BBC Southern debate: the truth

10 January 2017

BBC South-East has disingenuously claimed today that ASLEF was invited to take part in its debate on the Southern Railways dispute recorded at the Chequer Mead arts centre in East Grinstead, West Sussex, on Sunday afternoon and broadcast at 7.30pm on BBC1, in the south-east, on Monday night. We weren’t.

Michael Gravesande, the executive producer, invited Charles Horton of Southern; Huw Merriman, Conservative MP for Bexhill & Battle; Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly; and Mick Lynch of the RMT to sit on the four-person panel. The programme was presented by Jo Coburn. We were invited to attend the debate and sit in the audience. Lauren Worrall of BBC South-East said we could sit in the front row and ask a question.

We found it curious that the BBC should invite the RMT, but not ASLEF, onto the panel when it is ASLEF that is on strike this week. We were, naturally, disappointed that we were invited along only to make up the numbers and fill up the seats at the Chequer Mead on Sunday afternoon.

It is, of course,the corporation’s call who they invite to be on their panel though it seems a perverse editorial judgement and one which, in hindsight, seems to have embarrassed BBC South-East. But it is wrong to say, or to suggest, that we were invited to participate in the debate when we were only invited to sit in the audience.

We have today complained to the BBC about its failure to make clear what was really on offer.

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