BBC Inverness debate on the Lord's Day
22 April 2011
The BBC has chosen to use the Lord’s Day for its political debates in the run up to the Scottish Parliamentary Election.
The BBC invitation to join the 1000-strong audience at the Scottish Leaders debate and at the Inverness debate is rather selective. There will be many Christians who will not attend these meeting who would have liked to take up the invitations.
This is another nudge in the direction of political processes and voting on the Lord’s Day, which already takes place on Continental Europe.
It is passing strange that when there is a Leaders Debate further south, that the BBC did not use the opportunity to invite to the Inverness debate the Leader of the Scottish Christian Party who is contesting the Inverness and Nairn Constituency. Lest one thinks that this invitation was not tendered because it is the Lord’s Day, this is not so. These debates have been confined to the four main parties. Some years ago the SNP complained that they were not getting a fair amount of media coverage - and soon after this, the public gave them the opportunity to form the next adminstration in Scotland. It seems that the media got their emphasis wrong and could not read the public mood. The Sun opposed the SNP in 2007, but they have changed their tune in 2011.
The media and politicians need each other, and feed off each other. So if the media starve legitimate parties of the oxygen of publicity, then each suffers. Just as bankers had no discernment to know to whom to lend money, it looks as if the BBC has no discernment to give local discretion to their staff to deviate from their one-rule-fits-all policy. In the 2007 election the media backed the CPA and the Senior Citizens Unity Party over the SCP. The media’s lack of judgment was shown by the result - the SCP left both of these competitors behind.
Media policy is discriminatory against smaller parties
A similar thing happened in the General Election in May 2010. The BBC’s policy for its hustings in Inverness was to have only the four main parties. When the Scottish Christian Party asked for a ticket to be in the audience, this was denied to them on the principle that political activists could not be in the audience. So the Scottish Christian Party could be neither on the platform nor in the audience. Any member of the public could be present to quiz the main parties except members of smaller political parties. It is possible that this could be challenged as a denial of one’s human rights to attend a meeting to quiz political candidates. So much for the political process.
So the Scottish Christian Party turned to local radio to see if its voice could be heard here. There was no success here either. Moray Firth Radio responded that if it gave an interview to the SCP candidate, it would have to do so to all the candidates, and it claimed not to have the resources to do so. So Moray Firth Radio did not have the resources to invite nine candidates into its studio for a short interview.
This shows the difficulty of small parties challenging incumbent politicians and the main parites.
The media and some of the public wish to deny the oxygen of publicity to some minor parties, and this was highlighted by the debate around the appearance of Nick Griffin, the Leader of the BNP, on BBC’s Question Time. Some people have expressed the view that the AV voting system is to prevent minor parties such as the BNP from gaining electoral success.
This voluntary censorship and manipulation points to uncertainty and insecurity among the political and media establishment. Such a broad-brush policy denies local discretion, and suggests lack of confidence in the discernment of local editorial staff.