THE BLOG

Who's Afraid of the Green Party?

27/05/2014 12:58 BST | Updated 24/07/2014 10:59 BST

It began months ahead of the election, with a steady stream of articles that appeared to rely heavily on quoting Nigel Farage and seemed to be in favour of supporting Ukip. This isn't that surprising, as the media thrives on sensationalism - it means easy news reporting and guaranteed readership. #Ukip was trending on Twitter every day, and the Party appeared to be going from strength to strength, or so many journalists were arguing.

The BBC in particular exulted in this news coverage of the UK Independence Party, printing the following articles on Friday alone: Ukip to be serious players at general election, Ukip makes major gains in Rotherham at Labour's expense, and Ukip builds on success of 2012, which demonstrate a trend of news coverage by the BBC written in the same pro-Ukip vein. Other media reinforced this in the run up to the election and there were predictions of Ukip gaining 27% of the vote share, which proved to be overblown as their actual vote share decreased from 23% in 2013, down to 17%. However, the coverage of Ukip is not as startling as the omission of coverage of another prominent political Party.

The Green Party of England and Wales has been sorely under-represented in the press. Most news coverage has failed to include the Green Party figures despite positive projections indicating that the Greens would double their seats, which did in fact happen. The BBC did allocate a small article to the Green Party, Greens becoming 'national party' says Natalie Bennett, and two more small articles on Saturday to cover Green Party's John Barry elected to North Down council and Bristol elections: Green party 'growing every day, however the tone of these articles is markedly different to those about Ukip. These articles about the Greens use subdued, fact-based language like 'The Green Party is celebrating gaining two seats and holding onto another in Bristol' and 'The Green Party...performed moderately well in the local elections with an average 9% share of the vote in wards where it stood', whereas the BBC articles about Ukip are less moderate in tone and make powerful statements like 'Mr Farage had promised to cause a political "earthquake"', 'remarkable performance', 'positive results', and 'Ukip to be serious players'. This last example is an article about all five political Parties, although the Greens are only given a very small mention and Ukip dominate the headline. Contrast this to the somewhat dubious closing statement in one of the BBC's articles about the Greens: 'Dr Barry told the BBC's Julie McCullough he had enjoyed campaigning even though he had been bitten by a dog.'. The problem is not that Green Party leader Natalie Bennett fails to make as newsworthy-statements as Farage, as demonstrated by the leader's Twitter page and Green MP Caroline Lucas's Twitter page, which are rich with bold and informed statements that are certainly worthy of news coverage. It's that the media has taken an overwhelmingly pro-Ukip stance.

This has actually been going on for some time. There have been many complaints regarding Nigel Farage's appearances on BBC Question Time, and last year the New Statesman asked Why is Nigel Farage on Question Time so often?, when he had been on 14 times since 2009, more than any other politician. According to this chart Farage has appeared on the show as many times as Conservative MP Ken Clarke since 2010, and more than any Labour or pro-EU candidate, which indicates a news reporting bias. There are several petitions about the disproportionate media coverage including this Change.org petition demanding that the BBC give less airtime to Ukip, and this petition calling for adequate scientific representation on Question Time which gained 50,000 signatures. One Twitter user commented that the 'BBC has made Farage into [a] superstar'.

The Guardian newspaper reported on media bias in favour of Ukip on Tuesday in a Comment is Free piece titled 'Green party support is surging - but the media prefer to talk about Ukip', but at least 40 articles about Ukip have appeared in the Guardian since May 23rd while only three have been about the Green Party.

It seems that Ukip have even come to feel entitled to this media domination as demonstrated by the James O'Brien interview which Farage has attempted to censor.

On Wednesday the hashtag 'WhyImVotingUkip' began trending on Twitter. Ukip had attempted to use it as a marketing campaign but British people responded by using #WhyImVotingUkip to instead tweet reasons for why they wouldn't be voting for the Party, using ample sarcasm and wit. The Huffington Post reported on this, and another Ukip backlash ensued later that day in the form of 'WhyImNotVotingUkip' which also trended on Twitter. A petition to the BBC that was launched on Saturday to 'Stop this media blackout of the Green Party' gained over 1,000 signatures within four hours.

Meanwhile, the official Euro Election Poll online has consistently showed the Green Party as leading in all regions of the UK and in England overall, another fact that has gone unnoticed by the media, despite there being ample coverage while the votes are being counted. The Guardian article on the matter from May 19 includes the sub-heading 'Can we predict how well Ukip is going to do in the European election?'.

Over the years the Green Party has been going from strength to strength despite the lack of positive mainstream news coverage. This week the Greens gained 16 seats and became the official opposition in Liverpool, Solihull, Islington, Lewisham and Norwich, while gaining three seats in Bristol which takes them up to six in total, and making first-time breakthroughs in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Epping Forest, Babergh and the Wirral. The 23 gains means that the Green Party now have 162 councillors on 56 councils.

The Green Party has strong policies on investing in education and public services, creating affordable homes, creating green jobs and addressing the impacts of climate change, while speaking out against fracking and privatisation of the NHS, in favour of renationalising our railways, and actually living up to David Cameron's old aim to be 'the greenest government ever'. Perhaps these views explain the lack of news reporting in the Greens' favour, as the positive social change the Green Party proposes aims to take the power away from the few individuals who influence our media, who encourage our reliance on fossil fuels, and who put profit above people. The Greens are the only Party willing to take them on, and that might scare some people. In which case, no wonder the mainstream media is ignoring them. It's much safer to talk about Ukip instead.