland branch, street theater and fewer than 25 arrests to report.

According to several Sky and BBC pundits, the scale of unrest was a far cry from the tens of thousands who took to the streets ahead of the G12 summit in 2007. One commentator said that the bright weather and the Obama factor might have played a part in the smaller than expected turnout.

With Thursday's G20 meeting expected to attract more protests and with darkness falling in London, the media is likely to keep its cameras and reporters trained on the British capital's streets.
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