The BBC’s decision to air an interview with the US head of the Ku Klux Klan this morning sparked a listener backlash and has led to a protest being organised outside the BBC’s Belfast headquarters.
Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme carried the interview between journalist Peter Coulter and ‘imperial wizard’ Frank Ancona in its prime 8.06am slot.
In the interview, which the BBC said was the first time Mr Ancona had been interviewed in the UK, he claimed that the “ideals” of the group “definitely” had support in Belfast.
Even though the organisation was described by the presenter as a “racist group” and Mr Ancona was challenged in the interview, just minutes later the BBC was flooded with complaints from disgruntled listeners.
Presenter Karen Patterson said on-air that there was “a lot of reaction” to the interview, adding “a lot of it negative, I have to say”.
One text read out denounced the interview, saying “Good Morning Ulster should be ashamed”. Another said: “Good Morning Ulster, are you for real? Giving airtime to violent racists. And you’re proud that you got the interview.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “BBC NI chose to interview a representative of the Ku Klux Klan following the appearance of a flag in East Belfast yesterday, a story which was reported in many media outlets in Northern Ireland.
“The representative was asked about any links or support in Northern Ireland for his organisation. He was also challenged on his views. We also interviewed an American academic immediately after the interview to provide context about the nature of the KKK organisation.”
A left wing group has organised a protest outside the BBC’s Belfast headquarters today in response to Radio Ulster’s decision to broadcast the interview.
Belfast Trades Council and ICTU Youth said that they had called the demonstration because the KKK “are renowned the world over for lynching people because of the colour of their skin”.
In a statement, the groups added: “It beggars belief that the publicly funded BBC would invite a representative of the Ku Klux Klan to speak on Good Morning Ulster this morning.”
Jackie Pollock, chair of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also condemned the BBC for the broadcast.
She said: “We are disappointed that the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster interviewed a member of the Ku Klux Klan — an organisation that has no democratic mandate which promotes a destructive and reactionary ideology.
“The BBC is the publicly-funded, national broadcaster and has an over-riding responsibility to wider society.”