Election '97: Media Watch: Please do not adjust your set

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The Independent Online
Viewers face the prospect of two or three party election broadcasts a night after the Referendum Party won permission yesterday to bring a High Court challenge against the BBC and ITV over refusals to grant it no more than one five-minute broadcast.

A judge ruled that Sir James Goldsmith's party had "an arguable case" that the refusals were legally flawed and it should be allowed to apply for judicial review. If the party wins it will add to the crush of PEB's coming from the minor parties that are contesting more than 50 seats and are eligible for a broadcast.

The only one likely to be worth watching from an aesthetic point of view may be from Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party - Ken Loach, director of Kes and Land and Freedom, will be making it. The content of the PEB has not been finalised, but Loach made a film to defend Labour's Clause IV in 1995 which featured the radical academic Noam Chomsky and a security guard who earned pounds 1.20 an hour guarding an open-cast mine, while his dog "earned" pounds 3.

The Referendum Party, given the backing of Sir James, is likely to be the most polished of the minor parties: the Green Party, The Natural Law Party, UK Independence Party, the Prolife Alliance are all claiming a broadcast, while the British National Party is struggling to register 50 candidates by the 16 April deadline.

The Referendum Party has the use of the Banks Hoggins O'Shea advertising agency, whose senior partner, John Banks, once worked for Baroness Thatcher.

One of the most controversial PEBs is that planned by the anti-abortion Prolife Alliance. It has use of an US-made video, The Hard Truth, which features scenes of aborted foetuses. It is yet to be cleared by the BBC or ITC but the party, which has only pounds 80,000 for its total campaign, is relying on it: "Images speak more powerfully than words sometimes," said a spokesman.

The Green Party is using its two main spokespeople, Peg Alexander and David Taylor, to front a pounds 15,000 film shot by Platform Films using "camera tricks" to make the film look more expensive than it really is when it runs on 17 April.

The UK Independence Party secured the actor Leo McKern for free and hired a BBC team for its broadcast on 21 April, costing less than pounds 2,000. The Natural Law Party is making its 18 April film in-house and has its leader, Geoffrey Clements, talk to camera.

Searchlight, the anti-Fascist monitoring organisation, believes that the BNP will have difficulty getting registered candidates in enough constituencies to guarantee it a PEB.