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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Bias, balance and BBC logos
BBC general election logo
Even the BBC's election logo has sparked accusations of bias
Over the course of the general election, the BBC receives thousands of queries and complaints about its coverage.

The BBC's chief political adviser David Jordan appeared on the NewsWatch programme to answer the main queries from this year's coverage - generated by your calls and e-mails.

Below is a list of the topics Mr Jordan was asked about and the answers he gave to NewsWatch host Ray Snoddy.

Viewer Jason Charlton says the Conservative manifesto launch was the lead item on the news but Labour's wasn't - at least on the bulletins he saw. How do you make sure parties get absolutely equal coverage?

It's not about giving absolutely equal coverage in terms of the position they appear in every bulletin.

It is about giving them substantial coverage for something like a manifesto launch.

For example, if the Pope should happen to die on the day that the Conservative or Labour or Liberal Democrat manifesto was launched, clearly there's a huge news interest and news value in the Pope's death and that wouldn't necessarily mean that a party manifesto launch would lead the bulletin that night.

It has to be weighed up in relation to the other news in the world at any time but normally you would expect with the main parties that their manifesto launches would lead most
bulletins.

Susan Yetton and Rodney Dawe both say the BBC treats the election as a two-horse race and that the Lib Dems aren't given parity. Is that a fair claim?

They're not given absolute parity, but they're given something pretty close to parity and in many programmes it's absolute parity.

That's why you have so many discussions that are UK-wide with three parties - or in Wales with four and in Scotland with four. They're given something very close to parity in the totality of our coverage.

A big complaint from viewers is that there's not enough about the so-called minority parties.

There's not as much coverage of the minority parties as there is of the main parties because fundamentally this is an election about who is going to govern the United Kingdom and I think even in their wildest dreams the smaller parties don't think they are going to govern the UK.

BBC chief political adviser David Jordan
David Jordan on the NewsWatch programme

However, we do make sure we give them substantial coverage and those parties like UKIP and the Greens who have proved they can be elected to things - admittedly under proportional representation systems for the Scottish Parliament or the European Parliament or the Welsh Assembly or the London Assembly - then we do give them substantially more coverage than we give other parties who don't have any representation on bodies of that sort.

So there's a sort of three-tier system - the main parties, the big parties that might actually run the country; the parties that have achieved some electoral success in parliaments and assemblies; and then the parties that haven't done any of that will get less coverage than them.

Peter Reeve says UKIP doesn't get the coverage it should considering it has several MEPs and beat the Conservatives at the Hartlepool by-election.

It depends which elections you're talking about.

When we did the European election coverage we did give substantially more coverage to UKIP because they had already proved they could win seats in the European Parliament - they got 12 in the last election, they'd had four in the election before that.

So they were already an established force. In the Westminster election, we take a slightly different view.

UKIP stood a very large number of candidates at the last election and they got 1.5% of the vote and didn't win any seats at all.

We do look at what's happened subsequently but we do look at the track record in the particular election we're covering at any one time.

Before the campaign began, the Conservatives asked broadcasters not to call them Tories. Douglas Green and Bob Sykes are among the people asking why the BBC ignores that request?

What the Conservatives said was please don't call us Tories all the time.

They accept that the word Tory applies to them but they'd like to be called Conservatives some of the time because that's what appears on the ballot paper. We've complied with that request.

You will hear Tory some of the time - and the Conservative Party doesn't object to that - but they do want the word Conservative used from time to time and we do that.

Bert Hope says that, as a Scotsman, he's never sure which policies are applicable only to England and Wales. He thinks the BBC should do more to make that clear.

I have to confess that I don't think we're as good at doing this with our UK network output - in Scotland and in Wales they're very good at doing it.

We're not as good at distinguishing between what are devolved matters and what are called reserved matters, which are decided at Westminster, as we should be.

We are trying to be more vigilant about it. Council tax is an obvious example and there have been other issues.

And also what happens in the health service in Scotland is determined in Scotland, not in England, and yet the parties do talk about the health service.

Nonetheless, there is some evidence that electors in both Scotland and in Wales think the health service is important in this election, even though it's a devolved matter.

We have to make sure we distinguish where an issue is governed from. I'm not saying we get it right all the time - we have to do better on that front.

John Shewbridge and Simon Bayliss are among those who say the BBC's election logo has hardly any blue in it - it's biased in favour of Labour.

In fact that graphic is composed proportionately of the number of seats in the House of Commons held by each party.

I think the problem is that on television, red is a colour that tends to bleed into other colours when it is used on a graphic, and in some instances where I've seen it, it has looked as the viewers describe.

I'm afraid we have to apologise as we can't do anything about it now. But if you look at it on a good television or online you will see it very distinctly and see that it's exactly proportionate.





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