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Should the mainstream media be providing a platform for extreme views?

By Callum Sloper

Certain figures like Tommy Robinson may seem extreme to some, but it’s almost guaranteed that just as many back him. Even the most unpopular of opinions in Britain will receive some form of a platform from the mainstream media so that we can have a wide variety of debate as a society. While some may disagree with the BBC’s decision to broadcast a segment on Newsnight about Tommy Robinson on the basis that he gets too much coverage, most outrage was around the idea that he’s even been allowed a platform in the first place. Discussions about who should or shouldn’t be allowed to air their views are very dangerous, particularly if we genuinely believe in principles like fairness and equality.

Public service broadcasters like the BBC work in the public interest and so a spectrum of views is needed to properly represent the country. If the BBC were to exclude certain figures or views based on the backlash they receive from small groups then we’d probably be exposed to a very narrow variety of opinion, if any at all. This simply wouldn’t be in the interest of the public to censor views, however extreme they may appear, as it would deceive society about beliefs other people in their communities may hold. There are very few in the country who feel positively about extreme political parties of any shade but they all get an equal footing through the mainstream media and public broadcasting, usually through party political broadcasts. The BBC has in the past given airtime to all sorts of ‘extreme’ views, whether it’s party political broadcasts for the BNP, Welsh Communists or The Natural Law Party.

Another reason that fair representation in the media is vital is that it can often expose those accused of being extreme as just that. Nick Griffin, then leader of the British National Party, was invited by the BBC as a panellist for Question Time in 2009 after winning two seats in the European Parliament. While some were outraged about Griffin being given a platform by the BBC, it actually backfired on Griffin and give his critics the perfect opportunity to tear his views apart. He was pulled up multiple times for comments he had made about The Holocaust and forced to try and justify them to the millions watching. Had he not appeared on the show, the BNP and Griffin may not have disappeared from British politics.

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