Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Cornish Guardian column: no PEB for MK

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian addresses the refusal of the BBC Trust to allow MK the right to a Party Election Broadcast. It was as follows:

Some weeks ago, I wrote about how I had made formal representations to the BBC Trust seeking a Party Election Broadcast (PEB) for Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall during the 2015 General Election.

I challenged the unjust ruling that MK would not be allowed a PEB, unless we stood in one-sixth of the constituencies across “England” – a total of 89 seats. Or put another way – six seats in Cornwall and another 83 on the other side of the Tamar!

We pointed out that – by comparison – in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, political parties would only have to stand in three, seven and ten seats respectively to secure a PEB.

I am therefore extremely disappointed to report that the BBC Trust has rejected our calls for airtime. The Trust has also devised a series of arguments to justify their position, one of which they described as “overspill.”

They stated that if MK was allowed a regional broadcast, “there would be substantial overspill” with voters outside of Cornwall able to view the broadcast, even though they would not be able vote for MK candidates. The Trust claimed this would “discredit PEBs,” and “create viewer and listener indifference.” They even came up with the term “PEB fatigue.”

It will surprise no-one that we do not accept the logic of their arguments.

As long as the BBC and other broadcasters employ the “one-sixth” rule, there will be PEBs from political parties not standing a full slate of candidates across England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

It will inevitably mean that some people will be able to view broadcasts from – to quote the BBC Trust – “parties for whom they could not vote.” In 2010, for example, there were no English Democrat candidates in Cornwall, but their PEB was still broadcast to all residents of Cornwall.

And at the moment – the BBC is also trying to organise a seven-way election debate to feature David Cameron (Conservative), Ed Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Natalie Bennett (Green), alongside Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru.

Obviously, I am personally pleased that the leaders of MK’s sister parties in Scotland and Wales have secured such coverage and that the BBC will be broadcasting their views across the whole of the United Kingdom, even though most people will be unable to vote for them.

But surely, this is extremely inconsistent with their approach to MK and Cornwall!

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