The media coverage of our political and social life is important, particularly a week before a Holyrood by-election. It’s clear failing us all.
Question Time tonight will be in Edinburgh in front of an audience of 16 and 17 year olds. Before them will be a panel comprising Nigel Farage (UKIP), George Galloway (MP for Himself), Anas Sarwar (Labour), Ruth Davidson (Tory), Lesley Riddoch, and Angus Robertson (SNP)
So one pro-indy politician, and four Unionists. What a disgraceful manipulation by our national broadcaster.
You don’t have to be a supporter of sovereignty for Scotland to be against this level of media imbalance.
Five parties are represented at Holyrood, and all five are standing in Aberdeen Donside, but there’s no Green on the panel. Instead we will have to tolerate both Nigel Farage and George Galloway again. Neither of them represent Scottish constituencies, and neither UKIP nor Respect have any elected representatives in Scotland. Both oppose Scottish independence, too. So, rather than a three-to-two balance in favour of the status quo, which would have been the politicians’ split if BBCQT even noticed actual Holyrood election results when considering balance, we’ll see a four-to-one split against, with just Angus Robertson the only politician speaking up for Scottish self-determination.
This is clearly wrong on a number of levels. But this isn’t just a bad thing for young people, or for fairness in Scottish politics, it’s an imbalance at a UK level too. During the period December 2008 to November 2012 there were 704 panel slots on Question Time and none had more appearances above Nigel Farage than Vince Cable. What’s going on? What are the BBC’s criteria? The most generous analysis would suggest that this is a tabloidisation of broadcasting, the least generous that this is about political shit-stirring.
There’s also clear evidence that exposure to racist anti-immigrant views accelerates and amplifies these views. The BBC has gone against it’s own charter and is dabbling in a game of dangerous populist dog-whistle politics.
Labour MEP for London Mary Honeyball has written:
Question Time is the most-watched political programme in Britain, its political make-up is vitally important. An appearance on the panel establishes you as a commentator or as a politician/political party of serious standing. You become part of the BBC’s construction of ‘official Britain’, of the country’s image it contrives to reflect. In short, the individual and political party represented on Question Time gains credibility in a way it would be difficult to achieve otherwise.
Farage’s frequent appearances cannot be explained by electoral success. UKIP is not a party with mass support, or indeed much support at all. Votes cast and seats won are, ultimately, the only sensible test for political parties.
It’s time for real action against this propaganda. See the Green Party’s complaint to the editor here:
“George Galloway is an MP for an English constituency representing a political party, Respect, which literally does not exist in Scotland, and contests no elections. On the one occasion when they did, Mr Galloway stood for election in Glasgow and even in a PR election was only able to secure 3.3% of the vote.”
But the complaints should come as a point of principle from all political parties. If they prove unable to control or force balance on the broadcaster then the public will need to act.
This is the press statement the Radical Independence Campaign has put out regarding our protest against Nigel Farage’s return to Edinburgh to join the Question Time panel on Thursday evening.
Radical Independence activist: “Edinburgh Question Time panel is not a fair reflection of the independence debate in Scotland”
The Radical Independence Campaign (Edinburgh) have called for a protest and lobby of tonight’s BBC Question Time to oppose the visit of Nigel Farage and the appalling bias of tonight’s panel on the TV show.
It is Farage’s first appearance north of the border since he faced humiliating protests on his last visit to the Scottish capital, when the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) and other protesters made it clear his racist politics aren’t welcome in Scotland.
RIC have organised another protest as we believe Nigel Farage and George Galloway’s presence on the Question Time panel in Edinburgh shows the producers of BBC Question Time are out of touch with Scottish public opinion. By inviting 6 guests, 4 who are pro-union, 1 pro-independence and 1 non-aligned, it is obvious that they have not organised a fair and balanced debate.
Liam O’Hare, a spokesperson for RIC Edinburgh, said:
Neither Farage nor Galloway represent Scottish constituencies, and neither UKIP nor Respect have any elected representatives in Scotland. Their invitation to participate in Edinburgh Question Time ahead of other elected figures is tantamount to media bias. Nigel Farage is a bigot and a racist, and his views are not welcome in Scotland; a fact that has been consistently stated by the Scottish electorate..
“Why has the BBC invited Farage and Galloway to participate in the question time debate and not Patrick Harvie? It is clear that the BBC is prioritizing shock jock punditry ahead of facilitating a meaningful debate on the future of Scotland. This is being billed as an ‘independence special’ and should therefore reflect the debate properly. Now more than ever we need a real debate on what independence will mean for ordinary people – instead we are given cheap TV lacking in substance. It is shameful and RIC will be lobbying the BBC tonight to say as much.”