How the BBC has been instrumental in the rise of UKIP (video)

Farage interviewed on BBC's Sunday Politics (again)

Farage interviewed on BBC’s Sunday Politics (again)

Demonstrating a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, last Sunday, Andrew Neil mentioned yet again how surprising it is that UKIP have increased their support even though many of their leading members and candidates have been exposed as racists and homophobes. Perhaps Mr Neil should consider the role that the BBC and he in particular have played in the raised awareness and misplaced popularity of UKIP in the UK.  Indeed, Nigel Farage has been on the Daily Politics and the BBC more generally with such frequency many of us are beginning to suspect that our licence fees are funding UKIPs election campaign.

Farage on BBC's Daily Politics so often it has been re-branded

In recent months, he has made several appearances on the BBC’s Question Time programme and he has made 15 appearances in five years, more than anyone other than its host David Dimbleby.

Farage appeared on Question Time 15 times in 5 years

Of the handful of high quality and popular political news and discussion programmes broadcast by the BBC, Farage has been seen on them for extended interviews repeatedly and usually more often than any other individual guest. For example, here are Farage’s appearances the BBC’s top political TV broadcasts in just the last two weeks:

4 May The Marr Show
8 May Question Time
11 May The Sunday Politics
15 May This Week
19 May Newsnight

Additionally, Farage was a guest on the hugely popular, long running prime time satirical show Have I Got News For You on 11 April and appeared on the Daily Politics on several occasions as well as multiple shorter BBC radio interviews on the Today programme and World At One.

When Farage is not appearing on one of these shows invariably other senior UKIP members such as Patrick O’Flynn, Neil Hamilton, Diane James or Suzanne Evans will be on in his stead to peddle their little Englander snake oil.  In the last few years, it has been rare for a single episode of these programmes to be broadcast without a UKIP representative  or a discussion of the UKIP ‘effect’.

This massive and unwarranted exposure is extraordinary.  In the 2010 general election, UKIP received 3% of the popular vote.  Unlike the Green party which receives negligible airtime on UK broadcast media UKIP do not have a single MP and for most of the last five years their support has been in single figures nationally.  The free PR from the BBC has effectively normalised UKIP’s xenophobic views which had hitherto been seen as reactionary and unacceptable in the mainstream UK population.

Of course, interviews are more than a simple PR opportunity.  They are allegedly undertaken as a form of cross-examination – a time for the audience to discover what the interviewee is really all about under detailed forensic questioning by a highly paid professional investigative journalist.  Yet, despite the unprecedented number of opportunities available to the BBC’s ‘top’ political interviewers to challenge Farage about his own and UKIP’s racially charged and often homophobic views, thus far, the BBC journalists has failed to dissect the nastiness that lies beneath the ‘cheeky chappy’ Farage façade.

Although Farage has noticeably undertaken media training over the years his basic argument is unsupported by meaningful evidence.  This is where the BBC have, in this blogger’s opinion, failed to do their duty as far as professional journalism is concerned.  The UKIP leader has a limited number of tactics that he draws upon in interviews and the main one is a frequent use of questionable ‘evidence’ to support his case.  He often bamboozles interviewers with misleading but often unverifiable ‘facts’ to support his claims but these are rarely given more than the most superficial of challenges because the interviewer has simply failed to prepare.  This is a point that was evident when Paxman interviewed Farage a few nights ago.  Paxman is well known for his intellectual and fairly aggressive interviewing style and yet he was abysmal by his own standards on this occasion.

Video edited for length
Video ©BBC

It is arguable, given Paxman’s recent performances more generally, that the announcement of his imminent departure from Newsnight has led to a ‘demob happy’ approach to his work.  Whatever the cause, repeated journalistic failures like his result in the viewing public being left with the impression that Farage’s argument is credible and has an apparently unchallengeable evidential basis.

WRONG! None of UKIP's claims about Romanian crime are accurate

WRONG! None of UKIP’s claims about Romanian crime are accurate

This failure to unequivocally expose and condemn the black heart that beats in UKIPs chest has done more to promote the UKIP brand and Nigel Farage in the public’s mind than any other media appearances or marketing campaign could ever achieve.  It is not as if it is a difficult task.  It takes intelligence and research – basic building blocks for successful journalism one might assume.  For example, LBC’s James O’Brien did an excellent job of revealing Farage’s truly nasty and racist underpinnings last Friday.  It was clear within minutes that O’Brien had undertaken extensive analysis of what Farage had said and was ready with chapter and verse with statistics and other evidence.  He was also dogged in his questioning, repeatedly addressing individual points to get a clear and meaningful answer from Farage.  That should have proved an example to the BBC but instead, in the week of the elections, it has been a return to the tummy tickling that has characterised BBC journalists approach to UKIP for five years.

Obviously the BBC has not been acting in a vacuum.  Widespread anti-immigrant feeling has been whipped-up by the right-wing press.  Papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express have regualry misinformed their readers, such as, by using highly suspect and often wrong “think tank” research from the likes of Migration Watch.  Headed by xenophobe Andrew Green, MW is an especially rancid anti-intellectual, anti-factual  operation that has widespread support on the far right of UK politics.

Anti immigration right wing press daily mail

This right-wing fervour for immigrant bashing has been allowed by the BBC to infect their own approach to reporting the issue and they have forgotten their obligation to report objectively.

Last year, Cardiff University completed a study of the BBC’s news output (Hard Evidence: How Biased Is The BBC?) and found it to be pro-conservative issues, pro-business and Euro-sceptic.  The coverage the BBC have given to Farage and UKIP since the 2010 election has reflected that bias and has been invaluable to the party by raising its profile without any meaningful critical analysis of its values or policies.

They say that you reap what you sow and I do wonder if the BBC is fully aware that its mindless promotion of the UKIP cause is a form of self-harm.  Although UKIP is policy-lite, having only one ‘official’ policy, when asked UKIP’s leading members and followers want the BBC’s licence fee to be abolished.  One of the outcomes of the BBC’s popularising of UKIP is that it has provided a larger platform for that part of the electorate that want to see an end to public funding for the BBC.

Oh the bitter-sweet irony.


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One thought on “How the BBC has been instrumental in the rise of UKIP (video)

  1. Pingback: >GUEST POST: Steve Morson on BBC Bias & TV Licence Tax « GL-W's weBlog

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