Ofcom Election Committee’s decision on Alba Party complaint

28 April 2021

Ofcom’s Election Committee has considered a complaint from the Alba Party about the BBC’s coverage of the Scottish Parliamentary Election.

Broadcasters have editorial freedom in determining the format of election coverage and leaders’ debates. Under our Broadcasting Code, election programmes must comply with special impartiality requirements. This means they must preserve due impartiality and include and give due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant views and perspectives. Broadcasters must also give due weight to the coverage of parties during the election period, taking into account evidence of past electoral support and/or current support.

In this case – having considered representations from the Alba Party and the BBC – Ofcom’s Election Committee concluded that the BBC’s approach to the format of the Leaders’ Debate (30 March 2021, 7.50pm) and its coverage of the election period more generally, did not raise concerns under Sections Five and Six of our Broadcasting Code.

In reaching its decision, the Committee considered, among other things, that:

  • the BBC’s approach to considering the Alba Party’s level of current support – including the weight it has placed on an average of opinion poll evidence – has been reasonable during the election period so far. The BBC’s coverage to date has also given due weight to the significant views and perspectives held by the Alba Party;
  • at the time of the Leaders’ Debate, the Alba Party was a very new party, having only launched four days earlier;
  • the Alba Party was discussed in linked BBC programmes broadcast immediately before and after the Leaders’ Debate;
  • the Alba Party received extensive coverage by the BBC on the date of its manifesto launch, including about its ambition to secure a supermajority for Scottish independence through regional list seats; and
  • given the level of current support for political parties is, by its nature, dynamic, the BBC would need to assess the issues afresh to determine what level of coverage, if any, should be provided to the Alba Party in its planned second debate, or in any programmes linked to it.

The Committee’s decision (PDF, 378.8 KB) is available in full.