An Open Letter of Complaint to the BBC

I have written a letter of complaint to the BBC concerning the recent election coverage. Here it is, in full:



BBC Coverage of 2014 Elections

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to express my disappointment regarding the BBC's coverage of the local and European elections 2014, including coverage during the run-up over recent months. I have always thought that the BBC has a duty to entertain, educate and inform. I believe with these elections you have failed to educate the electorate or accurately inform them of the election results.

Political discussion programs have shown a particular partiality towards UKIP; for example, Question Time on BBC 1 has featured Nigel Farage on the panel disproportionately often. Indeed, I believe he has made the most appearances of anyone over the last 3 or 4 years. Perhaps this is because you consider Question Time to be entertainment rather than serious political debate, and controversial figures like Mr Farage make better television? I have also noticed that when Mr Farage is on Question Time the questions are usually skewed towards Europe, and there is little opportunity to examine UKIP's other policies.

Regarding the European elections, coverage has mostly focused on the in/out question; this is not what these elections are for. The elections are to determine the make up of the European Parliament for the next 5 years, and are not a referendum on EU membership. Voters should therefore be concerned about how the EU is run, not whether we should be in it or not. However, the BBC gives almost no coverage to the operation of the EU, the other parties across Europe, or the various alliances and groupings within the parliament.

Your lead story following the local election results was UKIP's success; however, an analysis of the facts indicate that UKIP's support has dropped by about a quarter since the 2013 local elections, whereas Labour and the Greens have done relatively well. On that basis, you should be running headlines concerning (amongst other things and not exclusively) UKIP's disappointing results.

As you can see from the examples above, I am concerned about the apparent bias towards UKIP; however, my concerns run deeper than that. It is the BBC's responsibility to educate the license payers, but I believe you have failed to do so in this case. In order for voters to make an informed choice at the ballot box, it is essential that they are aware of the facts, rather than just party propaganda. The BBC coverage has by and large not even told us what the parties' policies are, never mind attempted to verify their feasibility, or explain the impact upon the general public.

In addition to a lack of facts, I have noticed a tendency by your highly experienced (and highly paid) interviewers to cut politicians off when they are trying to answer a question, and to focus on trivia or events in the distant past. A particular example of the former was Natalie Bennett's appearance on Newsnight (16th May), where Yalda Hakim barely let Mrs Bennett get a word in edgeways. The end result is that at the end of the interview the viewer or listener is none the wiser about what the politician actually stands for (or at least, not a full picture), and I believe your journalistic standards are slipping.

I suggest that your coverage should include, as a minimum:

  • in-depth analysis of each party's manifesto (including highlighting areas where they don't have any policy);
  • highlighting of each party's performance, in terms of delivering on their previous manifesto;
  • in-depth documentaries covering pan-European issues;
  • probing interviews by the likes of Jeremy Paxman, giving the politicians plenty of time to answer the questions, but making sure that they do!

In summary, I believe your coverage of the elections has been lacking in hard facts, biased towards UKIP and sensationalism, and (much like your widely criticised coverage of man-made global warming) has mostly failed to educate and inform the public. I look forward to hearing your response to my concerns.

Yours faithfully,

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