A BNP election broadcast went out on Monday 26 April on BBC 1 in England. A few dozen people demonstrated outside Broadcasting House against the transmission, in a protest organised by Unite Against Fascism, Expose the BNP and the broadcasting union BECTU.
Earlier BECTU had issued a statement aimed at its members inside the BBC:
“BECTU’s advice to its members is that where they are requested to work on a BNP party political broadcast and do not wish to do so, in the first instance they must advise their line manager and also inform BECTU. Past experience suggests that broadcasters have ensured that those, who, as a matter of conscience, do not wish to work on such productions are rostered to other work.”
The union has stated that where an employer insists that an individual works on a BNP broadcast, despite a request for release from the individual, that the member should inform BECTU without delay.
“In the event that a member faces disciplinary action, then BECTU will give its full support to the member.”
The tone would lead one to believe that broadcast technicians pulling the plug on the broadcast was likely, but it was always unlikely, for several reasons.
Insiders suggest that it was far easier in the past for union members to refuse to work putting out material by or about the BNP, but all that would happen was that a manager or someone else would do that work. There would not be much likelihood that a broadcast would actually be stopped.
These days it would be a brave employee indeed who would refuse to work on the broadcast, conscience or no. They would be defying a BBC management that is being very hard-nosed about covering the BNP “impartially” — that is, rather uncritically — in the interests of “fairness”. For BBC management this is a political issue. They would come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who tried to stop a broadcast.
Moreover, whatever the union says, many BECTU members would probably, like most people, see it as common sense that the broadcast should go ahead. Many people buy into the idea that, since BNP politicians are properly elected, they must be treated the same as all other politicians. Also, isn’t every mainstream politician in the land taking up their main political campaign, against immigration, anyway?
The media unions are battling to expose the BNP for what it is, against media bosses who seem determined to do the opposite and give the BNP an easy ride. The NUJ has its own website www.reportingthebnp.org, providing resources to journalists “to help challenge the party’s claims on housing, immigration and race… why the BNP is not like any other party”.
An activist campaign for media workers and students has been set up, with NUJ and BECTU support, called Expose the BNP (www.exposethebnp.com).
But they are up against a media culture which seems bemused about how to handle the BNP or just plain soft on them.
In January the BBC’s editorial complaints unit found that Radio 1’s “Newsbeat” programme had been too soft in an interview last year with BNP activists Mark Collett and Joseph Barber. The programme had described them as “two young guys who are members of the BNP”, and did not challenge their statement that Ashley Cole is “not ethnically British”. Many interviews with the BNP, for example, Jeremy Paxman interviewing Nick Griffin on “Newsnight” on 24 April, treat them with arch humour rather than as a serious party with seriously nasty politics.
The protest outside Broadcasting House on the night of the BNP election broadcast was not just meant for media workers but for the public as well. Everyone has a role to play in commenting on how the BNP is reported in broadcast and print media, for example, writing to local newspapers to challenge lousy reporting.
Local readers complaining to the Brentwood Gazette about a gushing report of a BNP meeting — it described the BNP as “proud nationalists” — have apparently convinced them to take the report off their website.