DUP to seek review on BBC TV debate

Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has told the BBC it will seek a judicial review over the “unlawful and irrational” decision not to include it in televised debates ahead of the general election.

Party leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the decision to exclude him from a proposed seven-way debate breached the broadcaster’s duty of impartiality.

The BBC and ITV are planning to stage a debate with seven party leaders – David Cameron, Labour’s Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, Ukip’s Nigel Farage, the Greens’ Natalie Bennett, the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.

Sky News and Channel 4 plan to host a head-to-head between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband, as the two leaders most likely to be prime minister following the election.

Mr Robinson said: ” We have issued the BBC with a pre-action protocol letter stating our intention to judicially review the decision to exclude the DUP from the televised general election debates.

“The BBC’s decision was unlawful and irrational. Indeed, as well as other grounds for judicial review, the decision was in breach of the BBC’s duties of impartiality.”

Mr Robinson highlighted the fact that Plaid Cymru only had three MPs but was invited to take part in the debates, while the DUP had eight MPs and could potentially hold the balance of power after May 7.

“If a regional party with three MPs is in the televised general election debates then another regional party with eight MPs and more votes should be there too,” he said.

“This election is unlike any election in over a generation. Many commentators predict the DUP will hold the balance of power in the next parliament.

“Since we will play a central role after the election then it is right that we play a full role in the pre-election debates.”

The DUP plans to meet the BBC early next week to discuss the implications of the letter setting out its intention to seek a judicial review.

The letter sent to the BBC by the DUP’s lawyers states that the party would like to avoid the need for legal action but stressed this would mean backing down over the decision to exclude Mr Robinson.

“W e consider the decision to exclude the DUP from the combined debates to be unlawful,” it said.

“We hope that the BBC will agree to the DUP’s inclusion, thereby avoiding the need for any legal proceedings.”

The BBC said it would not comment on a legal process.

Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

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