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Why the BBC Loves UKIP

BN9CW5 BBC Test Card FAll that was missing from the BBC’s coverage of the local and European election results was Nick Robinson giving Nigel Farage a wet, sloppy congratulations kiss. Seldom have the BBC elections team been more starstruck, more craven in its uncritical promotion of a political party. Is it yet another instantiation of a putative BBC bias? Maybe. Sure, there is an overall tendency to go soft on the government of the day. Since 2003’s “dodgy dossier” and the fall out of the Gilligan/Kelly affair, the BBC have self-interestedly tiptoed around those who have the power to scrap or change its Royal Charter. But why has coverage been skewed toward UKIP? Why go completely ga-ga for Farage and co and ignore the Greens, Left Unity/TUSC, Elvis, and the melange of other xenophobic, petty English nationalists? Here are three theories.

  • Let’s grub around in the guts of the political economy of news. The BBC News have a rolling 24 hours channel and a high traffic website. Both are Sarlacc pits of eternal hunger, eager to grasp anything that passes by. So when a story comes along on slow news days – which is nearly every day – it is properly done over. Every conceivable angle is scrutinised, pundits are drafted in for new perspectives, employees are sent to the scene, and there are endless hours of reporters interviewing reporters about what they are reporting. UKIP is one of these news stories that has near infinite potential to generate more news. Recently-elected MEP makes dodgy comments = more news. UKIP responding to mainstream parties promising to solemnly listen = more news. Car crash interviews with journalists = more news. On and on it goes. Soon enough, the coverage itself because a topic worthy of coverage, filling those crucial broadcast slots and column inches. And the BBC think it can get away with it because UKIP are new. They are a novelty. That brings me to my next point
  • Politics is boring, there’s no point pretending otherwise. For most people the awarding of points in Eurovision is more exciting than your elections coverage. And if you think it’s bad for the general viewer, try reporting on it. Consider coverage from the start of the television age up until, say, the 2009 European elections. The winner was either going to be Labour or the Conservatives. Your heart might miss a beat when a minister is unexpectedly knocked out, or that the outcome is by no means certain, but the results were always going to be one or the other. UKIP changes all that. It’s the cat among the anoraked pigeons, the wild card that has proved politics need not alternate between red and blue. And for hacks like Nick Robinson and Dimbles, it has brought some excitement to their lives. It has made their jobs more interesting. So of course they’re going to chase the sexy and the new like a lovestruck teenager, even if it means tremendous overexposure. Besides, no one wants coverage of the stodgy old grey parties anyway.
  • UKIP are an uncouth lot. They refuse to abide by the niceties of received political discourse, have no policy as such to scrutinise, and has lots of members who can be relied on to say sexist, racist and homophobic things. They are a rabble, an uneducated cadre of oafishness no self-respecting BBC journalist would ever consider voting for. Yet what fascinates them is not so much the story of a bigoted party getting traction, but how the figurehead of this party/movement came to be a privately educated city slicker. This is Farage’s appeal for the BBC. Not his blokey pub bore charm or worryingly expansive smile, but how one of them, a man as every bit as establishment as leading politicians and media personalities has been able to vault the chasm of disconnect and engaged “authentic”, “real” people to the point he’s looked upon as the repository of desperate hopes. This is why BBC journalists interview him with a mix of appalled fascination and unabashed admiration. To their minds he has cracked the problem of disengagement. However, to allow the real world to intrude, he certainly hasn’t – UKIP did little to boost turn out for both sets of elections.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid



  1. Arthur Mason says:

    The reason the BBC is so in love with the right wing is the right’s obsession with privitisation so the BBC will do all in it’s power to pander to the right too many people on the gravy train with to much to lose.

  2. Annette says:

    Yes – all amounts to politics as soap opera.

    However, here’s a thought – this election was extraordinary in that the “leader” of a party was a candidate in an election in which no other party leaders were candidates.

  3. Bob says:

    The BBC would do better to pander to Labour – who are rather less likely to privatise the BBC.
    Instead, it’s BBC capitualtion.
    With Patten in charge, now gone and to be replaced by another Tory dame, and one of IDSS’s thugs just joined as well. It’s probably a takeover.

  4. Robert says:

    Dear god each time labour had a green paper on welfare the day after the BBC had a program about scroungers now the BBC no longer has to bend it’s knee to Blair or Brown it can of course work with other parties.

    UKIP is the top team at the moment it speaks louder then words while the BBC is hammered by the Tories with no rises in fees and the labour party has little to offer it except we will do the same, which is Miliband words, we will do that, we will hammer down harder , watch us we will do this and that harder then the Tories, we will cut harder.

    the simple truth the BBC has to work with other parties and since the Lidlabcon are all basically in love with each other that only leaves UKIP…

  5. Abdul Aziz says:

    It comes as no surprise that BBC has right wing tendencies after all their political news editor one Nick Robinson he of the beady eyes was a Tory activist. How on earth can we expect unbiased reporting when your lead reporter is a supporter of the existing government. I bet my post is not picked up.

  6. Jon Lansman says:

    I think we’re more than usually indebted to Keith Flett for this tweet on election night:

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