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BBC under fire for BNP invitation

Head of far rightwing party to appear on TV

LONDON — The BBC is about to make U.K. broadcasting history by including the leader of a far right-wing party as a panelist on flagship public affairs show “Question Time” Thursday.

The planned appearance of Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, on “Question Time,” is likely to lead to a demonstration by anti-racist groups outside the BBC’s Television Center studios in West London.

Protest group Unite Against Fascism is planning to hold a rally outside the corp’s HQ.

While it is not unusual for pols from extreme parties to be featured by news and public affairs shows in mainland Europe, especially in Italy, this is the first time a member of a far-right political org has been invited to appear on a prestigious U.K. public affairs program alongside pols from mainstream parties.

The move, sparked by the BNP’s success in spring elections for the European Parliament, when the party secured two seats, is generating a lot of heat in Blighty.

Many Brits — and not just traditional liberals — are embarrassed by the growth in support for the BNP, which bans non-whites from joining the party.

Opinion is divided in the U.K. over whether the Beeb, obliged by the terms of its constitution to invite representatives from all elected parties onto its shows, has made the right call by providing Griffin with such a high-profile platform.

One of the corp’s chief political anchors, “Today” presenter John Humphrys, told the London Times newspaper he supported the BBC’s decision to have Griffin on “Question Time.”

He said: “It’s absolutely right to invite the BNP on to ‘Question Time.’

“Why should we be afraid of what they have to say? Free speech is the issue here, and the BBC’s obligations.”

But others have criticized the move.

Government minister Peter Hain has written to the BBC saying that Griffin’s appearance is “unlawful” because the BNP only allows whites to join his party, a policy Griffin recently said he intends to overturn.

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