BBC defends decision to air BNP election broadcast
31st May, 2004
Click here to download an audio version of the BNP's PPB.
There were broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2 Friday 29th May in the evening.
Asians in Media takes no responsibility for the content of the broadcast and is not aligned with the BNP in any way.
Around a 100 protesters rallied outside the BBC's headquarters in White City on Friday, calling on the corporation to pull the plug on the party's election broadcast. There were chants and placards with the messages of 'No BNP on the licence fee' and 'Pull the plug on the Nazi thugs'.
Despite the protests the BNP political broadcasts were aired in the evening, raising fresh concerns that the party was trying to re-engage its new policy of 'divide-and-conquer' by trying to attract Sikh and Hindu party members that would be willing to condemn Muslims.
The PPB partly featured someone who looked like a Sikh man detailing his experiences of the partition of India in 1947 and the massacres that followed. The BNP broadcast not surprisingly neglected to mention revenge killings of Muslim families or how the inadequate provisions made by the British raj led to such a situation.
The question that many are asking now is, was the BBC right to broadcast the BNP message, and did it break any laws by doing so?
In its defence a BBC spokesperson told AiM that there wasn't a lot the corporation could do since under UK laws it was obliged to air the BNP's political broadcast: "It is their right as any other political parties to have this broadcast. The BBC, in order to fulfill its roles and duties in a democratic society, is obliged to broadcast them by properly and lawfully qualified parties."
"There are various guidelines for who get a party political broadcast. Under those rules the British National Party... qualifies for a single party broadcast."
While the BBC accepted that some of the content might be found offensive by others, it said that internal lawyers had checked all election related broadcasts by the BNP to ensure they complied with British law. When asked to give out details of what would be contained in the broadcast, the BBC however declined.
"The editorial content is the responsibility and a matter for the [British National] party. We have tested it against the existing british law regarding incitement of hatred and our lawyers have shown that the broadcast complies with these laws."
The spokesperson added that the corporation wasn't obliged to show the BNP's party political broadcast to outside parties before it went out on air, despite a fear amongst many groups that the content would still be quite inflammatory.
Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of United Against Fascism, who organised the protest on Friday, said outside the BBC offices: "The BBC is obviously funded through the licence fee and we feel that people do not pay their licence fee in order to see fascists spout their racist bile on national television. It is the responsibility of broadcasters to not allow them this platform."
Other protestors on Friday said they didn't know "what they [the BBC] have to hide". Many had raised concerns since the BNP's PPB in Scotland last week, by the BBC, had a picture of the Qu'ran and heavily implied that all Muslims were all terrorists.