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The British far right National Party (BNP) was put under scrutiny by the press last week. The extreme right wing party was invited to the BBC popular program “Question Time’ that the channel plays on air on Thursdays.
Peter Hain, the Welsh secretary, was among those who criticised the BBC for giving Mr Griffin airtime on its most populist political show. He said that “they hit the big time in their own words”. As to Justice Secretary Jack Straw, he said that “Mr Griffin’s performance was catastrophic”. He also said “there is no denying that many people are disillusioned with mainstream politics. The imperative now is to engage with them directly and put aside the extreme BNP sideshow behind us”.
Despite the massive demonstration of hundreds of anti BNP demonstrators in front the BBC’s building, the leader of the party Mr Griffin managed to make his way into the building through the rear entrance of the building. Shortly after the playing of the program the broadcaster received over 400-phone calls and emails of complaints. More than half of the complaints were that the show had been biased against the far right party and the rest of the complaints were that the party leader Mr griffin should have never been invited to the show.
The question now on everybody’s mind is the following: “What is the outcome of this show?” Concerning the purpose of such a show, two ideas emerge. Whether the BBC wanted to use its communication tools to let a political party express its freedom of speech and political views or it wanted to use the program to make the far right party look like a fool while increasing its audience.
The figures speak for themselves. The program attracted 8.2 m viewers, the highest ratings in question time’s 30 year history. Question time has attracted more than three times as many viewers as usual. Other figures are also disturbing. Nick Griffin claimed that more than 3000 people had shown their interests in joining the party after his appearance on TV. The connections on the BNP website increased of 225% after the show.
Although Mr Griffin claims that the British interest in the BNP has increased, he has (Mr Griffin) has lodged a complaint against the BBC over the way his appearance in the show was handled. He will claim that he format of the show was designed to attack the far right party and that the audience was balanced against him.
The BBC denied these allegations and defended its handling of the program. The BBC said that it was normal to reflect topics in the news.