Channel 4 censors BNP election film

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The Independent Online
Channel 4 is refusing to show a British National Party election broadcast in full tonight even though the same broadcast will be shown largely uncut by BBC and ITV.

The embarrassing disparity between the channels comes after broadcasters successfully challenged the Prolife Alliance, which is fielding 56 candidates in the election, over showing details of foetuses being aborted in its party political broadcast transmitted last night.

One of the sequences taken out of the BNP broadcast on Channel 4's insistence shows a London high street, and faces of black people who are identifiable, and the commentary asks "Do you want the rest of Britain to end up like this?"

The other shows a school in the East End of London with signs in Urdu. Channel 4 argues that the scenes infringe Independent Television guidelines.

The BBC and ITV have not removed these sequences, but have taken out another in which a woman with three children is clearly identifiable. The BBC and ITV argue that they are not in breach of guidelines and that it would not be feasible to ask everyone shown in the broadcast whether the BNP had asked their permission to be filmed. This is the ground on which Channel 4 has censored the broadcast.

A spokesman for Channel 5 said last night: "We will be looking at both the ITV/BBC version and the Channel 4 version and decide whether either is legal and can be transmitted."

The confusion shows the lack of clarity of the law which is to be challenged by the Prolife Alliance after its High Court defeat yesterday. The alliance attempted to challenge a BBC decision to remove almost half its five-minute broadcast on the grounds that it would offend public taste. The extracts showed parts of the process of an abortion but Judge Dyson said the BBC was quite entitled to rule that the extracts would offend.

The judge said he recognised that freedom of expression was an important human right, but, having seen the offending transmission, he supported the BBC's decision. He described the film, which includes footage of what he said were "mangled and mutilated" aborted foetuses, as "indeed shocking".

The offending sections were blurred over with a statement saying that the broadcasting authorities had censored it and "if something is so horrifying that we are not allowed to see it, then perhaps we should not be tolerating it".

Josephine Quintavalle, spokeswoman for the alliance, said: "We are taking advice about appealing to Europe but it is obviously too late for this broadcast. We see this as a wider issue than pro-life. We are very concerned that a few media people have control over political expression."

The alliance last night put the uncensored version of the broadcast on its Internet site.

Ann Furedi, Director of the Birth Control Trust, said: "It's absurd for the Prolife Alliance to bleat about their rights being taken away when they are seeking to restrict the right of women to abortion and the right of couples to infertility treatment."

Last night, the Roman Catholic Church leader Cardinal Basil Hume intervened in the affair saying: "If the pictures of aborted human life are so offensive, surely we should not be allowing 500 abortions to take place every day in this country."