15 October 1998 Edition

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BBC bias exposed

The BBC's own Broadcasting Standards Commission has ruled that a 1997 current affairs programme, `Spotlight' had no evidence to support its claim that Robert McMahon, a member of the Gerry Adams's protection team, was involved in electoral fraud.

The programme, shown in the run-up to the Forum elections last year, was based mostly on accusation made by Alex Attwood, an SDLP election candidate, and was a clear sign of the BBC's anti-republican bias.

The programme implied that along with Terence Clarke and Sean O'Neill, McMahon was involved in an organised vote stealing operation. It also suggested it had discovered republicans throughout the Six Counties being registered at multiple addresses, which is not an offence in itself. But the findings of the BBC watchdog now throw doubt on the research methods used by the programme makers.

O'Neill said, ``my first reaction was that it was a set-up, as they showed footage of my home address. I'd only just been rehoused by the Housing Executive on advice from the RUC because of loyalist death threats.''

O'Neill also queried why the programme makers had failed to seek a response from either of the three men. He said, ``we were all up there [BBC current affairs department] three or four times a week, the producers and researchers knew us all by our first names. They could have asked us to comment at any time.''

O'Neill added, ``the claim is ridiculous, we're all too well known to be involved in anything like this.''

Following Mr McMahon's victory, the Broadcasting Standards Commission is likely to also find in favour of the other two men's complaints. This may open the way for all three to challenge the BBC in court and press for damages.

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