Monday, April 18, 2011
"BBC's commitment to due impartiality in election campaigns" scrutinised
Thanks for your correspondence regarding BBC output.
We understand that you feel we under-represent the smaller political parties throughout our coverage. I also note your concerns regarding our coverage of global warming.
The BBC has stringent Election Guidelines and our editors are obliged to follow them carefully. The Guidelines state that:
"There is no area of broadcasting where the BBC's commitment to due impartiality is more closely scrutinised than in reporting election campaigns." It says that journalists must "deliver to audiences impartial and independent reporting of the campaign, giving them fair coverage and rigorous scrutiny of the policies and campaigns of all parties."
The Election Guidelines do not however require that every opinion is reflected, or that each political party is mentioned, within every programme, report or interview during the election period. The aim is to achieve proportionate coverage for each party over an appropriate period and viewers and listeners to our flagship bulletins and news programmes can expect to hear from the various parties across the week.
We'd like to assure you that your feedback has been registered on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Dear Leigh Mallon,
Thank you. I am pleased to see the rigorous scrutiny you give your coverage as well as the dedication to "proportionate coverage". Having the figures to hand will make it easy to answer this query, which I am making under the FoI Act in much less that the 28 days (20 working days) maximum.
Over the last 5 years how many appearances have there been on BBC 1 & 2 combined; on the popular Question Time programme; and on either Newsnight Scotland or "Brian's Big Debate" (whichever is easier for you) from official representatives of the Green party and, since the BNP receive twice as many votes at the last election and UKIP 4 times (in Westminster elections - they do far better in the PR European election). How many times have these parties' representatives appeared?
Assuming that "proportionate" coverage has not been provided (for example in the event that the BNP have not been on Question Time twice as often as the dozens of times Greens have or indeed if the reverse were true) what action is the BBC currently taking to ensure the promised and legally required "proportionate coverage" is restored by immediately ensuring the BNP get, over the 10 year period we are in the centre of, twice as many guest shots and UKIP 4 times as many?
On the particular issue of electoral coverage, I share your position that this is vital since an election cannot be-democratic if one or more parties are censored by the state broadcaster. For example I note that on the "Big Debate on the economy" (actually not a formal debate, but a series of soundbites since the BBC don't do real debates) last night the Greens were included but UKIP, who get 4 times their votes across Britain (Britain being the BBC's remit). I found this unfortunate since audience questions lent heavily on the fact that cutting the Tartan Tax would significantly improve our economic performance. It is to be regretted that the sole party committed to this policy, UKIP, was deliberately excluded. Therefore I must also ask you to confirm, as part of your overwhelming legal commitment to "proportionate coverage", particularly during elections, that UKIP will, over the election period, appear on 4 times as many of these "debates" as the Greens? Obviously we both agree that such proportionate coverage is vital.
I would also be interested to know what steps the BBC take to ensure their interviewing of UKIP and the BNP will, taking the next 5 years as well as the previous 5, over all programming, match the obsequious and supportive questioning the Greens and indeed the major parties consistently get. For example I saw on one of presumably dozens of BNP appearances on Question Time that Mr Dimbleby repeatedly attacked Nick Griffin for quotations decades ago and had clearly prepped the other guests with such quotes. One of the other guests was Labour's Jack Straw whose early history was as a university student leader of the "broad left".I don't think anybody would think it possible to have reached such eminence without, in his youth, having made a lot of very silly remarks about overthrowing the government, revolution, class war, wiping out bloated capitalists and so on, at least as juvenile as anything Griffin ever said in his youth. I therefore ask you to confirm exactly when we will get a matching programme in which 5 BBC guests gang up on Jack Straw to examine him on that record, to the embarrassment of the Labour party.
On alleged Catastrophic Global Warming I note the BBC continue to be unable to name a single independent scientist who supports it and that continuing to censor overwhelmingly to promote this purely political and governmental fascistic fraud represents the very highest standard of honesty to which anybody at the BBC ever aspires.
Orwell and the ministry of truth