Sunday, 1 March 2015

MK makes formal complaint to BBC about Party Election Broadcasts

I can report that, on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, I have formally responded to the decision of the BBC Trust to refuse MK the option of a Party Election Broadcast for the 2015 General Election. I have set out MK’s view that the decision is flawed and intrinsically undemocratic. I have requested that it be revisited and that they treat my representation as stage 1 of the BBC’s PEBs complaints process.

We have reaffirmed our view that:

“We consider it exceptionally unjust that MK would be denied a Party Election Broadcast, because it is simply impractical meet the threshold of 89 seats across ‘England’ – one sixth of those available. How can it be fair that MK would need to stand in all six seats in the historic nation of Cornwall, as well as a further 83 seats outside of Cornwall, in order to be allowed a broadcast?

“This is not a problem that political parties in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland face, as they would only have to stand in three, seven and ten seats respectively. And it has meant that, over the last few years, a host of political parties – including the Christian Party (Wales), Scottish Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Trade Union and Socialist Coalition – have been allocated airtime.”

Our latest representation was quite detailed and covered a wide range of issues.

This included the BBC Trust stated concern about what they termed “Overspill.” They stated:

“The Committee recognised that, given that the broadcasting region and the hypothetical electoral region do not match, there would be substantial ‘overspill.’ i.e. that voters outside the areas where Mebyon Kernow candidates are standing would receive any regional PEBs, including from parties for whom they could not vote, and this would risk discrediting PEBs, creating viewer and listener indifference, and inducing ‘PEB fatigue.’ They also recognised that where there is no match there is the risk that viewers and listeners within the regional electoral area would not be within the broadcast area in which the regional PEB could be received. It was noted that Cornwall is much smaller than the relevant BBC television broadcasting region (the South West), and applying the threshold criterion to the South West would still not qualify Mebyon Kernow for a PEB.”

Obviously, we do not accept the logic of their argument. We responded as follows:

“As long as the BBC and other broadcasters employ the ‘one-sixth’ rule, there will be broadcasts from political parties not standing a full slate of candidates across England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. And this will inevitably mean that some people would be able to view broadcasts ‘from parties for whom they could not vote.’

“For example, in 2010, there were no English Democrat candidates in Cornwall. But the EDP broadcast was viewable by all residents of Cornwall. Likewise, there was only a single BNP candidate in Cornwall, but their broadcast was also viewable

“It is our view that – as long as the ‘one-sixth’ rule continues to operate – the BBC Trust’s ruling is prejudicial against MK in a manner that is not prejudicial against other political parties.”

The full letter is available on request.

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