October 12, 2009

A clueless BBC is giving the BNP the legitimacy it craves

The Newsbeat interview shows how shaky is the corporation's grip on the far right. It must rethink before Question Time

The BBC's invitation to Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party – a racist organisation with known fascist roots and values – to appear on Question Time is quite extraordinary. It flies in the face of all the BBC's core values as the world's most respected broadcaster: to promote diversity in the UK, tolerance, fairness and our parliamentary democracy. It's a bitter pill for me especially – as a regular guest over the years on Question Time, and having listened to the BBC World Service as a teenager in the 1960s, then the only reliable source of news in apartheid South Africa where my parents were involved in the freedom struggle.

BBC executives have told me of their obligation to respect the right of a minority who have voted for the BNP. However, that right is already adequately upheld in BNP party election broadcasts, and when they are interviewed on political programmes such as Today or Newsnight – although the recent Radio 1 Newsbeat interview with two "young BNP members" casts serious doubt on the BBC's grip of the subject.

If the content were not distasteful enough – descriptions of the London-born England footballer Ashley Cole as "not ethnically British" and "coming to this country" passed without proper challenge – even more worrying is the revelation that these members, still introduced simply as Joey and Mark on the BBC website, are key members of the BNP hierarchy. One, Mark Collett, is the BNP's director of publicity. Would the BBC allow any other party's spin doctors to appear anonymously? The interview was in clear breach of basic journalistic practice, and of official BBC and National Union of Journalist guidelines.

While this episode underlines the corporation's shaky handling of reporting the BNP, Question Time – the BBC's premier political programme – falls into an entirely different category. There the BBC will be showcasing the BNP on a panel alongside the mainstream parties as an equally legitimate, respectable, democratic political party, when it is nothing of the kind.

Furthermore, there is a distinction between those who have voted for the BNP and the party itself. In June, at the European election that triggered this BBC decision, many voted for the BNP as a protest against the mainstream parties at the height of the MPs' expenses scandal. Few of these voters would recognise, still less endorse, the BNP's virulent racism and its discriminatory policy towards black people, Muslims and Jews in Britain. The number of people in the UK who accept the racist and fascist agenda of the BNP must be far less than 1% of the population and there is no justification for giving them such an important platform.

In considering whether to give the BNP this credibility the BBC should have weighed any rights of a minority against its obligations as the public service broadcaster to promote a tolerant society in the UK – and one that is free from racially motivated hatred or violence. Especially since the BBC's equality policy commits it to promote "equal opportunities for all, irrespective of colour, race, religion or belief, ethnic or national origins, gender, marital/civil partnership status, sexuality, disability or age". Either this is hollow rhetoric, or the BBC's own policy compels the corporation to give more weight to a tolerant majority than to a racist minority.

Like his party, Griffin likes to project an image of besuited normality, speaking for the common citizen against the liberal establishment, and the BBC appears to have bought this travesty. In fact, the BNP constitution states that its membership is open only to white people. Furthermore, a raised profile and level of BNP activity in any community increases racist violence and fear among the groups it campaigns against, principally our black, Muslim or Jewish citizens. Griffin, referring to illegal African migrants, said: "Frankly, they need to sink several of those boats." He has also said: "Yes, Adolf went a bit too far. His legacy is the biggest problem that the British nationalist movement has to deal with. It just creates a bad image."

These odious views should not have been granted a platform on Question Time. Although my cabinet colleague Jack Straw has agreed to appear with Griffin on 22 October, my argument is not with him, but with the BBC for putting ministers in the impossible position of empty-chairing the Labour party.

Granting the BNP the legitimacy it craves is a fundamental error of judgment, and BBC executives have given me no convincing evidence of any legal or broadcasting imperative. So is the BBC really saying it operates in a moral vacuum, a values-free space? That plainly cannot be right given its published diversity and editorial policies.

Freedom of speech is precious, and nobody seriously argues for the BNP to be banned. Equally the BNP consistently abuses its own freedom to deny it to others. As history shows, giving racists and fascists a platform, treating them as equals with democrats, always leads to tragedy. They need to be confronted, not appeased.

Instead, the BBC is sadly succumbing to those who would, again in Nick Griffin's obnoxious words, "defend rights for whites with well-directed boots and fists".

Peter Hain
Comment is free


Cough 'N' Drop Nurse said...

The BBC should have put "PaedoBoy Mark" on the spot, asking him to remove his pants so the minisicule size of his "little man" could be compared to that of proper politicians.

In Mark Collett's defence, he fancied Hitler not because he was the worst racist genocidal mass murderer of all time, but because he sympathised with his idol Hitler for being sexual inadequate like himself.

Paedoboy hated black people not because he regularly masturbates over a dog-eared copy of Mein Kamph, but because he seriously believed all black men were hung like Linford Christie, which helped cultivate his interest in Victorian-style eugenics.

Underneath the woman-hating, homophobic and extremely racist exterior, is a gentle, sensitive tortured soul who can feel the pain of fellow sexual inadequate Adolf Hitler for only having one solitary testicle.

Collett can sue anybody who repeats the now infamous micropenis rumours in trying to fathom his alleged desires for schoolgirls, but if he dropped his pants before the judge, his evidence wouldn't stand up in court.

Jeepman said...

The BBC does seem to love the BNP which has led many including Northwest Nationalists to question Gri££in's links with MI5.

Accusing EDL of being a honeytrap is a clever smokescreen to take the heat off the Welshpool pig farmer's own links to the British Establishment.

NewsHound said...



Anonymous said...

Edgar Gri££in!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm getting mighty sick of the BBC's tolerance for nazis.

Anonymous said...

Here is the reply to my compliant on this matter to the bbc.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Newsbeat' on 30 September 2009.

I understand that you were unhappy with the interview conducted with two members of
the BNP as you felt their views were insufficiently challenged.

We forwarded your concerns to Rod McKenzie, the editor of 'Newsbeat' who responded
as follows:

"Thanks very much for your complaint about our BNP interview - I note your comments.
I thought it might be useful for you to understand our thinking editorially on this

The BNP was given airtime because we're an impartial newsgathering organisation.
It's our job to 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.

This may surprise you, but a great many texts we received on 30 September 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.

We put to Nick Griffin some of the texts we received including sentiments as tough
as "you're a disgrace" and "how do you sleep at night?". Debbie Randle's handling of
the interview was extremely rigorous and the bulk of the tough questions she asked
were inspired by or directly quoted listeners themselves.

I hope you will understand that one of purposes of journalism in a democratic
society is to explore and question - raising at times subjects some may find
distasteful or shocking."

It may interest you to know that Rod McKenzie has written an Editors blog on this
issue that can be found at the following link:


I understand that you feel the BBC is showing bias to the BNP through not
challenging their views adequately and you believe that stories involving the BNP
are not reported. With this in mind I've registered your comment on our audience
log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC
staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, 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.


Joe O'Brien
BBC Complaints

Anonymous said...

"The large pile of texts on my
desk raise issues around immigration, political correctness..." so, instead of trying to dispel myths with facts it's now the BBC's role to pander to ill-informed prejudice, is it Rod?

Actually I don't take Rod McKenzie at his word and believe his response to be in bad faith. He's a blagger and a fool and, I believe, a downright liar.

Joe Chapman said...

Just spotted this:

"The Question Time programme is being filmed in an undisclosed location so it cannot be hijacked by anti-fascist campaigners."


Dragon said...

For undisclosed location where anti-fascist protestors cannot access, read Nick Griffin's Living Room.

So Question Time will be held on a farm in Welshpool!

Mista Angree said...

The BBC's Look North half an hour evening programme on at half six this evening seriously bigged up the EDL, giving a special interview to an as-yet unheard of "Leeds Organiser" who refused to give his name ("for security reasons he said"). They allowed him to shoot off his propaganda that the EDL are not racist for a good twenty seconds.

They showed excerpts of the Manchester confrontation, but instead of showing the EDL making Hitler salutes, they showed a few different scenes of the antis shouting loudly.

Thus the BBC are willing to boost the popularity of both the BNP and the EDL.