Top SNP figures make formal complaint to BBC over coverage

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The Westminster leader and the deputy leader of the SNP have made a formal complaint to the BBC over the broadcaster’s coverage of the party in the wake of several blockbuster votes on Brexit.

Ian Blackford and Keith Brown have penned a letter to the corporation’s Head of News Fran Unsworth charging that the SNP’s status as the third biggest party in the House of Commons is being undermined by BBC coverage.

Keith Brown was a signatory to the letter. Picture: John Devlin

Keith Brown was a signatory to the letter. Picture: John Devlin

There was controversy on two occasions this week when the BBC cut away from the House of Commons to presenter Andrew Neil just as SNP MP Ian Blackford was set to react to Government defeats on Brexit.

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Social media users expressed fury that the BBC politics special (which broadcast on BBC 1 and the BBC News Channel) had prioritised an interview with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage over the comments of Mr Blackford.

The duo claim in their letter, first revealed in the National newspaper, that the BBC is falling short of its own editorial standards and in ‘breach of its mission and responsibility’ to licence fee payers.

The letter states: “So far this week we have seen three consistent and deliberate editorial decisions taken to cut off parliamentary coverage on News Specials from the moment Ian Blackford spoke in the House of Commons.

“The consequence of these editorial decisions is to relegate the third party at Westminster - which within the UK constitution brings specific roles, responsibilities and obligations - from BBC programming likely to reach an audience share of 22.25 per cent on BBC One (plus a further 1.05 per cent on the BBC News channel) to an audience share of 0.06 per cent on BBC Parliament.”

“This pattern of behaviour follows recent research and media reports which revealed that Newsnight did not feature a single SNP politician in the entirety of February.

“And in January, the revelation that Politics Live had just two SNP guest slots out of a total of 79 guest slots.”

The pair said the figures on Politics Live and Newsnight “provide evidence of a continuing failure by the BBC - set out over a decade ago in the highly critical King Report - to serve all audiences in the UK in equal measures.”

A BBC Spokesperson said: “We have received the letter and will respond directly in due course”.