BBC rapped over BNP coverage

By politics.co.uk staff

The BBC has been severely criticised for its coverage of the far-right British National party (BNP).

In a comment piece for the Guardian, Peter Hain, Welsh secretary, criticised the corporations “shaky handling” of an interview with two BNP men on October 1st.

The BBC also received 100 complaints over the interview, which failed to mention that the two held relatively senior posts in the party.

Anti-racism campaigners were upset that comments from the men about England footballer Ashley Cole, including that the Londoner was not “ethnically British”, were not contested.

“If the content of the interview was distasteful enough even more worrying is the revelation that these members, still introduced simply as ‘Joey and Mark’ on the BBC website, are in fact key members of the BNP’s hierarchy,” Mr Hain wrote.

“One, Mark Collett, is the BNP’s director of publicity. Would the BBC allow any other party’s spin doctor to appear anonymously?

“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,” he said.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne joined in the criticism.

“The BBC must make sure that it is as quizzical and demanding of the BNP as its presenters are with everyone in politics,” he said.

An internal inquiry is now being considered. It could not come at a worse time for the BBC, which is looking ahead to later this month, when it will allow the BNP on to the Question Time panel, next to Jack Straw.

The corporation released a statement saying: “The two young BNP activists were not simply introduced as ‘Mark and Joey’ but as members of the BNP. No one listening to the interview will have been under any illusion about their political allegiance and to suggest otherwise is plainly nonsense.”

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