Radio 1's Newsbeat programme introduced the interviewees as 'two young guys who are members of the BNP' - but a Mail on Sunday investigation has discovered that they were, in fact, key members of the far-Right party's leadership.
The activists claimed black England footballer Ashley Cole [pictured, left] was not 'ethnically British' and spoke of him 'coming to this country' - even though he was born in East London. More than 100 people have complained that the extremists were given an easy ride on the BBC's most listened-to news broadcast, and now leading politicians are calling for an investigation into whether it breached broadcasting rules.
But the programme's editor defended the item, claiming he had been inundated by messages from supportive listeners, some of whom said the BNP 'says what most of us are thinking'.
The row comes after the BBC's controversial decision to allow BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time for the first time. One listener described the Newsbeat interview as so 'staggeringly soft, woefully weak and uncritically unchallenging that I feel sick to my stomach', while another said they were 'shocked and disappointed' to see the BBC giving 'substantial and uncritical publicity' to the BNP.
The Mail on Sunday has discovered the full background of the two 'young BNP supporters' identified by the BBC only as Joey, 24, and 28-year-old Mark. Both men are senior officials in the BNP party hierarchy, and one has a notorious history of racist, homophobic and anti-semitic views and is a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler.
Joey is Joseph Barber, also known as Joey Smith, who runs the BNP's record label Great White Records and is one of its leading artists, recording tracks including Pondlife and Christmas Is A British Thing.
The other guest was Mark Collett, the former leader of the Youth BNP and now the party's head of publicity. He was exposed in a Channel 4 documentary Young, Nazi And Proud in 2002, when he was filmed saying 'Hitler will live forever' and said of British black people: 'Just because a dog is brought up in a stable, doesn't make it a horse.' He also said: 'AIDS is a friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.'
Collett was tried on race-hate charges after another documentary, BBC1's The Secret Agent, broadcast secret footage of alleged racist activities - but was cleared after two trials .
Radio 1, which has 11million listeners a week, featured the two-minute interview with the pair ten days ago, as well as another with party leader Nick Griffin. A transcript is on the BBC website, with a direct link to the BNP website. Radio 1's young audience, including many from working-class backgrounds, is also the key target for the BNP. Their campaigning helped them poll more than six per cent of the vote in June's European elections, winning two seats. That success has forced the BBC to give more airtime to the party, including Griffin's controversial invitation to appear on BBC1's Question Time on October 22.
BBC guidelines, which govern all the Corporation's output, set strict criteria on the use of anonymous sources.
The interview was also an apparent breach of National Union of Journalists guidelines which say that when interviewing representatives of racist organisations, 'journalists should carefully check all reports for accuracy and seek rebutting or opposing comments. The antisocial nature of such views should be exposed'. But Newsbeat did not disclose any details about its BNP interviewees' backgrounds other than their first names and ages - and now refuses to discuss the reason behind the decision.
Reporter Debbie Randle, who interviewed the men, did not question them about their roles in the party or ask them about any previous controversy. Unprompted by either of the activists, she invited them to give their views on Chelsea football star Cole. Born in Stepney, East London, he has now gained his 72nd England cap in the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, which England lost 1-0.
'So when you see someone like Ashley Cole play for England, are you happy to watch him?' she asked.
'Joey' replied: 'If he wants to come to this country and he wants to live by our laws, pay into society, that's fine.'
'But,' Ms Randle asked, 'if he wanted to call himself British that would be a problem?'
Joey replied: 'He cannot say that he's ethnically British.'
Asked whether it was 'OK for people who are not white to call themselves British', he said: 'You cannot say they are ethnically British. It's denying our heritage. It's taking that away from us.'
Newsbeat did not reveal anything about Collett's background - including the TV exposés and subsequent court cases - but featured his views on whether 'the idea of races mixing was a bad thing'.
Collett said: 'I would be upset if there were no more giant pandas, I'd be upset if there were no more lions, if there were no more tigers, so equally I'd be upset if white people weren't here any more.'
Asked why the views of people who had lived here for a generation should not count, Collett added: 'Are you trying to compare somebody, or a group of people, who've lived here for maybe 30 years, to people who've lived here for 40,000 years? There's a vast, vast difference in timescale there, my dear.'
But Newsbeat editor Rod McKenzie had previously published a blog on the BBC website responding to criticism. He wrote: 'We're impartial - that means we should examine all political parties and put their representatives on the spot with fair and firm questioning. Impartial journalism and censorship do not sit happily together. We believe in getting the facts and the arguments out there for people to decide - not in judging what is "right" or "wrong" in a political context - that's for you to do. The BNP are not an illegal party. They enjoy electoral support and have elected representatives.
'It is the BBC's job to properly examine all legitimate political parties that operate within the law and for which people clearly vote. A great many texts we received [after the broadcast] were broadly supportive of the BNP. Over time, it's evident from following our listeners that the party touches a nerve of support or interest.
'The large pile of texts on my desk raise issues around immigration, political correctness and an apparent frustration with mainstream politics that means the BNP, or at least some of their policies, appeals to some people. It's also clear that not much is known about the party's policies beyond immigration and race which is something we were keen to explore - and did. By the way, we also received messages of support from those who believed we had exposed the weakness of the BNP on a range of issues.'
Mr McKenzie appeared to be unaware that it is common BNP practice to mobilise members to post supportive messages on websites whenever their party is in the news. The broadcaster has also responded to the 100-plus complaints it received about the interviews from listeners.
The BBC's complaints unit said: 'Newsbeat interviewed Nick Griffin and two young BNP activists in the light of huge audience response to recent stories about BNP electoral success and what they stand for. Both interviews were rigorous and the bulk of the tough questions asked were inspired by, or directly quoted, listeners. Our audience have diverse views on these subjects and many believe we should examine the BNP's policies more closely. This was a way to shine a light on the views of the BNP, allowing people to make up their own minds.'
But Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on the BBC to launch an investigation as to whether the interview breached its guidelines. He said: 'The point of interviewing the BNP is to make sure that they are held to account for their totally noxious views. It would appear that did not happen here and that is a matter of great concern.'
Under fire: Radio 1 Newsbeat editor Rod McKenzie, left, with BBC radio presenters Simon Mayo and Chris Moyles, himself no stranger to controversyMP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture and Media Committee, said: 'If the person being interviewed has a track record in the public eye and holds a position in a political party, then to pass him off as a young person just expressing his own view is not an accurate portrayal and I would expect the BBC to make clear who they are. This should be looked at by the BBC management and possibly the BBC Trust [the Corporation's governing body]. Potentially there may have been a breach of the BBC guidelines. This needs to be properly looked at.'
A BNP spokesman said the BBC had merely asked the party to provide two young supporters from Northern England. He said: 'They just said they wanted young members. We were surprised not to have faced more difficult questioning but Radio 1 is not a heavy-duty political organ like Radio 4. It is an informative thing for young people. It is not too serious. It set out to find out what we think. The platform of Radio 1 is very informal, it is all first names, that is how younger people are. People's surnames are not as important as they are to another generation.'
The controversy comes after Radio 1 breakfast-show host Chris Moyles sparked outrage over 'misjudged' comments about filming for the family history show Who Do You Think You Are? Moyles said: 'I went off to Ireland and other places to film and, unlike a lot of the Who Do You Think You Are? shows, I didn't go to Auschwitz. Pretty much everyone goes there whether or not they're Jewish.'
In full...the Newsbeat interview that caused a storm
This is the BBC's own full transcript of the Newsbeat interview:
Randle: Do you think it's OK for people who aren't white in this country to call themselves British?
Joey: Civicly British they are. You cannot say they are ethnically British. It's denying our heritage. It's taking that away from us.
Randle: At what point do they become ethnically British? How long do they have to be here?
Joey: Well, I think it would be an awfully long time before someone would become ethnically British.
Randle: So when you see someone like Ashley Cole play for England, are you happy to watch him?
Joey: If he wants to come to this country and he wants to live by our laws, pay into society, that's fine.
Randle: But if he wanted to call himself British that would be a problem?
Joey: He cannot say that he's ethnically British.
Randle: Why is the idea of races mixing such a bad thing?
Joey: If everybody integrated it would take away everybody's identity.
Mark: I would be upset if there were no more giant pandas, I'd be upset if there were no more lions, if there were no more tigers, so equally I'd be upset if white people weren't here any more.
Randle: But we're the same species, which makes it a bit different, doesn't it?
Mark: You could say that but if all of a sudden there weren't any sparrows and there were only crows, I'd still be sad there weren't any sparrows.
Randle: Can you understand that some people are happy to mix?
Mark: No, I think people have been brainwashed. I think the media, the Government, have forced it down people's throats and they've indoctrinated people.
Randle: You don't think people are bright enough to decide themselves?
Mark: I think when people are bombarded 24 hours a day to force multiculturalism upon them, people are going to succumb to that. We shouldn't have to bend our ways to people who've been here five minutes.
Randle: You're talking like people here are on holiday. They've lived here, some of them, for a generation, some of them for longer. Doesn't that count?
Mark: Are you trying to compare somebody, or a group of people, who've lived here for maybe 30 years, to people who've lived here for 40,000 years? There's a vast, vast difference in timescale there, my dear.
Randle: My point isn't the difference in times between one group of people and another, it's saying they're not visitors, they are not holidaymakers, they are people living here.
Mark: If I went to live and work in another country then I would still adhere by their culture and they should adhere by ours.