Thursday, 11 December 2014

My response to the BBC's party election broadcast criteria

The BBC is at the moment running a consultation on Party Election Broadcasts for the 2015 general election. They are asking people to review the criteria they use. As many of you will have seen Dick Cole has challenged this (Mebyon Kernow set to demand fair share of tv election broadcasts). He has also encouraged people to submit their own responses and put pressure on the BBC to include Mebyon Kernow.
Mebyon Kernow should be treated fairly by the BBC

I also implore people to email, the BBC website page on the consultation is here and you just need to answer 2 questions:


Do the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria seem appropriate? Please explain why.


Do you have any other comments on the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria?


Then email your responses to this email address

Here's my submission:

Dear sir/ madam,

Below are my responses to the questions on the consultation document, any questions/ queries don't hesitate to get in contact. 

Do the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria seem appropriate? Please explain why.

The UK is a parliamentary democracy not a presidential model, we vote for constituency representatives not for a president. On ballot papers across the UK people will have the option of several candidates. Perhaps half of these candidates will benefit from seeing having television exposure to gain electoral support and galvanise their faithful. In turn half the candidates will be excluded from this process and placed at an unfair disadvantage. Television is a powerful medium in politics and there is an onus upon a public service broadcaster to wield this power in the public interest and respect diversity and difference. 

The number of candidates needed to pass the threshold for a PEB is overly centralised and does not take into account regional differences. Parties like mine (Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall) are discriminated against, however accidentally, by the need to field so many candidates outside of our area. Unlike Wales and Scotland where the thresholds are much lower there is no similar dispensation for Cornwall. The UK is a huge place what matters in politics in one place may well be meaningless in another. Here in Cornwall the debate about devolution rages in the local press and online as well as debates about our poor economic output and poor transport links. These are the matters Cornish politicians will address up to (and hopefully after) the general election. By not including Mebyon Kernow in the PEBs and making no allowance for Cornish difference the BBC will be stifling debate and not serving the interests of democracy in Cornwall. 

This system of standing nearly everywhere is skewed in favour of bigger parties. Despite the fact opinion polls and party membership figures show that the numbers supporting the established parties is at an all time low. Politics has moved on from the era of bi-partisan or tri-partisan dominance. People are looking at other parties to lend their support to. The model of only allowing parties that stand near enough everywhere is one that has not moved with the times. This PEB system effectively entrenches the existing parties and stifles the room for growth for alternative political ideologies and parties. I question whether the public interest is served by effectively limiting broadcast time to the old guard parties and providing little for those looking for something different in politics. There is a risk of inadvertently increasing voter turn out, by the BBC ignoring the diversity of opinion across the UK not currently catered for by existing political parties.  


Do you have any other comments on the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria?

Cornwall ought to be treated as a special case. For two major reasons, firstly the Cornish are now recognised as a national minority. Hitherto there has been little evidence that the BBC has factored the terms of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities into their broadcasting, there is most certainly a need for allowances for Party Election Broadcasting. Article 9 of the FCNM covers the need for allowance to be made of members of national minorities and should be relevant to PEBs and a special case for Cornwall. It is incumbent upon the BBC to understand and respect the national minority status of the Cornish people. The other national minority groups such as the Scottish and the Welsh are given their own broadcasts and the national majority the English are treated similarly. Although recognition of the Cornish is a relatively new development, it is nonetheless a development, if the other national groupings of this isle are singled out for preferential treatment, it would be a disgrace that Cornwall is ignored.