BBC may face second court action

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It has emerged that UKIP are threatening to emulate the SNP by taking the BBC to court over their leader’s debate exclusion….

It has emerged that UKIP are threatening to emulate the SNP by taking the BBC to court over their leader’s debate exclusion.

The party are said to have written to the Director General of the BBC arguing that their exclusion from the leaders debate breaks the Corporation’s charter and warns of legal action if their request to be included is denied.

In the letter written by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who is the UKIP representative in the House of Lords, the BBC have been given until 2 pm tomorrow in order to respond to the party’s request or face an injunction.

UKIP argue that their recent Euro election support, where they outpolled both the LibDems and Labour, entitled them to be considered a major party.  They also point to the fact that they are fielding  570 candidates across the UK in this general election.

However the BBC have argued that it is the last Westminster election in 2005 the corporation deem relevant, an election that saw UKIP win no seats.

The BBC wrote:
“It is, therefore, appropriate and consistent for the BBC – and other broadcasters – to offer the opportunity to take part in the Prime Ministerial [sic] debates only to those parties which have substantial electoral support in the context of Westminster. There will be additional opportunities across the BBC for other parties to receive appropriate coverage responding to the Prime Ministerial debate.”

This explanation of the criteria used to justify UKIP’s exclusion seems altogether different from the arguments used to justify the exclusion of the SNP and Plaid.

In the case of the national parties of Scotland and Wales the explanation is that their respective leaders have no chance of becoming PM and are not fielding candidates across the UK – both are conditions that UKIP satisfies.

By providing what appear to be different reasons, the BBC will fuel speculation that the leader’s debates are more about TV ratings and consolidating the traditional party powerbase than any desire to educate and inform the electorate.

A decision on the SNP court case is expected tomorrow afternoon.