BBC newsreader George Alagiah believes the failings of the media have partly led to the party’s electoral success, he said at an LSE lecture last Friday.
Talking about news and identity at the Polis event, Alagiah, who currently presents the Six O’Clock News & World News Today on BBC World News, said that the media had concentrated too much on looking at differences and had not given enough of a voice to those with reasonable concerns about immigration. “I am uncomfortable with a white-only party on Question Time,” he said.
“I think the emergence of the BNP as an electoral presence in our country poses a challenge to the way in which both the political and media classes in Britain have dealt with the issues of race, identity and culture,” he added.
“There was far too much emphasis on difference and not enough emphasis on the values that unite us together as a nation. I think that there was an accidental, unintentional relegation of the concept of Britishness and when we let it go it went and found a home in the recesses of extremism here in Britain.”
The newsreader added that people asking reasonable questions about the speed of change in communities caused by immigration had been wrongly ‘slapped down as racist’. “Journalists have failed to see this sense of disempowerment amongst white working class people,” he said.
Regional news organisations have a role in tracking changes in communities and helping people to understand them, Alagiah said, adding that investment in local media was vital. “When organised well-funded regional news-gathering is in retreat, hearsay fills the gap, and this is all the more likely in the age of the blog.”
John Stevens is a postgraduate newspaper journalism student at City University. He blogs at http://bit.ly/on-the-fly.