Nick Griffin’s appearance on BBC’s Question Time has been the hottest headline in the British media this week, culminating in a mass protest outside Television Centre before the show.
The controversy has raised serious questions about the power of the media and its place – or not – in politics.
By allowing Griffin airtime, is the BBC giving legitimacy to a far-right political party that supports racial views that many Brits find disturbing?
On the other hand, Britain – and therefore its press – upholds the value of freedom of speech. Is stifling that speech wrong in itself, especially when the BBC has a moral duty to be impartial? After all, Mr Griffin’s party did win two seats in the European Parliamentary elections in June.
Or maybe it is as simple as the BBC trying to rocket its ratings. If so, job done. It pulled in 8 million viewers – three times more than normal.
Nick Griffin certainly got a grilling from Question Time’s audience. One man said the public could have a whip-round to send him to the South Pole. He added, “It’s a colourless landscape, it’ll suit you fine.”
Griffin seemed slightly shaken by this comment, but was mostly amused by others, including accusations he associated with the Ku Klux Klan and has denied the Holocaust.
Stripped of his normal PR shield, some argue his comments confirm he is a political pariah. He has said himself he is most hated man in Britain this week. But what he said is almost irrelevant.
His fellow panellists – including Labour’s Jack Straw and Tory Sayeeda Warsi – seemed like extras in a political pantomime revolving around one protagonist.
Griffin has now been given the national media exposure he has been craving. After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Loathed or liked, everyone is talking about him.
Post by Tessa Parry-Wingfield (Producer at TNR Communications)