Friday, 11 April 2008

What's Going On?

"What's going on?" used to be the favourite phrase of the EastEnders scriptwriters for anyone turning up at the Queen Vic. Well I must have said it twenty times yesterday when speaking to various people.

Last night the British National Party was the main story on BBC Look North with Clive Jefferson, the Cumbrian BNP Press Officer, appearing on the programme to respond to Eric Martlew, Carlisle's Labour MP. The report was about two BNP councillors taking their place on Weatheral Parish Council and during the clip, four local residents were interviewed and one was even supportive of the BNP.

I can't stand Look North presenter Carol Malia. I have never forgiven her for appearing to be beside herself with joy when the BNP failed to win any seats in the North East a couple of years ago. She was nearly dancing with delight as she reported the news and it was disgraceful show from someone who is meant to present programmes impartially. But last night she managed to keep her feelings to herself and introduced the report in a straightforward manner.

Someone else I can't stand is BBC Radio 4's Today presenter James Naughtie. His political baggage is so heavy that it effects almost every word he says and in the past his reporting of the BNP has also been unprofessional with his personal agenda overwhelming any semblance of impartiality . . . but this morning he too appeared to have turned over a new leaf.

The report on the Today programme just after the 7.30 news bulletin was about the Hamstead and Highgate Express newspaper’s decision to run an advert paid for by the British National Party.
Naughtie interviewed Geoff Martin, the editor of the Archant-owned paper, known locally as the Ham & High, and a representative of the UAF (Gerry Gable must have been disappointed he didn't get the slot). The UAF lady completely missed the argument and was interrupted by Naughtie each time she tried to launch into the usual anti-BNP diatribe.

Geoff Martin said he was following the newspaper's liberal tradition by not censoring the BNP advertisement. He said that as the BNP had candidates, councillors and significant support in some areas. it had a right to let its policies be publicised.
So in the space of thirteen hours, two major BBC broadcasting outlets have carried fair reports on the British National Party . . . What IS going on?

The Ham & High saga incensed the opposition and Theo Blackwell a Labour councillor for Regent’s Park, demanded that Camden Council stop placing adverts with the paper because the decision to run the BNP advertisement was indefensible.

Blackwell told the Press Gazette:
“This comes at a sensitive time – everyone knows that the BNP only need five per cent of the vote to get a seat on the London Assembly.
“The editor seems to be really waving a flag over this. He seems to have done this very intentionally as a marker of freedom of speech. Anyone who knows basic civics would say this is more than just giving a platform to the BNP – it’s gone above and beyond that.
“It contrasts with the historic values that the paper has and the diverse area it represents.”
Could this be yet another Labour own goal by Theo - attacking a liberal newspaper for being just that, 'liberal' - what do you think?

Just finished an excellent book which I managed to squeeze in between my Dick Francis marathon. I can thoroughly recommend Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which is a novel set during Biafra's struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. I remember the time quite clearly and followed the war in the newspapers. It was a real David and Goliath contest which, of course, Goliath won with devasting consequences for Biafra and its people.

What was the cause of the 'civil' war in the first place? Yes, you have guessed it, ethnic and religious tensions that came to the surface after Nigeria had gained independence from Britain in 1960. I enjoyed the book so much that I've just ordered Purple Hibiscus from Amazon by the same author, a book shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize


alanorei said...

I guess what is going on is, 'if you can't squash 'em, report 'em!'

The Party is making the news and the MSM will go where the stories are - even if it means offending former allies.

In the US, the MSM is sometimes called 'the prostitute press,' not without reason, I feel.

Re: LN, last night's presenter was Lara Rostron, who usually fills in for Carol Malia once or twice a week. I don't know anything about LR's politics but she's usually self-contained.

Bert Rustle said...

The original broadcast is well worth listening to, BBC Radio 4 program Today (about three minutes in)

The newspaper's representative Geoff Martin, who had an Irish accent, mentioned how Sinn Fein had been brought into the political process. The UAF introduced Nazis, 1930's etc. Mr Martin said something like ... we do not need to go back to the time before television to take our behaviour for today, it is a different environment today, we had the same dilemma with Sinn Fein ... this is the UK, not China, every voice needs to be heard .... It appeared to me that a lot of work has gone into his presentation, possibly developed during the campaign to get PIRA-Sinn Fein into the political mainstream. In my opinion, the fact that this interview was broadcast on the BBC in primetime is a breakthrough for democracy in the UK. The radio interview has many illuminating arguments which may be helpful to BNP canvassers on the doorstep. This is the most significant broadcast on the BNP I have ever heard on the BBC.