07 May 2005

Daily Ireland

BBC refuses apology

The BBC has refused to apologise after nationalist voters were branded “soap dodgers” during a live election broadcast yesterday.
The comment came during the corporation’s Westminster election round-up after a text message sent by a member of the public branding Gerry Adams supporters “soap dodgers” was scrolled across the bottom of TV screens across the country.
Daily Ireland received several calls from angry viewers who were stunned to read the offending message as they followed the election count coverage from their homes.
Just minutes before the message was aired, it was announced that the Sinn Féin chief had reclaimed his Westminster seat by almost 20,000 votes. One irate caller to Daily Ireland spoke of her shock at seeing the message.
“It’s really not good enough. They need to monitor these things a bit better and we need to know how or why this message got through the net.”
When contacted, BBC Northern Ireland refused to apologise for allowing the controversial text message to be screened. A spokesperson also refused to reveal if the text was actually read by the BBC before it was broadcast.
When challenged about the sectarian nature of the text message, the spokesperson defended the BBC’s right to broadcast it.
“BBC Northern Ireland has provided comprehensive coverage of the election. The interactive element of the service reflects the opinion and views of the general public and allows them to have their strong views included.”
Gerry Adams last night expressed disappointment at the BBC’s response.
“The BBC have a responsibility to ensure that their coverage does not discriminate against any section of people here. Quite clearly in carrying that remark they have failed to fulfill that basic requirement of broadcast journalism.”

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