BBC yields to pressure and gives Fox equal billing in hustings

The BBC has caved in to pressure and granted independent candidate Billy Fox equal status in Friday’s election hustings programme.

Mr Fox had boycotted the programme after being told he could not sit on a platform alongside candidates from the four main parties. Yesterday SNP candidate Jean Urquhart said she would not take part in the debate either unless the corporation allowed Mr Fox to participate fully.

In a surprise announcement today, the corporation yielded to protests and made an exception to its policy due to the “particular circumstances” of the Shetland campaign. Mr Fox has welcomed the decision.

The BBC statement reads: “We have listened to the representations and considered the issues surrounding the hustings debate on Radio Shetland carefully. Having done so, we believe there is sufficient reason, on this occasion and in these particular circumstances, to review our approach.

“Therefore we have now extended and invitation to the independent candidate, Billy Fox, to take part in the hustings programme on Radio Shetland sitting on the panel with the candidates representing the four main political parties. This does not represent a change in policy. BBC Scotland will consider each hustings broadcast on its merit.”

Mr Fox said he was “extremely grateful” for a “significant shift” in the BBC’s policy. “What this also illustrates is the power of protest,” he said. “Along with fellow independent candidate James Stockan standing in Orkney, we have shown that independents can make changes even before they are elected.

“It shows that independents can gain mutual respect and work with other parties. In this regard  I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to those fellow candidates who gave me their support, and not least the many members of the public who lobbied on my behalf.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Tavish Scott said he was pleased the BBC had listened to complaints about its original stance. “This will allow a full debate, giving all candidates an equal opportunity to make their case and to be questioned on where they stand,” he said.


Add Your Comment
  • Gordon Harmer

    • April 19th, 2011 13:20

    Common sense rules at last, Terry Wogan is right it is “Our” BBC.

  • Rachael Smith

    • April 19th, 2011 17:00

    Good, at last the BBC makes a good decision.

  • Pauline Munro

    • April 19th, 2011 21:20

    Good to see the BBC listen to some sense for a change and good on Jean for having the decency to come out in support of Mr Fox and democracy.

  • Leslie Lowes

    • April 19th, 2011 21:53

    I would like to congratulate the BBC on a policy rethink on election hustings programmes for Shetland and I am glad Billy Fox will receive equal treatment with the other candidates., though his statement “we have shown that independents can make changes even before they are elected” is rather presumptuous considering that the election hasn’t even been held yet, neither has he been elected!

  • Robert Smith

    • April 20th, 2011 12:49

    Hmmm, what’s the criteria required to get this about face from the BBC?
    And since when did they have the remit to decide who get’s heard amongst parliamentary candidates.
    Impartial my ass.
    The coverage that tiny sect – the green party – get, is a scandal in itself.


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