Security tightened as BBC adds Nick Griffin to panel

Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:55am BST

Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin speaks to the media after his party won their first seat in the European Parliament at the Town Hall in Manchester, northern England June 7, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin speaks to the media after his party won their first seat in the European Parliament at the Town Hall in Manchester, northern England June 7, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - BBC bosses are braced for chaos and possible scenes of violence Thursday after inviting right-wing nationalist politician Nick Griffin to appear on its flagship current affairs panel show, "Question Time."

Security has been stepped up inside and outside the BBC's West London studios, where hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators are expected to take on the likes of the local British National Party (BNP), of which Griffin is national chairman, when the show goes on air Thursday night.

A last-ditch effort to take control of the situation by the BBC Trust, which met late Wednesday night to discuss rescinding the invitation, ended in impasse. The trust, the governing body of the broadcaster, said it could not take such action before the programme airs.

"We have decided it would be wrong for the trust to intervene in a programme not yet broadcast -- even one as plainly controversial as this," BBC trustee Richard Tait said.

"To do so would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC -- something we are strongly committed to preserve. Until it is broadcast, the content of Thursday's 'Question Time' is entirely a matter for the director-general."

The decision to allow the head of the far-right BNP a berth on one of the U.K.'s highest-profile current affairs programmes has drawn fury from some political quarters -- who say the BBC is giving the party undue publicity.

It also has been attacked by anti-BNP campaigners who have threatened to demonstrate outside the BBC's headquarters and attempt to disrupt the broadcast.

Griffin, who has questioned whether the Holocaust took place and attacked the U.K.'s tolerance towards immigrants, leads a political party that aims to repatriate immigrants and discriminate against blacks, Asians and other non-white groups. He has said that appearing on the BBC show will significantly boost his party's profile.

"This could be the key moment that propels the BNP into the big time," Griffin said. "Never before have we had the chance to present our patriotic, common-sense solutions to Britain's nightmare situation to the public at large in such a prominent fashion."

The BBC has defended its decision to invite Griffin, saying that because the party won seats in the recent European Parliament elections, it has a right to be represented.

(Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters)

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