Election '97: Greens to act over BBC's `unfair' election coverage

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The Independent Online
Green party members are planning a campaign of direct action against the BBC in protest at their lack of coverage in the election campaign.

The party's supporters are furious at a leaked memo from a senior BBC news executive which instructs programme- makers to give minimal coverage to the Greens.

The memo, seen by The Independent, lumps the Green Party with the extreme right-wing British National Party and single-issue parties like the Pro- Life Alliance and the Referendum Party.

Written by Anne Sloman, the BBC's chief political adviser, it lays down that the Greens and other "minor" parties will be given no more than one feature on each of Newsnight, the Six O'Clock News, Radio 5 and the Radio 4 Today programme in the entire campaign.

It states that requests by minor parties to feature alongside the main parties on program-mes like Question Time and Any Questions are "not likely to be met".

The Greens, who described their treatment by the BBC as "shabby and disreputable", argue that if they were given airtime to reflect their share of the vote, they would receive more than five minutes coverage a day.

Senior figures in the party said the lack of coverage was partly responsible for the political apathy among young voters who feel there is no alter- native to the mainstream parties and their obsession with the floating voters of Middle England.

Peter Barnett, the party's spokesman, said the Greens were ridiculed by the BBC as a party for "woolly hats, sandals and beards". In a rare mention, the BBC continued to associate the party with David Icke who resigned six years ago.

"This has been going on for years and is one of the reasons why green politics are suppressed in this country and such a part of people's lives in other countries," he said.

The Greens, who fielded more than 250 candidates in the last election, blame the lack of media coverage for their disastrous showing.

Their failings contrast starkly with the success of Greens in other parts of the world. The party is represented in 70 countries and there are 30 Green MEP's sitting in Strasbourg.

Green party activists have already been involved in direct actions against road-building projects and the new runway at Manchester airport, where they set up the first camp and gave protestors a mobile phone.

Lawful direct actions are being planned next week at BBC television and radio offices around Britain.

Candidates have already begun disrupting BBC coverage by exploiting requirements in the Representation of the People Act to give a voice to all candidates in a featured constituency. Murray Falconer, who is standing in Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, sabotaged a planned BBC Scotland programme by refusing to take part. The programme-makers had wanted Falconer to sit in the audience with other "minor" candidates while the three main parties and the Scottish National Party were given a seat on the platform.

The Greens claim their local election campaign for 1 May has been completely ignored. The BBC has refused to screen its local election broadcast, costing the party pounds 7,000 which could have been used to field more general election candidates.