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Now, Newswatch. Did the BBC's screening of the debate on the EU do
a favour to UKIP? Welcome to Newswatch. Coming up...
Wednesday's EU debate, we look at the dilemma for the BBC over how
much air time to give to it. Is this Nick Robinson's new interviewing
technique, questioning politicians when they are busy talking to
someone else which are marked Mr Farrow, are you still arguing that
President Assad did not use chemical weapons? And we look back at when
the BBC cheered as up with a cheerful hoax about spaghetti
growing on trees. The build`up seemed to promise the latest in a
series of heavyweight confrontations. But did Wednesday
night causing big fight live up to the billing? Seconds out for round
two of the bout between the man who says he is leading a people's army,
and the man who says he is exposing a dangerous fallacy. Last week, they
sized each other up. Tonight it is the career political class and their
friends in big his nose, they want us to keep the status quo. If it
sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But was this debate the
BBC should have been screening? Some people thought not...
Others felt that coverage of the debate exposed or did something to
redress what they see as the BBC's pro`EU bias.
Well, the BBC's chief political adviser joins me in the studio now.
Nigel Farage has his supporters as well as his detractors, but why
screen a debate about this topic, which no voter is going to have a
say on, for the time being? It is clearly one of the big political
issues of our time, Britain's relationship with the European issue
union `` the European Union. We get criticism from both sides, that we
do not do enough on Europe. I think this was a really good opportunity
to hear from someone who is very much in favour of the European
Union, up against somebody who is very much against it, to hear some
of those arguments, ahead of a time when this will become a really big
issue, in two or three years' time. But there are lots of big issues
that we could have a debate on, but this particular issue plays into the
hands of UKIP, many people would say. Well, it was Nick Clegg who
threw down the gauntlet and offered to have a debate. I think he felt
that he wanted to put that side of the argument. Nigel Farage of course
has also been prominent in the last year or two. It is quite right that
these two quite prominent politicians should have an
opportunity on the BBC to talk about this important issue. We will talk
about how we define prominent ` UKIP have no MPs, the Green Party have
one, but they do not seem to be getting invited to debate issues.
There is a question about how much the BBC has helped build up the
profile of UKIP over the past year? We give coverage to political
parties according to the level of electoral support they have had in
the past. It is true that UKIP do not have any MPs, they did not get
any in the 2010 election, but since then, it is undeniable that they
have made a big impact in electorally. They did extremely well
in the local elections last year. Their ratings in the opinion polls
have been extremely strong over the past couple of years. Mostly higher
than the Lib Dems. So the fact that UKIP is making an impact with real
voters means the BBC has to reflect that and reflect those views. There
is a question about what happens next, because now that he has
debated with Nick Clegg, surely Nigel Farage will expect to be part
of any general election leadership debate next year. Would he be? We
looked at each election. At the moment we are looking towards the
European elections next month. In that context, UKIP have done
extremely well over the years, they came second last time, some people
even think they might the general election is still more than a year
away. At an appropriate time, we will look at it. Is there definitely
going to be a leadership debate before the general election next
year? It is not set yet. We would like to do one. We thought they were
incredibly successful last time, particularly engaging younger
voters. We and the other broadcasters would like to do one
again this time, but it is still more than a year away, so it is not
certain. I am just looking at the number of MEPs, nearly half have
quit, resigned, been expelled or changed party, from UKIP? It is
true, but people voted for them at the last election, and one thing
about giving a party like that more coverage is that we ask them more
difficult questions. It means that the BBC, as part of its job, has to
hold them to account. That is what we are doing when we do this kind of
coverage. Debates is just one part of it. We will be doing lots of
other coverage about Europe. Thank you.
You have been sending us comments relating to that debate, and you
were doing so before it kicked off. Nick Robinson was live for the news
at six outside New Broadcasting House in London following earlier
comments from Nigel Farage about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
And who should be behind him? Nigel Farage is answering questions about
those comments. Because the UN did not take a decision about who used
chemical weapons in Syria, but they did conclude that the weapons were
used. Are you still arguing that President Assad did not use chemical
weapons in Syria? Some viewers were unimpressed by that...
Another topic caught your eye last weekend, coverage of the first
same`sex marriage is, which took place in England and Wales following
a new law coming into effect. Was it a major cultural shift or a small,
incremental change, following the introduction of civil partnerships
in 2005 and now some people felt BBC News gave the event too much
attention. If same`sex marriage is a divisive
issue, so, too, is climate change. This week the BBC was criticised for
its reporting on that subject by a Parliamentary committee. MPs said
some editors were poor at determining the level of expertise
amongst the public, and sometimes pitted lobbyists against top
scientists, as if their views had equal weight. The BBC responded that
it did not believe in erasing wider viewpoints.
Finally, the date on Tuesday prompted Colin Paterson to look back
at one of broadcasting's most famous tricks on the audience. On the 1st
of April 1957, in between Hancox half`hour and some heavyweight
boxing, panorama featured one of the most famous April Fools of all time.
Spaghetti cultivation in Switzerland is not carried out on anything like
the tremendous scale of the Italian industry. That was the voice of
Richard and bubbly. `` Richard Dimbleby.
Others were on the lookout for similar trickery this year. One
viewer thought she had found a candidate on the BBC News website.
No, that story actually is true, along with all the other unlikely
sounding reports you heard or read on the BBC on Tuesday. The BBC did
however relay some stories from the papers.
If in our naivete we missed any BBC April Fools this week, do let us
know. We want you to share all of your opinions on BBC current affairs
by contacting us... Thanks for all your comments about
BBC News. These join us again next week. Goodbye.
You will need to factor in the possibility of rain at least into
your plans for the