Thursday 15 August 2013

Get UKIP (again)

As someone not wholly unsympathetic to UKIP, am I being biased in complaining that the BBC is making an awful lot out of the accusations of 'sexism' against UKIP treasurer Stuart Wheeler? 

The accusations originated with Claire Gerada of the Royal College of General Practitioners. For the BBC she's merely the head of the Royal College of GPs. For me she's an avowed socialist with little (or no) sympathy for the party. As a result, I see her accusations in a very particular light.

The story features on the home page of the BBC News website - UKIP man denies sexism in debate - and is ranked in priority above the latest wave of mass murders in Iraq and the story about large numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants having already arrived in our country.

And there's more...

The World at One discussed it as the second story in their running order (after Egypt), hauling in Mr Wheeler to defend himself. 

Plus I've just started listening to PM and Eddie is promising a debate between Ms Gerada and a UKIP supporter, so it looks as if PM is making it its second story too. 

And yet...neither the Sky News nor ITV News websites are making anything of the story. 

So, at least as far as the broadcast media are concerned (until Channel 4 News inevitably gets onto Mr Wheeler's case), the BBC stands alone in making this a massive story - and a negative story for UKIP.

Still, I listened to Martha Kearney's interview with Mr Wheeler on The World at One and I have to say that Martha not only allowed him to make his case but seemed rather charmed by him and that Mr Wheeler gave a perfectly credible and nuanced account of himself. I couldn't disagree with anything he said. 

That's something in favour of the BBC, I suppose - even if the prominence given to the story on The World at One does suggest an anti-UKIP bias. 

The bad side is the web article (linked to above), which strikes me as almost vicious. Please take a read of it for yourself and see what you think.

That PM debate is going on as I type. It's Claire Gerada v UKIP's Diane James. Ms Gerada is slagging off Mr Wheeler while Diane James is arguing against taking things out of context and playing to a political agenda. 

Who is Eddie putting in the dock? No one impartial would deny that Diane got a much tougher time than Claire, being interrupted and being asked tougher questions, with more than a flavour of cynicism in the way Eddie put one of those questions.

As you may have guessed, I'm something of an Eddie Mair fan but this wasn't impartial interviewing - even though he gave space for both guests to make their points. 

I may have a soft spot for UKIP but the BBC's coverage of this story today suggests they have something of a bias against the party. Hardly a jaw-dropping revelation I know, but there you are!

Update: Tellingly, BBC One's News at Six covered the story. ITV's main evening news bulletin didn't.

Still, at least the BBC bulletin only dealt with it briefly, near the end of the bulletin - unlike its Radio 4 colleagues.

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