AN independent candidate in Thursday’s Rotherham by-election has declared himself “baffled” by a BBC discussion that featured only six out of 11 candidates.
The Rev Simon Copley said the discussion, broadcast from the New York Stadium during the Sunday Politics Show on Sunday, involved candidates from the three main parties as well as UKIP, BNP and Respect.
But none of the three Independents or the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition candidate featured although they were mentioned at the end of the programme. The English Democrats candidate did feature separately in a short piece to camera.
He said: “In the wake of the police commissioner elections, where the very low turnout was blamed directly on the lack of information given to voters, this editorial approach is unbelievable.
"Are the BBC pre-empting the outcome of this by-election. Do they know better than the Rotherham electorate, what and who they might want to hear? As a public broadcaster they should be giving all candidates a fair hearing in any case.
“Even if we accept that a studio debate with 11 candidates would be hard to manage, on what basis were the six parties involved given this platform?”
Mr Copley, who is standing on an anti-corruption ticket, said in the last General Election an independent came 5th ahead of UKIP and the police commissioner elections showed that independents are a viable choice for the people of Rotherham.
He went on: “Respect did not even field a candidate at the last general election so why were no independents invited?
“As one of only two candidates living in Rotherham borough I am extremely disappointed that I was overlooked by the part of the show dedicated specifically to local issues.”
He said he had already been invited to feature in a BBC Radio Sheffield phone debate so the inability to contact him could not have been a factor.
Mr Copley said he had also been informed that “the main parties” will be given more attention in that debate also.
“The BBC should immediately redress the balance by giving more air time to the five candidates who were not represented in the Sunday Politics Show or else give them each a slot on BBC Look North this week,” he said.
“I have not consulted the other four candidates but I am sure they are as bemused as I am. I may diverge from them on political issues but we may agree, on this occasion, that this is a very poor editorial approach by the BBC, especially in view of their recent high-profile editorial mistakes.”