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Platforms and panels

Betsan Powys | 13:27 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

Where does BBC Wales stand on the issue of inviting the BNP onto its discussion programmes?

I've read some three versions of it over the past 24 hours - one in a press release from Plaid AM Leanne Wood's office, another based on that press release in the Western Mail and another in the Scotsman.

I'll start with the press release. Headlined "BBC Wales 'No to BNP' stance welcomed" it goes on to say that "BBC Wales has revealed that it will not be inviting the BNP on to its programmes, after an appeal from Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood".

The release was based on what Rhodri Talfan Davies, BBC Cymru Wales' Head of Strategy and Communications had said in his Emails to Leanne Wood:

"The starting point in determining what sort of representation any party should receive on programming in Wales, for example Pawb a'i Farn (which we produce for S4C), is their past and current levels of political support. Other factors, such as consistent trends in opinion polls, significant changes in the political context, etc, can also be taken into account ... The BNP has not to date achieved political representation in Wales or other evidence of significant electoral support, therefore there are no plans at present to invite the party onto the Pawb a'i Farn panel."

In today's Western Mail the headline reads "BBC Wales will not invite the BNP on to political panels" and the piece goes on to say that "BBC Wales will not be inviting BNP representatives on to political panel programmes because it judges that the far-right party has insufficient support in Wales. Its policy - revealed in a letter to Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood - differs from the BBC network, which tonight will broadcast an edition of Question Time including BNP leader Nick Griffin".

It doesn't say how the policy in Wales 'differs' from the BBC network, just that it does.

The Scotsman today carries a piece in which Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, warns Scots that the BNP is not "an English problem" and says that "it turned his stomach that the BNP would be on television." Peter Hain, his colleague the Welsh Secretary, has said again that allowing Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time is "worst decision" the BBC has made in recent times. Towards the end of the piece the SNP are reported to have "called on BBC Scotland to follow BBC Wales and ban any broadcasts that include the BNP".

So, once again, where does BBC Wales stand on the issue of inviting the BNP onto the panels of its disussion programmes?

You may strongly wish it otherwise, or you may not, but as I understand it, there is nothing in BBC Wales' policy that differs to the policy adopted by the BBC as a whole. BBC Wales is applying exactly the same policy as BBC network but because electoral support for the BNP in Wales has until now not been as strong as in parts of England, the result in Wales is different. In Wales they got 37,118 votes in the European election. They have no MEPs here. They have no county councillors either.

Same policy, different result. Just because you get different answers, that doesn't mean to say the questions asked aren't exactly the same. As I say you may wish it otherwise. You may think the questions are wrong, let alone the answers they elicit. My point is only that the questions asked here - and there - are no different.

Where will I be tonight at 10.30pm? In the Dragon's Eye studio. Question Time will be broadcast here in Wales but as usual, it'll be on half and hour later here than for viewers in the rest of the UK.

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