Broadcasting union and BBC heading for clash over BNP

British broadcasting union BECTU has issued a press release criticising the BBC and the justice minister, Jack Straw, for their willingness to endorse the participation of the far-right British National Party (BNP) in a forthcoming edition of the TV discussion programme Question Time.

The BBC says it is obliged, under its charter, to give airtime to the BNP because it is a legal political party which has a number of MEP’s, though it does not currently have any MPs at Westminster. But BECTU, today insisted that the BNP should not be given airtime to promote its racist politics.

The union’s statement comes in reply to the BBC’s decision to accept a proposal from the producers of Question Time that BNP leader Nick Griffin should join the panel for the programme on Thursday 22 October. BECTU has also criticised the justice minister, Jack Straw, for his decision to take part in the broadcast planned for 22 October.

“The Labour Party has always said that it would not share a platform with racists; this is not a matter upon which ministers should be permitted a ‘free vote’. Jack Straw’s decision is doing damage to his credibility as a senior government figure and to the Labour Party. We call upon him to reverse his decision to take part,” said BECTU General Secretary Gerry Morrissey.

BECTU represents production staff across all roles in broadcasting and has on previous occasions pledged to support any member who chooses, as a matter of conscience, not to work on output which either involves or promotes the BNP. In the past broadcasters have respected that individuals can exercise this choice.

BECTU has today reiterated that same commitment to support all members who choose not to work on this particular edition of Question Time if it goes ahead with a BNP representative on the panel. The union will also be lending its support to anti-fascist organisations who will be campaigning against Question Time’s plans to give the BNP airtime.