NEWS
11/05/2019 14:52 BST | Updated 13/05/2019 09:03 BST

'Have I Got News For You' Row Escalates As Change UK Complains To BBC Chief

The new party said the BBC has "got a couple of big calls wrong".

The row ever the last-minute cancellation of Friday night’s Have I Got News For You has escalated, as Change UK published a letter it has written to BBC chief Lord Hall.

The new political party has demanded a “full explanation” for the decision which featured its interim leader Heidi Allen on the panel.

In a letter to BBC director general Lord Hall, it also called on the BBC to “review your decision to bar our party” from the BBC Wales election candidates’ debate, to be broadcast on Sunday.

The BBC One comedy quiz show tweeted shortly before the pre-recorded programme was due to air that it had been withdrawn.

The BBC referred to its editorial guidelines following the announcement that the episode of the panel show, with Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, would be broadcast at a later date, the Press Association reports.

It came after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had been a panellist on BBC Question Time on Thursday, a contrast many were quick to highlight on social media.

Announcing the letter, Change UK’s campaign co-ordinator Chris Leslie said: “Britain’s politics is broken and if we’re going to fix it, people need a chance to hear from the full range of parties standing in the upcoming European elections – including Change UK with our support for a People’s Vote and remain.

“The BBC has a crucial role as our national broadcaster, but we’re worried that over the past week, it’s got a couple of big calls wrong.

“This is particularly concerning given that similar decision about Nigel Farage’s appearances over the years appear to have gone the other way.

“Today, we’re asking the BBC to look again and make sure it’s not doing British voters a disservice by giving some parties more favourable treatment than others.”

Scheduled for 9pm on BBC One, the show was replaced with Would I Lie to You?, which should have aired afterwards.

Following the announcement, Allen, who left the Conservatives alongside her colleagues Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston earlier this year to join the new party, said an explanation was needed.

A BBC statement said: “The BBC has specific editorial guidelines that apply during election periods.

“Because of this it would be inappropriate to feature political party leaders on entertainment programmes during this short election period, which does not allow for equal representation to be achieved.

“So we will not broadcast the scheduled episode of HIGNFY featuring Heidi Allen, leader of Change UK. We will look to broadcast this episode at a later date.”

A Have I Got News For You source said: “The BBC told us late this afternoon that they had decided to pull the show. This was because Heidi Allen was on the panel, and, in their judgement, we’re officially in an election period. And she’s officially a party leader.”

The source added: “We tried everything we could to get the BBC to broadcast it. We even offered to blur Heidi Allen’s face and replace her voice with an actor. Apparently that ‘wasn’t helpful’.

“It was a cracking show and everyone at Hat Trick is sorry you’re not going to see it tonight. We’ve always felt that HIGNFY is at its best when it bites the hand that feeds it. We’re delighted the BBC appears to continue to agree.

“We wouldn’t usually discuss our plans for next week’s show this far in advance. But I reckon this story will probably come up. Do tune in. We’ll be on next Friday at 9 on BBC1. Probably. ”

The source also claimed that someone from the BBC Editorial Policy Unit had attended the recording, but a spokesman from the corporation said that was not the case, although a lawyer had been there to check for issues such as defamation or contempt.