BBC ‘being played’ by those with far-right views, MSP claims

Scottish Green Party MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish Green Party MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer. Picture: John Devlin
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BBC bosses are “being played” by Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon and other far-right figures, an MSP has said.

The ex-White House strategist will appear at a News Xchange event hosted by the broadcaster in Edinburgh next week.

The announcement that he would be a speaker led First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to pull out of the event, saying she would “not be part of any process that risks legitimising or normalising far-right, racist views”.

Chiefs from the BBC were being questioned at Holyrood on Thursday over their plans for a new channel to be launched next year.

Ross Greer, Green MSP for West Scotland, criticised the BBC for providing a platform to individuals with far right-wing views.

He said: “At what point do you have to balance out what you would regard as public interest in challenging views, with views that are simply beyond the pale of acceptable public debate, no matter how wide you try and have the spectrum?

“He promotes a pro-white movement, he is a white nationalist. At what point is someone beyond the pale? I mean, you wouldn’t have someone who would advocate holocaust-denial - Steve Bannon has associated with holocaust deniers - where does the line get drawn?”

Donalda MacKinnon, director of BBC Scotland, explained that the invitation to Mr Bannon was made by a News Xchange committee.

She said: “I recognise the concern but it is not our intention in the BBC to offer platforms to people who have particularly extreme views.

“It is about holding them to account, interrogating, scrutinising and explaining to others what they’re about.”

Mr Greer responded by saying: “That’s not the game they play, I think you’re being played in this case”.

The MSP also raised issue with an item on the BBC’s political programme Newsnight which featured a representative of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) advocating for the privatisation of the NHS.

Anne Bulford, deputy director-general of the BBC, said: “Our job in bringing organisations on and putting their views to challenge is an important part of what we do.

“I don’t agree that we invite organisations onto our news programmes to be given a platform, they’re brought onto our programmes for their views to be challenged and to be interviewed for what they’re advocating to be brought out”.

“Our job is to enable a range of views to be put forward and for those views to be challenged through our journalism.”