30/05/2014 Newswatch


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Hello and welcome to Newswatch. Last week's elections brought a UKIP


political earthquake to Britain, or did they? If they did, was the BBC


partly responsible? The Corporation's political editor


response to charges that their success was overhyped and discusses


his questioning of Nigel Farage during the election campaign.


As the results of the English local elections and those for the European


Parliament came in, one man's smiling face dominated television


screens. Much of the talk was about UKIP and Nigel Farage, as it had


been during the campaign. Even when he was speaking to one set of


cameras, the UKIP leader had to deal with a question thrown at him by a


nearby Nick Robinson. Viewers complained about this at the time,


as they did when the BBC's political complained about this at the time,


as they did when the editor questioned him about employing his


German wife as a secretary? Nobody else could do that job. No British


person could work for you as your secretary? You do not think anybody


capable is of doing that job? And again when they discussed concerns


people might have if a group of Romanians moved in next door. What


if Jamaica Inn is moved next door? No. Nigerians?


Projected national shared... Perhaps because of the scrutiny Nigel Farage


and his party were put under, they did well in the local elections in


England, but how well? David Graves looked closely at the numbers. The


BBC have talked about a surge, a massive increase, huge success, UKIP


the story of the day. To put it in context, look at the results.


Labour, 2100 seats. United Kingdom Independence party, at the most


fourth place, 163 seats. Try and reconcile that with BBC coverage. It


does not make sense. When the European results came through, it


was clear that UKIP at won. For some viewers, the BBC had played a part


in that victory. The BBC's political editor, Nick


Robinson, joins us down the line. Let's start with the election


campaign, were your interviews with Nigel Farage to personal? I don't


think they were. I did take a view that Nigel Farage was likely to be


at the centre of this election campaign, that it was widely


predicted by all parties that UKIP could win the European elections,


and that Nigel Farage had done a lot of clips for news programmes,


usually with a pint in his hand and a smile on his face, usually


inviting him to comment on others, rather than being interrogated on


his own position. I thought it was right to do that. It is clear that


Nigel Farage divides viewers and voters, and we have had complaints


from both sides, but on the local elections, the charge is that the


BBC over reported, exaggerated how successful UKIP had been. They only


got 163 seats, compared to more than 2004 Labour, and their share of the


vote went down. I think Labour supporters were deeply frustrated


that they had many gains, the most of councils and councillors and


bodes. I get these messages myself, they feel that was not properly


represented. We did report that, although it is worth remembering


that the results got much better into Friday than they were overnight


Thursday night and into Friday morning. So the picture on Friday


night was much better and healthier for Labour than it had been the


night before, and at the time people were switching on their radios or


televisions, or downloading things on the internet first thing on


Friday morning. The point we were making again and again was to report


the facts, you always got to gain this and you gave that, but also we


are there to add analysis and interpretation. `` who gained this


and who gained that. The people who study elections, Professor John


Curtice, Peter Kellner, they all agreed that these results were not


good enough for Labour to be confident of winning the next


election. They only had a lead of about 1% over the Conservatives.


They were not as good as other positions had done at a similar time


in this sort of situation before an election. UKIP, on the other hand,


had made a breakthrough, no longer just a European party, they were


finding a base in local councils not just in the South against the


Tories, but in the North against Labour, establishing themselves as


the fourth party of English politics. They went on to do it in


British politics at the Euro elections, but we were right to


point that out. In the European elections, UKIP clearly won, but


viewers are concerned that the BBC coverage made that a self`fulfilling


prophecy, almost a cheerleader for UKIP. I know there is that feeling,


but I think it is wrong. Why do I think it is wrong? Because the big


rise in UKIP's poll ratings happened before this campaign, long before Mr


Farage was getting onto the television day in and day out. There


had already been a surge, one year ago they had a record`breaking


performance at the local council, county council elections last May.


And therefore you cannot make that link between recent coverage and his


performance. We got the same complaints over last year's local


elections, and many people feel the BBC has been building up UKIP for


over a year. The BBC has to try to give their coverage to politicians,


and in case people wonder how that is done, it is by studying how


parties have performed in the past, how many seats they have got, for


example, how they did in previous elections. We also look at their


current poll ratings, and decisions are made not by the likes of me all


by my editors, but we have a chief political adviser whose job it is to


advise the regulators, the BBC Trust, who makes a judgment about


share of coverage. His decision, which was echoed in Tiley by ITV and


Channel 4 and Sky, was that UKIP should get equal coverage to the big


three parties in the European elections. `` entirely. It was a


national vote, they performed very well in 2009, they were performing,


in the opinion polls, in a way that suggested they may come first, and


therefore a decision was made by our regulators that my being fair and


balanced, that meant giving UKIP same level of coverage as the other


parties. BBC News analysis presented both the euro and local boats as the


other parties. BBC News analysis presented both the euro and. ``


votes. There was very little on the issues, surely that is failing to do


the job. If you listen to your local radio station, you will see stories


about local councils, reported in terms of that council, the decisions


they are taking. It is not realistic that at a national level we can do


that, so at the elections we see them through a prism of what it


means for a general election, and there is a long history of local


elections being a pretty good guide as to what will happen. On the


European Parliament, I think that is a fair criticism, there was


certainly coverage around, and it is fair criticism that we need to


constantly think about how we explain to people what a member of


the European Parliament does, and what the differences are between


people who represent one party and represent another. Nick Robinson,


thank you. Just time for a couple of other


items on BBC News this week which have caught your attention. Question


Time certainly did that, the panel included Piers Morgan and footballer


Jo Wheeler Barton, who put it to Louise Bours that the should not be


pleased with their performance. All you represent is the best of a bad


bunch. If I am somewhere and there was four really ugly girls, I am


thinking... Oh dear, oh dear! That is all you are to us.


Finally, some or positive feedback, Borrell Williams was interviewed on


Breakfast, and his hit signal Most viewers applauded the


enthusiasm and bravery that went into that.


Do let us know what on BBC News makes you happy or unhappy! That is


all for this week, but call us with your views. We are on Twitter, and


if you ever miss our programme on telly, you can catch up on the


website. We will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


coverage again next week. Goodbye. Hopefully the weather will make you


happy this weekend, because there will be a lot of dry weather out


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