Ukip 'to sue' if Nigel Farage not given equal air time to Labour and Conservatives in TV coverage in 2015 election build-up
Ukip has reportedly threatened to sue the broadcasting regulator Ofcom if the party is not granted the same air time as Labour and the Conservatives in the build-up to next year’s general election.
Patrick O’Flynn, the party’s head of communications and a recently-elected MEP for the East of England, said that Ukip was now a “major party” and that its status as such should be reflected in coverage.
David Cameron has previously supported a “two-three-five” model for televised leadership debates – encounters between him and Ed Miliband; between him, Mr Miliband and Nick Clegg; and between the five leaders including Nigel Farage and the Greens' Natalie Bennett.
But writing to Ofcom chief Ed Richards, Mr O’Flynn said that it would be “unthinkable” to have a system that treated Ukip as “just another minor party”, the Sunday Times reported.
He pointed out that Ukip is currently polling at around 15 per cent among voters, and that the party took more than 150 council seats last month.
Mr O’Flynn also reportedly said: “There’s an overwhelming case for our party leader, Nigel Farage, to take a full part in any televised leaders’ election debates.”
If it receives major party status under Ofcom rules, Ukip will be given the right to air party election broadcasts on channels regulated by the watchdog, and it will change the way they are to be treated by the BBC.
On Friday it emerged that the BBC has already been swamped with complaints over its coverage of Ukip during the recent European elections – when it was treated as a major party.
Almost 1,200 people logged complaints saying they felt the broadcaster was biased in favour of the Eurosceptic party – thought to be the most ever received regarding its election coverage.
Yet it also divided opinion, with a further 149 complainants accusing the BBC of being unfairly anti-Ukip, while 73 said the coverage was biased against Labour.
A spokeswoman for the BBC denied there had been any bias towards or against any of the parties fighting last week’s local and European elections.
“Our coverage of all parties in the local and European elections has been proportionate and consistent with our guidelines on fairness and impartiality,” she said.
Mr Farage appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show again today, and said that there are “three dozen… two dozen seats that we will be targeting in 2015”.
Speaking about his own plans for standing as an MP, the Ukip leader gave his strongest hint yet that he will contest Thanet South, the seat he failed to win in 2005.
Mr Farage said there was a “distinct possibility” that he would challenge the south coast seat in Kent, but added: “That is as far as I am prepared to go”.
Belfast Telegraph Digital