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Voting Green not UKIP! Photo: from Viridis Lumen.
Voting Green not UKIP! Photo: from Viridis Lumen.
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BBC - end your Green Party news blackout!

Morgan Meaker & Bradley Allsop

8th June 2014

The BBC disgraced its obligation to political impartiality by ignoring the Green Party throughout the recent election campaign, write Morgan Meaker & Bradley Allsop - we should all support calls on the BBC to give the Greens and their policies fair coverage.

The relentless coverage of Farage and his party undoubtedly boosts their electoral credibility - and even when the coverage is negative, it still seems to work in their favour.

Infuriated at the BBC's failure to report on the Green Party in the recent European and Local elections, Young Green Portia Cocks has launched a petition denouncing the BBC's "bias" against the Green Party.

Hosted by 38 Degrees, the petition already has almost 50,000 supporters, while over 1,200 have complained to the BBC directly.

The petition attacks the news organisation's almost "complete absence of coverage" regarding the Greens. For example the BBC's election polling page lumped those intending to vote Green under 'Others', shown in grey - even when we overtook the Lib Dems.

This is in stark contrast to the way our entire mainstream media landscape, including the BBC, is swamped with references to UKIP and its leader, 'cheeky chappie' Nigel Farage.

Real achievements - not media hype

Editorial coverage should be proportionate to a party's achievements - not the hype it generates. That underlies the petition's call for an end to the media black-out inflicted on The Greens.

Despite an impressive surge in support, the party is repeatedly denied the spotlight by newspapers and news sites, prompting growing frustration.

Yet this relegation to obscurity is completely undeserved. Now the official opposition in Liverpool, Solihull, Islington, Lewisham and Norwich, the Greens also lead the Council in Brighton & Hove.

Last week the party celebrated success in Bristol where they gained two seats (one with over 47% of the vote) and held onto a third. Despite UKIP's victory in the European elections, these are achievements that the far-right party could not claim.

But although the Greens now boast 162 councillors, one MP, three MEPS (up from two - we just won a new seat in the South-West) and two London assembly members, their platform of progressive policies and alternative ideas does not seem to tantalise the taste buds of the country's news editors.

An obsession with Mr Farage

And then look at the media's panicked focus on UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. He's the perfect media villain and journalists latch on to his political fiendishness - his recent LBC interview inspiring a spattering of tongue in cheek articles about the correlation between racism and tiredness.

The relentless coverage of Farage and his party undoubtedly boosts their electoral credibility - and even when the coverage is negative, it still seems to work in their favour.

Compared to stale litanies of the 'main' parties, you could say Farage was a breath of fresh air - or perhaps more accurately a poisonous ball of hot air. But when you've been shut up in a political debate devoid of creativity and passion for so long, many are willing to gulp down something even that toxic.

And therein lies the problem - in personality Farage is on a different page to the rest of Westminster. But when you look to policy, UKIP is a maniacal right-wing disaster zone - but one hardly anyone knows about, including most of these voting for the party.

Again, this is thanks to the media focus on the trivial but eye-catching - and its systematic neglect of serious reportage of policy. Is it all too boring to mention? Well it won't be if a UKIP government raises income tax on the poor, privatises the NHS, scraps holiday entitlement, cuts education spending, and legalises rape within marriage.

Are Green policies just too sensible?

In comparison, the only time the Greens seem to get a look-in is when one of us is arrested. While the public overwhelmingly support the majority of the Green Party's policies, you'd be hard-pressed to hear about our support for rail renationalisation or workers' rights in the papers.

Maybe Green politics doesn't have the catchy sound-bites of the Tories or the beer-swiggers of UKIP. We don't have a simple answer either, because the answer isn't simple. The world is complicated and confusing. We have the solutions: they just don't always fit onto a beer coaster.

But the popular support for Green policies shows the democratic need for the party to get a fair hearing in the press - particularly among our publicly-funded broadcaster, the BBC.

Zoe Williams expressed similar concerns, highlighting the complete lack of interest the media show in The Greens' progress. She targets Andrew Marr in particular, who marvelled on his Sunday Politics show at how the Lib Dems were now fourth behind UKIP in the opinion polls.

However, he somehow failed to mention that the Lib Dems shared their position of joint fourth with the Green Party. In fact, as we later found out, the Green were doing even better than that and beat the Lib Dems into fifth place.

BBC coverage 'resolutely unbalanced'

The BBC prides itself on objective journalism yet its coverage of the May elections has been resolutely unbalanced. From the Daily Mail, we expect sensation and from the New Statesman, we expect left leaning opinion.

But the BBC is different. As a publicly funded broadcaster it rightly declares impartiality as one of its key values. And this is something that must be reflected in the amount of coverage each party receives.

The media circus has twisted democracy. Acting as an unwitting (or at times deliberate) PR machine for UKIP, news organisations misrepresent the political landscape - skewing the perspective of the voting public.

It's essential for the media to respect their democratic responsibility to report news, not to pander to theatricality. The Greens are thriving and their achievements deserve to be reported. As the petition concludes:

"The BBC prides itself on painting an fair and unbiased picture of events, however in this case we feel they have not done so ... This apparent news blackout of the Green Party by a much respected taxpayer-funded corporation is incredibly disturbing and must not be allowed to continue."



The petition: BBC News - stop this media blackout of the Green Party!

Morgan Meaker and Bradley Allsop are members of the Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Twitter: @morganmeaker



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