BBC considers ‘additional steps’ in vetting process after Tory leadership debate

The BBC will consider “additional steps” in its vetting process for guests following a debate between Conservative leadership candidates.

Media watchdog Ofcom received 31 complaints about Our Next Prime Minister, which featured questions from an imam who had made allegedly anti-Semitic comments online.

The BBC has defended its vetting process, saying that such programmes are likely to attract politicised contributors and unified opinion on political broadcasts would be “odd”.

Tory leadership race
Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart during the BBC TV debate at BBC Broadcasting House in London. (Jeff Overs/BBC)

However, further action may be considered in any similar shows following criticism of the Tory leadership debate which aired on Tuesday.

The programme featured questions from members of the public who appeared on a large screen to quiz the leadership hopefuls.

The choice of guests has drawn criticism from viewers over partisanship, and an imam who asked the contenders about Islamophobia.

Abdullah Patel has been suspended from his mosque following the emergence of past tweets in which he said “every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn”.

He also shared an image endorsing the relocation of Israel to the US as a way of solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

"We've set out five chairs, but it might be that we only need four, or three… or one"

Emily @Maitlis explains how #BBCOurNextPM Tory leadership debate will work

How to watch: https://t.co/ZMpRZNlnozLatest updates: https://t.co/TPPcaXT9S8pic.twitter.com/W5pTYiwb2p

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 18, 2019

A BBC spokeswoman said: “This programme was an important contribution to the current political debate. It was watched by a big audience and the candidates to be the next Prime Minister were asked legitimate questions which our audience will have expected to have answered.

“We have a long history of producing successful debate programmes and this was no different. We did however, adopt a different format for this programme and we will look at whether there are additional steps we might take on vetting and transparency should we repeat it in the future.

“We of course have long established procedures for programmes that we make on a regular basis, and it is important to remember that a political debate programme involving members of the public will, by its very nature, attract people interested and engaged in issues who may well have been active in politics.

“It would be odd only to have programmes involving the public where everyone agrees with the politics of those they are questioning.”

Our Next Prime Minister was watched by more than five million viewers and the corporation said the hour-long broadcast from 8pm was the “best performing programme of the night across all channels”.

It is understood that complaints over the programme were largely concerned with the overall show, with fewer relating to the selection of guests who asked questions.

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