11/05/2012 Newswatch


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of the hour, but now it is time for Welcome to Newswatch. On this


week's programme, should these three candidates have got more of a


look-in during coverage of the contest to be Mayor of London?


Elections have been dominating the news. Last weekend sort of the new


French president, while the Greeks have also cast votes for a new


government. Before that there were local and may well elections in


England, Scotland and Wales. The results were brought to rise by


David Dimbleby in a marathon overnight programme. We are looking


at how people have voted in the English and Welsh... But a couple


of hours in, we were contacted with Other complaints were about that


Let me show you our key ward exercise and we would try and break


it down. We are looking first at key ward changed since it 2008.


This is the overall figure. Does that remind you of anything?


This is the overall figure here, and I will give it to you. I see


what you mean, Christine! Protests started well before last Thursday,


and they centred on the highly sensitive issue of how airtime


should be allocated to the various parties and candidates. The crucial


theme is to get police officers out there where the parties want to see


them. A debate on BBC London during the campaign. But only four of the


seven candidates were invited to take part. Later, one of the


missing candidates made their objections clear. It would have


been nice if I had been on the main debate tonight. We should all have


been given a say. Her complaint was I think what is going to become


known as the independent candidate problem, they ended up good and


almost at the same amount of votes as the Liberal-Democrat and the


Green Party candidates, with hardly any airtime, she was effectively


saying, I am serious, I have a serious record in the Civil Service,


I have well worked-out ideas, why shouldn't I have the chance to have


those presented to viewers and tested in front of viewers in the


same way as other candidates? with the BNP and UKIP candidates,


she was also excluded from Newsnight's debate over who should


become the Mayor of London. So why didn't the smaller parties receive


equal representation to the larger ones? The answer is that the BBC


allocates airtime mainly according to previous electoral success. But


some feel there is an need for both stricter laws governing this and


for an update of the BBC regulations. The BBC rules of


basically adaptations of those rules in an era long gone, when


British politics was completely dominated by the two main parties,


looking back to the 1950s. Labour and Conservative candidates mop up


19% of all the votes then. It wasn't an issue. But at the last


general election, more than a third of the public voted for parties


other than Labour and Conservative. 10% voted for smaller parties. We


also found recently in the by- election in Bradford, in which


George Galloway one, here was a situation which could become


increasingly common, where people who were traditionally Labour, were


dissatisfied with Labour, but didn't want to buy it for the


traditional parties, and sought another outlet for their protests.


There is clearly a growing appetite for the increasing numbers of


voters to look at the non- traditional, mainstream parties,


and this needs to be reflected in the BBC's coverage. It is a trend


that has been seen recently across Europe, with smaller parties taking


a greater share of the vote, from Greece to France. Closer to home,


is it time the BBC revisited its rules governing election coverage?


Our chief political adviser joins me now. Is your system out of date


and too rigid? One of the misunderstandings is we have a


single set of rules call elections, that is not true. We drafter new


guidelines before each election, we let people comment on that, and it


is specific to the context of that election. These guidelines were


drawn up for the last elections. What do you have to say about this


problem, an independent not getting any airtime because it they were an


independent. The system has been described as ridiculously skewed


towards the status quo, and very unfair. Actually, all the candlelit


in the mayoral election got enormous amounts of coverage -- the


candidate. There were only seven, they all got more coverage than


they ever have before. There were three TV interviews, six or radio


interviews, all the other candidates got a lot of coverage,


so the idea that somehow they were excluded is simply not true. And it


there were only four participant in the TV debate, that surely is not


fair? One of the things you have got to remember in elections is we


have to scrutinise not only the incumbent but the people who might


find themselves the Mayor for the next four years, so there is always


a balance to be struck between holding those politicians to


account and perhaps having a debate where lots and lots of voices are


coming in, that perhaps being less helpful to the electorate. There is


a bit of a chicken and egg situation for an independent, who


may be a valid and qualified person, but because they are not a party,


because they didn't stand at the last election, inevitably they are


disadvantaged in terms of party political broadcast and appearing


in formal debates like on Newsnight. You have got to make an editorial


judgement about the level of coverage people get, and the place


to start with that is how people vote in real elections. Clearly,


parties that have got a track record should get some coverage,


but that is not the only criteria. If you are a new candidate or a new


party, that doesn't apply, so we look at current electoral support,


we get all sorts of things to judge what sort of level. Opinion polls


can play a big part in that. We made those judgments, I think we


got the right level of coverage for top do you think the BBC is


adequately reflecting what many people think are significant


changes to the political landscape, not just in the UK but across


Europe? Fragmentation of the established party system, new


parties, are you not off the pace? We look at each election separately.


In the European elections, way UKIP have a good track record, they get


the same level of coverage as the main parties. But this may roll


election, 85% of the people voting last week, voted Labour or


Conservative. So the idea that the boat so suddenly disappearing in


lots of new directions in all elections isn't true, you have to


look at each one separately. Thank you. Elsewhere we watched the


appalling news of the nine men accused of sexually exploiting


teenage girls in Rochdale. The way the men were described was a


Thursday saw the latest stage in the build-up to this summer's big


sporting event, with the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece.


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