Azara Blog: BBC stages heckling of politicians for entertainment

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Date published: 2005/04/25

The BBC says:

The BBC has rejected Conservative complaints about a programme in which hecklers were encouraged to shout at Michael Howard during a public meeting.

The Conservatives claimed the event had been used to disrupt Mr Howard's speech at a meeting near Bolton.

But the BBC insists the programme, to be screened on Monday night, is a legitimate study of political heckling.

Director of News Helen Boaden said it also showed members of the Lib Dems and Labour Party being heckled.
"What happened is considerably less sinister than you fear and than the newspapers have portrayed on the basis of the information you gave them," she said in her letter to Guy Black, the head of Conservative communications.

The Conservatives had demanded an apology after producers of the BBC Three show gave people microphones and encouraged them to shout during Mr Howard's speech in Horwich last week.
BBC head of current affairs Peter Horrocks said microphones had simply been provided so the hecklers' voices could be recorded for the programme.
"There is a small part of the programme which shows how hecklers can perform, what makes a funny heckle and how parties might respond to it - that's the context in which this material is used.

"We provided microphones in order to be able to hear what the hecklers said, but we didn't provide any amplification and we certainly did not disrupt the meeting.

It is not unusual for journalists to encourage people they are filming to misbehave (either explicitly or implicitly because the people know the cameras are rolling). What is unusual is for journalists who are caught out misbehaving like this to defend their actions. How low has the BBC sunk? All those involved should be sacked.

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