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BBC bias in the run-up to Police and Crime Commissioner elections?

Ed Miliband’s appearance on BBC West Midlands (WM) Radio has sparked controversy over his discussion of Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, Bob Jones

by Natalie Glanvill on 14 November 2012 13:53

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Ed Miliband’s appearance on BBC West Midlands (WM) Radio has sparked controversy over the Labour leader’s discussion of Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, Bob Jones.

Miliband appeared on Paul Frank’s prime-time show yesterday afternoon in which he discussed Bob Jones’s candidacy at length for approximately six minutes in the run-up the to the six o’clock news. Jones’s name was mentioned no less than 10 times.

Frank failed to intervene at any stage to remind Miliband of the BBC’s election guidelines for PCCs in England (expect London) and Wales which state:

“A key intention of these guidelines is to encourage vigorous debate and to give candidates themselves the opportunity to make their case without giving unfair advantage to one candidate or party over another”.

The guidelines, which were approved by the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee in September, say,

There is no area of broadcasting where the BBC’s commitment to due impartiality is more closely scrutinised than in reporting election campaigns”.

At no time during the Labour leader’s interview did Miliband mention other candidates in the PCC Elections, which are to be held tomorrow, other than to say,

“The independents will speak for themselves, but if you are a Tory or Lib Dem candidate, you’re somebody who has gone along with these police cuts because that’s what the government has imposed”. Frank gave a hurried run-through of the other candidate’s names at the end of the interview.

The station which attracts over 214,000 adult listeners each week, allowed Miliband to discuss the candidates proposals and pledges.

Less than one minute into the interview, Miliband said:

“Bob Jones, I think we have an excellent candidate in the West Midlands, someone with huge experience. I was with him in Wolverhampton last Friday and he showed his comprehensive knowledge on many of the issues that the West Midlands is facing.”

Miliband then discussed the candidate’s agenda, saying,

“He’s got a very clear agenda which is, protecting front-line policing, we’ve seen huge cuts, particularly in the West Midlands, imposed by the this government, tough action on anti-social behaviour and not privatising our police force. So we’ve got a clear agenda in these elections and we’re going to try and make the best of them”.

The leader of the opposition continued discussing the Labour election candidate in what increasingly sounded like a political advert:

“What do people want? They want somebody who will say actually these cuts to front-line officers in the West Midlands are wrong and somebody who will go to central government and say, I’m standing up for police officers in the West Midlands. I know Bob is going to do that and I know Bob will bring great experience to doing that”.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron also appeared on BBC WM Radio. On Monday’s breakfast show with Pete Morgan, Cameron was invited to discuss the up-and-coming PCC elections. Aware of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality, Cameron made no attempt to give political coverage to any candidate. He told viewers:

“There are good candidates in the West Midlands, I am not allowed to mention their names on the radio apparently for all the laws that we have”.

He advised listeners to “go on the internet, look them up and see what they’re promising and choose who to vote for”.

In response to Miliband’s interview, the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) candidate, Bill Etheridge told The Commentator, “I think it was an obvious case of bias whether it was intentional or unintentional. The interview was allowed to become a 7 minute party political broadcast on behalf of Bob Jones and the Labour Party”.

“This whole campaign has been characterised by a lack of media coverage and what coverage we have had has been shoddy and inadequate”.

Etheridge said that it was not surprising that this had come from the public-funded broadcaster.

“I am very disappointed by the behaviour of the BBC in regard to this matter but as a member of UKIP I am not surprised. It’s something you tend to get used to”.

PCC Conservative Candidate for the West Midlands, Matt Bennett, told The Commentator that he questioned the broadcaster’s judgement over Miliband’s interview and said that, “It was a very odd decision for the BBC to give unequal airtime to the other candidate two days before the election”.

A BBC spokesperson told The Commentator: "In accordance with these guidelines, BBC WM have given all candidates fair and consistent coverage. All seven candidates have taken part in all aspects of their election coverage, inlcuding interviews on their Breakfast, Drivetime and Mid-Morning programmes and their PCC debate on Thursday 8th November". 

In tomorrow’s first ever election of this kind, 41 new police and crime commissioners will be elected across England and Wales.

Natalie Glanvill is an Editorial Assistant at The Commentator and tweets at @NatalieGlanvil1

Read more on: Bob Jones, BBC and Conservative Party, bbc bias, is the bbc biased, ed miliband, Police Commissioners, elected Police Commissioners, and voting for police commissioners
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