The BBC Trust has dismissed a complaint by Independent Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita about her non-inclusion in a BBC One TV debate.
Benita appealed to the Trust after the BBC’s executive ruled against including her in the debate which is to be broadcast on Sunday evening.
She has been excluded from a number of hustings and debates which prioritise the four parties which have won London Assembly seats at each of the previous three City Hall elections.
Ahead of the Evening Standard’s recent debate she was joined by a group of around 20 protestors to demonstrate against her exclusion from the platform. She was allowed to ask a question from the floor.
The BBC’s election guidelines apportion coverage based on demonstrable levels of support at previous elections and current support.
According to the BBC Trust’s published verdict “Ms Benita suggested that the BBC had incorrectly applied the Election Guidelines and Guidance” because in one poll she had scored as highly as Green party candidate Jenny Jones.
Benita also complained that “the BBC had not given sufficient weight to the other evidence of current electoral support that she had provided, including the bookmakers’ odds, support on Twitter, and coverage in the press.”
Her supporters say that as a first time Independent candidate she is unable to show past electoral support.
In its finding the Trust ruled that “the Guidelines and Guidance addressed the position of such candidates by allowing the Executive to also consider current electoral support by referring both to “past or current” electoral support and to political circumstances and editorial judgement, and considered that it was entirely within the discretion of the Executive to place due weight on current electoral support and political circumstances, and apply editorial judgement.”
Dismissing the complaint the Trust decided “that the requirement under the Guidelines and Guidance was to ensure that the BBC provided a minimum level of coverage, and it considered that the decision to invite Ms Benita to participate in a pre-recorded element of the TV debate was proportionate and consistent with that requirement.”
Candidates for Mayor include Jenny Jones (Green party), Ken Livingstone (Labour), Lawrence Webb (UKIP) Boris Johnson (Conservative) and Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat). A full list of candidates can be found here.