hate speech

Should the BBC Legitimise Hate Speech?

The BBC is being criticised for “giving racists a platform” after allowing a former National Front candidate to call for “completely” closed borders on its BBC Question Time show. 

The audience member went on to claim that the UK has been “flooded” with immigrants, singing in harmony with former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, and English Defence League co-founder and hate preacher, Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon). Time and time again, those on the far-right turn to blame the country’s ills on immigration.

Yaxley, at the very least, has been banned from social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter for his unwavering hate speech that is mostly targeted at Muslims. Paypal further blocked Yaxley from receiving funds from his supporters.

Nigel Farage pointing to a fabricated problem to suggest mass migration in the UK has pushed the country to ‘breaking point’. This poster became famous in the run-up to the EU Referendum. [Image: Mark Thomas/Rex/Shutterstock/The Guardian].

Yet the BBC not only saved a seat for the former fascist party member said to be named Sherri Peach, but allowed her to air her views freely and for far longer than the average audience member. The BBC even shared the clip across social media where it has since been viewed 7 million times.

Hopefully the BBC takes a step back from aligning itself with a platform akin to Fox News

Former social media manager for a BBC political debate programme, Sam Wright, criticised the broadcaster’s choice to allow the audience member to air her views:

“At the minute [Question Time is] built like an entertainment programme. It’s about clipping up extreme views and getting viral hits. The BBC needs to rethink.”

The woman believed to be a National Front candidate and staunch supporter of Tommy Robinson on BBCQT. [Image: BBC/The National Scot].

Latest analysis from the Office of National Statistics suggests long-term migration to and from the UK has been relatively the same since the end of 2016 and is the key contributor to Britain’s population growth. The last reported growth, from 66.0 million in mid-2017 to 66.4million in 2019, is an increase of just 0.6%.

The BBC not only saved a seat for the former fascist party member said to be named Sherri Peach, but allowed her to air her views freely and for far longer than the average audience member

A spokeswoman from Stand Up to Racism accused the BBC of “trying to compete with Fox News”, the infamous America news programme which has a long history of ludicrous news coverage. Fox News has recently come under fire with reports stating “disinformation” from regular contributors is rife.

Fox News further appears to willingly engage with white supremacist ideology, shrieking on a daily basis about the “invasion” of asylum seekers hoping to secure safety for themselves and their children in the US. Racism walks hand in hand with other forms of hate, with Fox ‘reporters’ claiming men are naturally dominant and that it is “anti-science” to suggest otherwise.

All things considered, hopefully the BBC takes a step back from aligning itself with a platform akin to Fox News. However, if it doesn’t, it needs to reflect mindfully about what it chooses to show.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the BBCQT woman is an avid supporter of Tommy Robinson. [Image: Alarmy Live News/Daily Mail].

Ever since its inception in 1927, the BBC has been lauded as a victory, a politically neutral institution that seeks to present various political beliefs. Yet many were left frustrated amid the 2019 election since the BBC’s impartiality appeared to disappear and, according to Labour MP Andy McDonald, contributed to towards “vilifying” the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Questions need to be asked and investigations conducted into how attendees in the BBC’s audience lineup are selected

Questions need to be asked and investigations conducted into how attendees in the BBC’s audience lineup are selected, especially when the ‘impartial’ broadcaster offers a platform to those with racially-aggravated hostile beliefs. Is a background check ever conducted for those offered a seat on Question Time?

In the name of balance, a show like Question Time does seek to hear from a variety of votes from both ends of the political spectrum. However, when the beliefs being depicted are so hostile – at a time where hate crime has doubled since 2013 – the ramifications of broadcasting and therefore in some way legitimising such views have to be considered.

The UK has changed and is continuing to change rapidly, not because of “floods” of migrants but because of a fundamental split between those who are “bored” of hearing about racism as famous (and white) actor, Lawrence Fox recently scoffed on, again, BBC Question Time. Meanwhile, some are seriously concerned that the abuse of minorities is skyrocketing.

Is a background check ever conducted for those offered a seat on Question Time?

There is a marked difference in freedom of speech and hate speech. The power of language cannot be underestimated. Language exists in a prism, where normalisation of certain phrases or words paves the way for abusive behaviour. Floods, invasion, cockroaches, swarms, aliens: all words used by those on the far right to deliberately ignite fear and hatred of immigrants which, in the worst circumstances, has led to physical violence.

There is a difference between differing opinions and extremist speech. The BBC ought to keep that in mind.

[Header image: IStock/Getty Images/Fortune].

Written by
Xan Youles
Join the discussion

1 comment