Editorial complaints unit says Newsbeat should have strongly challenged claims that Ashley Cole was not 'ethnically British'
The BBC has admitted it. Radio 1 was not tough enough when it interviewed two senior British National Party members who said footballer Ashley Cole was "not ethnically British".
The BBC's editorial complaints unit has ruled that the programme should not have allowed the pair to appear anonymously, and should have more strongly challenged their concept of British ethnicity. The interview, broadcast on the station's Newsbeat programme last year, introduced the men as "two young guys who are members of the BNP", when in fact they were Mark Collett, the party's publicity director, and Joseph Barber, in charge of the BNP record label, Great White Records.
During the two-minute interview, conducted by Newsbeat reporter Debbie Randle, Collett and Barber said that Cole, married to singer and The X Factor judge Cheryl Cole, was not "ethnically British", and spoke of him "coming to this country", even though he was born in London.
The Welsh secretary, Peter Hain, and others criticised the station for not identifying the pair and for not challenging their assertions in the interview that aired in the lead-up to BNP leader Nick Griffin's appearance on BBC1's Question Time.
Last October, the Newsbeat editor, Rod McKenzie, defended the interview on his BBC blog after the BBC received "thousands" of texts, a "great many" of which were in support of the BNP. The complaints unit in its ruling published yesterday said two listeners had complained that the programme introduced the BNP members as "young guys who are members of the BNP" when they had important roles in the party.
"At the time of the interview, one of the interviewees was the BNP's publicity director and the other ran the record label which promotes and sells BNP CDs. Information about their status was relevant to listeners' understanding of their contributions, and should have been included," the unit said.
The complaints unit said that the interview was not confrontational and did include some challenges of the pair.
"However, the concept of British ethnicity, introduced by the interviewees in connection with the example of a black British-born footballer, was not tested in the way its controversial character called for," it added.
"The Newsbeat team were reminded of the need to ensure that listeners have enough information to assess the status and credentials of interviewees. The editor of Newsbeat also discussed with the team the need for rigorous challenge within interviews of this kind."