In this post yesterday, I raised the possibility that a number of satellite TV channels serving the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets were breaching the Representation of the People Act with potentially unbalanced reporting of the mayoral election.
Cllr Peter Golds, Tower Hamlets’ Tory group leader, has now made an official complaint to broadcasting regulator Ofcom. He is demanding an urgent investigation because he believes the outcome of the election could be affected.
Here’s his letter:
October 8 2010
2a Southwark Bridge Road
Dear Mr Richards
Re: Electoral concerns regarding BanglaTV and Channel S
On October 21st voters in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets will be electing an executive Mayor. This is a high profile position that has created considerable excitement within the Bangladeshi community who make up some 33.4% of the population according to estimates published in our borough guide.
The Labour party selection process was somewhat controversial and as a result there is an official Labour candidate, Cllr Helal Abbas and an Independent candidate, Cllr Lutfur Rahman, who had been selected as Labour candidate but was deselected by the national executive of the party.
Bangla TV and Channel S are extremely important to Bangladeshi residents and their penetration to this community is extremely high.
Both are expending considerable time on the election and regularly schedule programmes which are, long, unbalanced and are extremely partial.
On Friday 1 October I represented the Conservative candidate at a hustings programme. It started “around” 7.30pm and continued until almost 10pm. Questions came from a presenter, telephone lines and a small audience of about ten people (all but two male) who represented “the community”. I gather parties had been invited to bring two people along, but I was not informed of this. There are five candidates in the election but there was no sign of the Green party and no reference to their candidate.
The Independent and Liberal Democrat candidates were present and local councillors represented the Labour and Conservative candidates.
The first forty five minutes of the interview was taken up with comments about the Labour party selection process. Questions were then invited and there were repeated attacks on the Labour candidate from telephone calls and the “community” concerning a business closure in 1992. Policy discussion kept returning to this.
In a break I commented that this contravened the 1983 Representation of the Peoples Act and Ofcom regulation, but this unbalanced process continued.
On Saturday Channel S covered the launch of the Labour candidate. I attach coverage from the blog of a local journalist who included a six minute extract from this coverage. The Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat candidates are ignored and there are again unfounded and malicious allegations against the Labour candidate.
These stations are extremely influential. They are the main conduit of information for a substantial proportion of the electorate, yet their coverage is unfair, unbalanced and biased. None of the regular channels would dare produce such programmes.
My concern is that this unbalanced coverage will influence the election and I am requesting that urgent action be taken to prevent this.
Councillor Peter Golds