BBC Question Time is not alone among programmes in wanting to attract as much attention to itself as it can. In a noisy, crowded marketplace, where viewers have almost infinite choice of how to spend their TV and online time, if you’re not known, you unlikely to get watched.
So they will not be unhappy to see the coverage today of the controversy over their plan to have BNP leader Nick Griffin on the programme.
Griffin’s appearance is clearly going to happen, the build up will be big, there will probably be demos at the recording, and angry debate among Griffin, other guests, and the studio audience. Anger among the audience has become a key part of the programme. I’m not sure whether it has enhanced the quality of the debates on there, but when the media was driving the expenses furore for all it was worth, the ratings rose.
If and when Griffin does appear, the BBC will report it extensively in advance, which will help ratings rise again.
In the BBC’s defence, the BNP has won seats in European Parliamentary elections, and under the rules of impartiality, they have to reflect that. The other parties have to respond to this change too. The line that ‘we do not share a platform with the BNP’ is less easy to hold.
Griffin’s worldview is repulsive, his political methods equally so, but as I said at the time of the European elections, the BNP have to be taken on and beaten in argument.
At local level, where the BNP have been elected, other parties have had no choice but to sit down and debate with them. And where the BNP have been put in a position of actually making decisions on services, or making a case under pressure, they have tended to fail.
That says to me there would be no harm in putting a strong and efffective minister up against Griffin on a programme watched by more than watch most political programmes, some of whom may be tempted to fall for the BNP bilge.