"Several weeks ago, the BBC decided to start running stories about how well the Green Party would do at the Norwich North by-election. It is far from clear whether programme editors thought that this would happen anyway, or whether they hoped to make it happen. After all, what minority candidates most crave is airtime: to be treated as mainstream, and so to anticipate the “wasted vote” argument.
The BBC obliged. Lord, how it obliged. Throughout the campaign, it ran programmes with Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green spokesmen. Now don’t get me wrong: I rather like the Greens. But there was no basis to the claim that they were the fourth party, either nationally or locally. The last test of electoral feeling was June’s European election. The United Kingdom Independence Party won 13 seats and came second; the Greens won two seats and came fifth. In local elections on the same day, UKIP beat the Greens in most Norwich North wards.
UKIP activists politely drew these facts to the BBC’s attention in the hope of fairer coverage. They misunderstood the Corporation’s mindset. In Beebworld, Greens are essentially nice, and deserve a fair crack of the whip. But UKIP are anti-immigration, anti-Brussels and, worst of all, sceptical about climate change. They are not Our Sort Of People, and should be covered accordingly, if at all.
Newsnight, Look East and Radio 4 all chose to disregard UKIP and treat the Greens as the main story. Three days before the poll, the BBC’s Eastern region TV held a hustings meeting for four candidates: Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green.
What was the result in the event? UKIP won 11.8 per cent of the vote - comfortably ahead of the Greens and remarkably close to the LibDems (or “worryingly close” as I just heard a Radio 5 Live presenter put it).
Did our state broadcaster apologise for its mistake? No, alright, that would have been expecting too much; but was it, at least, a little abashed in its tone? Nope. It simply edited UKIP out of its coverage. On the one o’clock news, a little bar chart came up to represent the results: blue for the Conservatives, red for Labour, yellow for the LibDems and, er, green for the fifth-placed Greens. The party that had come fourth, and been just 800 votes behind the LibDems, wasn’t represented. Nor was UKIP mentioned on the contemporaneous radio news."
Saturday, 25 July 2009
The BBC and its very different treatment of UKIP and the Greens
Yesterday I mentioned the way that the BBC had, as usual, portrayed the Greens as the fourth party of British politics when it has become increasingly apparent that UKIP has overtaken it. Today I read that Dan Hannan feels similarly: