The BBC has admitted its Newsbeat team was not rigorous enough in its scrutiny of two senior British National Party members who claimed footballer Ashley Cole was “not ethnically British”.
The BBC’s editorial complaints unit ruled the Radio 1 programme should not have allowed the pair anonymity and should have more closely challenged their views on what ‘ethnically British” meant during an interview last October.
Mark Collett, the publicity director of the BNP, and Joseph Barber, who heads the BNP record label Great White Records, were introduced as ‘two young guys who are members of the BNP”.
During the interview, conducted by Newsbeat reporter Debbie Randle, the pair said they did not believe the England and Chelsea footballer was ‘ethnically British’and commented on him ‘coming to this country’despite the fact he was born in London.
Broadcast of the interview caused outrage and Newsbeat editor Rod McKenzie was forced to defend the interview on the BBC Editors blog.
Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, was amongst many to criticise the broadcast saying ‘Would the BBC allow any other party’s spin doctors to appear anonymously? The interview was in clear breach of basic journalistic practice, and of official BBC and National Union of Journalist guidelines.”
The BBC editorial complaints unit published its ruling on the affair this week after two listeners complained about the broadcast.
The unit said: ‘At the time of the interview, one of the interviewees was the BNP’s publicity director and the other ran the record label which promotes and sells BNP CDs.
‘Information about their status was relevant to listeners’ understanding of their contributions, and should have been included.”
Although not conducted in a confrontational style, the interview did include elements of challenge, the unit said, in both the broadcast and the online version.
‘However, the concept of British ethnicity, introduced by the interviewees in connection with the example of a black British-born footballer, was not tested in the way its controversial character called for.”
‘The Newsbeat team were reminded of the need to ensure that listeners have enough information to assess the status and credentials of interviewees.
‘The editor of Newsbeat also discussed with the team the need for rigorous challenge within interviews of this kind.”