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July 1, 2024updated 04 Jul 2024 1:19pm

Enemies of the Nigel: BBC joins growing list of Farage media beefs

Reform UK has accused the BBC, Channel 4 and Daily Mail of biased coverage.

By Dominic Ponsford

Nigel Farage has said he will boycott the BBC as his Reform UK party spends big on press advertising in the closing days of the UK general election campaign.

Farage claims the BBC Question Time audience on Friday was rigged against him during a special programme featuring the leaders of the Green Party and Reform on Friday.

His attack on BBC impartiality follows claims a Channel 4 investigation into a racist Reform Party canvasser was a set-up. Farage has also threatened to sue the Mail on Sunday over a front-page report headlined “Zelensky: Farage is infected with ‘virus of Putin'”, which he said put words into the mouth of the Ukraine leader.

Meanwhile, Farage’s Reform UK party has taken out full-page adverts in newspapers including The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, even as the Mail published a tactical voting guide on how to stop Reform from winning Conservative seats.

On Monday Reform UK appeared to have invested heavily in take-over adverts on Mail Online.

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Farage told GB News: “Right from the start of this campaign the BBC have behaved like a political actor.

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“What happened on Friday with that Question Times audience was truly astonishing, first question gets asked by a chap who has himself produced eight programmes for the BBC, including the very woke now Doctor Who.”

That audience member, Mark Corden, describes himself on Linkedin as a freelance assistant director who has worked in the past on programmes including Casualty and Doctors. He asked Farage: “What is it about you and your party that attracts racists and extremists, whether you say you want them or not?”

Farage said: “The third question is asked by a chap who’s a well-known street Palestinian campaigning activist, question number seven or eight was asked by a girl who’s a very active left-wing campaigner which is perhaps fine. The point I’m making is a Question Time audience is supposed to be representative oft he country and as we go into the final week of an election, it was miles from that.

“I did ask the BBC for an apology.”

“I’ve now done a series of big BBC programmes over the last few weeks and every single audience has been tilted towards either the Greens or the Labour Party in the most astonishing way.”

Writing on X on Saturday, Farage told his 1.9 million followers: “I have just been invited to appear on Laura Kuenssberg. I’m refusing until the BBC apologises for their dishonest Question Time audience.”

Responding to complaints made by Farage the following day, a BBC spokesperson said: “We refute these claims. Last night’s Question Time audience was made up of broadly similar levels of representation from Reform UK and the Green party, with the other parties represented too.

“There were also a number of people, with a range of political views, who were still making up their mind.”

Channel 4 news undercover investigation was ‘a plant’ says Reform UK

Meanwhile, Reform has made a complaint to the Electoral Commission over what it described as “interference” from Channel 4 News after the broadcaster filmed a canvasser for the party, part-time actor Andrew Parker, making racist and homophobic comments.

Reform party secretary Adam Richardson, a barrister, wrote that Parker was “a plant within the Channel 4 News piece”.

He added: “The Channel 4 Broadcast has clearly been made to harm Reform UK during an election period, and this cannot be described as anything short of election interference.

“It is entirely untrue that Mr Parker had any connection with Mr Farage as he details in the documentary, and has obviously attempted to use this fictional association to smear him in the national media and damage his campaign.”

He said he had also made a complaint to Essex Police accusing Parker of “knowingly making false statements about a candidate during an election campaign”.

A Channel 4 News spokesman said: “We strongly stand by our rigorous and duly impartial journalism which speaks for itself.

“We met Mr Parker for the first time at Reform UK party headquarters, where he was a Reform party canvasser.

“We did not pay the Reform UK canvasser or anyone else in this report.  Mr Parker was not known to Channel 4 News and was filmed covertly via the undercover operation.”

Channel 4 News does not name the undercover investigator who went out on the campaign trail with Parker in Clacton, the constituency Nigel Farage is bidding to take from the Conservatives.

The report was produced in association with Lee Sorrell Media, which is headed up by a former head of investigations on ITV‘s Tonight With Trevor McDonald.

During the 2019 Lee Sorrell Media filmed senior Brexit Party activists making anit-Muslim comments in Hartlepool, the seat where party chairman Richard Tice was standing.
One Brexit Party councillor boasted how he once tried to bury a pig’s head in the foundations of a local mosque during its construction. A regional campaign claimed Muslims were “outbreeding us”,

Parker told Channel 4: “At no time before I was sent out to canvass did I discuss my personal views with any representative of the Reform Party or Nigel Farage.

“I would therefore like to apologise profusely to Nigel Farage and the Reform Party if my personal views have reflected badly on them and brought them into disrepute as this was not my intention. I offered to help the Reform Party on their canvassing as I believe that they are the only party that offer the UK voter a practical solution to the illegal immigration problem that we have in the UK.”

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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