Yesterday morning, BBC Radio Ulster’s flagship show, Good Morning Ulster decided to conduct an interview (1hr 36 mins in) with the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Frank Ancona, in response to a flag that was displayed in East Belfast. Much was made by the show about the fact that Ancona had never given an interview to anybody in the UK or Ireland before, but could this not have been due to the fact that they have no presence in this neck of the woods, and even Ancona recognised in the interview himself this fact. If the KKK were such a big cheese in the UK, surely Newsnight, Daily/Sunday Politics or Panorama who regularly host voices from the extremes might have had a go at them by now?
The interview was set up throughout the show as a major scoop as illustrated by tweets like this
Tune in at 8 to hear @petercoulter‘s interview with the leader of the KKK, Frank Ancona, who claims he’s been in touch with supporters here
— Good Morning Ulster (@BBCgmu) July 2, 2014
Yet, when I listened in, I found what was essentially mish/mash from a leader of an organisation that is struggling to make head way in his own country, with an African-American President to boot.
I have heard the comparisons, well sure look at the coverage Jamie Bryson got, but during the height of the flag protests he did command a great deal of support amongst the people who were out protesting. Furthermore, let’s be honest if roles were reversed and the South Carolina legislature voted to stop flying the Confederate flag over the state house and spotted a lone red hand of Ulster in audience, I doubt NBCs first call would be to Jamie, no harm to him.
I like Good Morning Ulster and the output they bring to us every morning. Yesterday listening to that interview was honestly the first time I have felt uneasy about any of their content. To broadcast an interview with the head of an unrepresentative organisation who aside from a flag on a lamppost has no evidence of support here, I felt missed the mark.
Am I perhaps missing the point? Did Good Morning Ulster provide a public service in running with the interview? Should we have more of representatives of these types of organisations on the airwaves? Is our own Chris Donnelly right?
The faux outrage at interview with KKK leader is ill-judged. Flushing out & ridiculing supremacist views is essential for progress to happen
— Chris Donnelly (@chrisadonnelly) July 2, 2014
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs