BBC bosses are under fire for going soft on the far right British National Party.
News chiefs at the corporation were accused of a ‘whitewash’ for delaying an investigation into the extremist views of the BNP until after the European elections next month. The poll on June 4th could see the neo-fascist group gain British seats in the Brussels Parliament for the first time.
Campaigners and MPs said that politically correct liberals at the BBC are ‘being played like fools’ for treating the BNP like ‘any other political party’. The party’s leader Nick Griffin has already been offered a one to one chat with the BBC interviewer Andrew Marr if his party acquires its first MEP.
The anti-fascist campaign group Searchlight called for an explanation of the BBC’s decision to postpone the broadcast of an investigation into a senior British National Party activist with links to the South African security services. The shelved investigation, being produced by BBC Wales, features Arthur Kemp, the South African head of BNP election distribution, who was arrested following the murder of anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani, in 1993.
Although subsequently released, Kemp admitted producing a list of names of prominent ANC activists that was found at the home of one of Hani’s killers.
Searchlight is also angry that a Newsnight report titled ‘the rising power of the BNP’ broadcast last week concluded: ‘It looks like a more moderate BNP courting voters this spring.’ The programme failed to mention that Clive Jefferson one of the BNP activists it interviewed was arrested two years ago for an alleged public order offence, following a complaint from a member of the public that he had been threatening and abusive whilst distributing BNP literature.
A second BNP figure featured in the report, Martin Wingfield, was arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned in 1985 under the Race Relations Act, following distribution of racist literature. His criminal record was not mentioned either and BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby advised his members to watch the broadcast, claiming it was, ‘not a bad piece overall’.
Senior Labour MP Jon Cruddas has written to Helen Boaden, the director of BBC News to call for a change of tack, after it also emerged that BNP spokesman have also been interviewed by a BBC camera crew for a second Newsnight piece on ‘British Jobs For British Workers’, a phrase used by Gordon Brown but now appropriated as the BNP’s election slogan.
He wrote: ‘It seems to me that there is total confusion within the BBC regarding editorial policy towards the British National Party. Membership of the BNP is proscribed in a number of public sector organisations, such as the Police and the Prison Service. It is not, ‘just another political party’.
‘There is no attempt to scrutinise the BNP on their extremist policy platform, their membership, their links to other extremist organisations, or their extremist philosophy.’
Mr Cruddas said: ‘Their activists are featured, but not challenged. Issues favourable to their agenda are analysed on national news and current affairs outlets. Invitations are extended to their spokesman indicating they are to be treated as if they are a mainstream political party. And programmes which expose their extremist and racist agenda are shelved. It is imperative that common sense and clarity are brought to the Corporation’s editorial policy towards this neo-Fascist organisation.’
A Searchlight spokesman added: ‘The BBC are being played like fools by the BNP. The Newsnight broadcast was a whitewash, and now they’re axing programmes because of pressure from Nick Griffin and his thugs.
'If the BBC want to cover the BNP that’s fine, but they have to challenge them and properly expose their agenda of prejudice and hate.’