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SNP and Plaid Cymru back Mebyon Kernow call for a BBC Party Election Broadcast
Senior politicians from the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru have called on the BBC Director-General for a Party Election Broadcast for their sister party Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall.

The move came as the BBC persisted in disallowing the Cornish party from having even a regional level broadcast despite the UK formally recognising “the distinct identity of the Cornish people” as one of the nations of the UK last year in a Council of Europe Treaty.

Michael Russell MSP (SNP), the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, and Dafydd Trystan, the Plaid Cymru Chairman, wrote directly to BBC Director-General Tony Hall and the Chair of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead in support of fair coverage for MK.

Mr Russell said: “As a former SNP Chief Executive involved in the long struggle for fair treatment by the BBC in the matter of Party Election Broadcasts, I recognise, alas, that the BBC's failure to grant Mebyon Kernow - the Party of Cornwall - a PEB during the current General Election is sadly symptomatic of the BBC's continuing inability to fully understand, respect and respond to the current realities of political, linguistic, and geographic  diversity  in our islands today.”  

“Given that Cornwall has this [national] status it should therefore be accorded the same status as Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, when deciding how PEBs are allocated.  According to the BBC a registered political party which stands candidates in a minimum of one sixth of the seats up for election in a nation will qualify for one party election broadcast in that nation. MK are standing in all seats in Cornwall.” Said Mr Russell.

The call was immediately backed by Plaid Cymru with the Party Chairman, Dafydd Trystan, also writing to the BBC along with several other members of Plaid Cymru.

In addition, several European autonomist parties wrote in support of MK including the President of the European Free Alliance, Francois Alfonsi. (http://www.e-f-a.org/home/ )

Mebyon Kernow is a progressive centre-left party working for social justice in Cornwall and a Cornish Assembly. It has strong local track record with its work on Cornwall Council with several of these councillors standing in the elections. MK is a sister party to the SNP and Plaid Cymru and offers the only real, progressive alternative for Cornish voters to be properly represented at Westminster and for specific Cornish issues to be addressed.

The candidates are: MK leader Cllr Dick Cole (St Austell and Newquay), Cllr Loveday Jenkin (Camborne and Redruth), Cllr Andrew Long (South East Cornwall), Cllr Rob Simmons (St Ives), Cllr Stephen Richardson (Truro and Falmouth) and Jerry Jefferies (North Cornwall).

Despite the BBC ban, MK have recorded their own PEB which has been watched by thousands on social media. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4ap8deU-6c

Mebyon Kernow will now call on the BBC to ensure that it has a Party Election Broadcast along with its fair share of coverage on all TV and radio channels.

Letter from Michael Russell MSP to Tony Hall and Rona Fairhead

Dear Tony,

As a former SNP Chief Executive involved in the long struggle for fair treatment by the BBC in the matter of Party Election Broadcasts  I recognise, alas that the BBC's failure to grant Mebyon Kernow - the Party of Cornwall - a PEB during the current General Election is sadly symptomatic of  the BBC's continuing inability to fully understand , respect and respond to the current realities of political, linguistic, and geographic  diversity  in our islands today.   That inability is something I also recently addressed in my keynote speech to the  36th Celtic Media Festival , which I founded in 1980 and in which the BBC continues to play a part.

MK puts forward strong reasons why they should be entitled to a PEB:

1. Last year the UK recognised the Cornish as a national minority, along with the Welsh and Scots, for the Council of Europe Framework Convention for National Minorities, an internationally binding treaty between States. We note Article 9 which has various requirements of states to ensure access to media for national minorities.

2. In its inclusion on the FCNM the UK formally recognised "the distinct identity of the Cornish people" as one of the nations of the UK.

3. Given that Cornwall has this status it should therefore be accorded the same status as Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, when deciding how PEBs are allocated.  According to the BBC a "registered political party which stands candidates in a minimum of one sixth of the seats up for election in a nation will qualify for one party election broadcast in that nation." MK are standing in all seats in Cornwall.

4. The UNESCO international guidelines on election broadcasts oblige the BBC to ensure that "parties or candidates have a right to airtime for direct access programmes on a fair and non-discriminatory basis." (Guideline 9)

5. The current decision for MK not to have a PEB is not sustainable, it implies that to have a PEB MK would have to put up candidates in 89 seats in England. MK has zero interest in standing in England, not even for a PEB, yet the present ruling means that the BBC is going to have to continue to deny MK a PEB for the long term, a position that will become ever more difficult to defend, besides making a mockery of the BBC's policy on fairness.

6. Some States (e.g. Germany with its Danish minority) have guaranteed seats in their Parliaments for national minority candidates so as to ensure adequate representation. These parties, while only representing a few thousand people, are seen as vital to ensuring that Germany's cultural diversity has a voice and they all have PEBs on State TV. The system is used as an example of best practice in national minority representation and participation.

7. MK has a long history of working for the community in Cornwall. It was founded in 1951, has stood in the UK general and European elections many times and currently has 26 councillors.

8. Lastly, MK has a PEB already prepared thereby incurring no extra cost to the BBC.

Along with many others, therefore, I believe that the BBC and the other broadcasters need to allocate time for this PEB and ensure that time is allocated to the party for all future UK General Elections.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Russell MSP
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Published on 5th May 2015.

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