More on the BBC and BNP – Hain got it wrong

It was a fair cop when Peter Hain slated BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat for its handling of the ambush on air by BNP leading activists posing as “ordinary” BNP supporters – whoever they are, although I feel more than a twinge of sympathy for the producers who fell into the trap. Yet again though, the BBC’s first line of defence has proved to be inept. Far better to have been straighforward and admit they didn’t recognise the names in a busy news programme on the day and will be better prepared next time. Hain is wrong though to bracket his criticism of Newsbeat with the decision to offer BNP leader Nick Griffin a seat on Question Time. And doubly wrong to pray in aid the BBC’s own diversity guidelines in support of his case. You may expect that this will be the one and only occasion the BNP wil be offered a chair in a debate ( as distinct from a News) programme before the election pending period. Hain asserts:

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

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But this equality policy applies to employment conditions and portrayal issues ( representing a diverse society on air among presenters, programme themes etc ). It does not apply, and must not be invoked, to curtail editorial freedom, just as Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act to promote equality does not gag Nolan contributors and others ( though there are those who would like it to apply).. My own ideal is to push our law and practice as close to the US First amendment as possible and support tests that steer interpretations of the weaker Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights in that direction. Whatever its provenance, I sympathise with this petition to the Scottish Parliament and am even uncomfortable with jailing Holocaust deniers purely for the denial. Achieving the ideal may be a tall order in these days of Islamicist rage and racist backlash but it is surely the right cause and well worth a demonstration or few.

  • Couldn’t comment – should’nt

    Sadly Hain and the others believe in the false human right – the rigt “not to be offended” this new humand right has got NI into all manners of problems and difficulties.

    I believe the BNP and thier views are disgusting and offensive but in a liberal tolerant society they have the right to thier views – if they portray them deliberately to insult or offend then they should be dealt with under the law but if they wish to express them – no matter how objectional I find them – free speech means free speech.

    Arguement, ridicule and common sense will always defeat the racist, fascist, bigot banning them makes them martyrs and we in NI have enough of them already.

    We have laws on incitement to hatred, public decency etc etc clearly we can defeat these loons but censorship and liberal intolerant banning never will

  • 6countyprod

    Wow, this looks like real progress: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/oct/15/bnp-non-white-members

    Maybe some day the BNP will be as welcomed and accepted into the UK political circus as all those nice folks in SF.

    We all want a cozy, inclusive society, don’t we? But what I find hard to understand is this, many of the people who complained about IRA/SF not being allowed airtime while they were killing people by the bus load are the same people who now want to deny the BNP airtime even though that organisation is not involved in a campaign of violence. Go figure!

  • Ban_the_bigots

    The story of the BNP being found to be in breach of Equality Legislation in England is extremely interesting. Will the norths Equality Commission bring a similar action against the Orange Order who are and have been in clear contravention of our own Equality Legislation?

  • curious

    will the equaility commission take action against Sinn fein who require members to be republicans or the DUP who require thier members to be unionists – the analogy goes on and on – what about non catholics being members of the Jesuits or muslims being rabbi’s

    Stupid comparison ban_the_bigots

  • Brian MacAodh

    Let him on. What is everyone so scared of

  • Ban_the_bigots

    “Individuals in Northern Ireland are protected against discrimination on grounds of race, religious belief or political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age (from 1 October 2006) or because of a disability.” (Equality Commission Website). I have read the Orange Order Oath and it clearly contarvenes the above, surprisingly it’s nowhere to be found at present on the web. I think to compare the BNP and the Orange Order is like describing 2 sides of the same coin. Moreover, we need an Equality Commission that is robust and will have the courage to fulfil their mandate and confront the likes of the Orange Order and all sectarian/ hate promoting organisations.

  • Reader

    Ban the bigots: Individuals in Northern Ireland are protected against discrimination on grounds of race, religious belief …
    How does the Orange order oath violate that? For instance – mono-religious groups are perfectly legal – Hibernians, Legion of Mary, etc.

  • DerTer

    Let him on. Does no one remember the propaganda advantage the provisional republicans got from the broadcasting ban on SF speakers, both in NI and RoI. Yes I know that, like SF/IRA, these BNP people – Griffin in particular – appear plausible and persuasive; but give a bit of intelligence credit to (1) the public and (2) the other panelists and the chair of Question Time. Maybe they won’t make mincemeat of him, but as a democrat, I want them to try. My yearning, with 6CoProd, is that “some day the BNP will NOT be as welcomed and accepted into the UK political circus as all those nice folks in SF.”

  • igor

    Dear BAn

    That’s great. So what political parties will we have left? I note that you single out the OO – I am no fan of them but will you include SF?

    And theres is a teensie problemette in all of this. The ECHR guraanttes a degree of freedom of thought – that includes the fredom to think and, within limits, express throughts that are sexist, racist, etc. Its called a human right – and surprisingly it applies even to those who disagree with you and might see your view of them as bigotry. Even if it was, in law, you are entitled to be a bigot and say bigoted things

  • joeCanuck

    clearly we can defeat these loons but censorship and liberal intolerant banning never will

  • Pigeon Toes

    Whatever happened to that great right of “freedom of speech”?

    Let’s put it right there in the open and let US make up our own minds.

    My teenage daughter quotes “Don’t argue with fools they have more practice and the audience can’t tell the difference”

    She has a point.

  • RepublicanStones

    Hain should quit the sunbeds, then he might’n have anything to fear from the BigotNP 😉

  • Jo

    There should be no problem with allowing the BNP on Question Time if David Vance is allowed on Hearts and Minds with all of the racist tripe that he posts on his blog.

    Simple as that.

    I just wonder if anyone at the BBC ever visits that site?

  • Thereyouarenow

    I would suggest that the BNP are being allowed on Question Time to make the other British corrupt politicians not look so bad in comparison.

    Yes Folks things are that bad ! !

  • willis

    Brian

    From what I can see Peter Hain got it about right. He asks the question:

    “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?”

    It is in the context of trying to work out where BBC senior management keep their moral compass that he mentions their Diversity policy. As Paxman said in his McTaggart Lecture in 2007

    “The difficulty is that I see precious little evidence that anyone is grappling with this question. In fact, I don’t see much evidence anyone knows which way is up. Or to put it another way, it’s not that the television industry doesn’t have a compass. It’s that too often it doesn’t even seem sure any longer that North exists”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/08/the_james_mactaggart_memorial_lecture.html

    You can be pretty sure the diversity policy was waved in the face of Anton Du Beke, Bruce Forsyth, Carol Thatcher etc etc.

    Question Time is infotainment. Its purpose is to make politicians seem accessible to the general public in an entertaining way. Consider some of the past guests and questions.

    It certainly is not Newsnight.

    The BBC did not need to make this decision at this time. The BNP is currently breaking British law. Not European law, British law.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8308582.stm

    If you see the BBC crowing about Question Time ratings on Friday 23 October you will know where their moral compass is pointing.

  • YelloSmurf

    Curious, that is an erronious comparrison. It is to be expected that members of political parties will have simillar political views, that’s why they join parties. The Orange Order, on the other hand, makes a religious distinction rather than a political one. This wouldn’t be a problem if the order were a religious organisation, but it isn’t it’s political.

  • willis

    Well Well

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/oct/23/bnp-poll-boost-question-time

    Last night a senior BBC source told the Guardian the decision to invite Griffin on to Question Time now had been motivated by a fear that the BNP would have “a stunning high court victory” against the BBC if the corporation refused to allow the party on the show between now and the general election.

    The source added: “If you had a choice about the criticism – was it a bit too hard on him or a bit too easy on him – then we’re in about the right place.”

    Criticism of the BBC intensified last night as doubts were raised about the wisdom of granting Griffin a platform on such a prominent programme. The former home secretary David Blunkett said: “The BBC played into Griffin’s hands by managing to create a victim out of a perpetrator. Their totally unwarranted blanket coverage on news broadcasts leading up to and following Question Time was blatant self-promotion for the BBC. It gave Griffin an ego boost.”

    Yep, moral compass pointing in usual direction