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8 January 2015updated 21 Sep 2021 4:59am

TV debates: Ofcom rules Ukip is a major party but the Greens are not

The Greens’ case for inclusion has been undermined by Ofcom’s ruling.

By Harry Lambert

This article originally appeared on the New Statesman’s election website May2015. Follow it on Twitter @May2015NS.

Ofcom, the government-approved, broadcast media regulator, have ruled that, “Ukip may qualify for major party status”, but the Greens have not, “secured sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls to be added to Ofcom’s major party list”. (As reported by Guido Fawkes.)

This could be pivotal for the leaders’ debates. When we interviewed Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, in November she was adamant the party would be in the debates. But Ofcom’s decision will justify the decision by broadcasters to exclude them from the trio of debates they have proposed.

The “structure, format and style” of the debates is still a decision for the broadcasters. As Ofcom’s full report says, “it is important to note that Ofcom has no role in determining” who participates. But the Greens have lost a crutch in any legal contest they may mount.

The decision was about more than just the debates. The broadcasters have to apportion air time and party election broadcasts according to Ofcom’s categorisations. And, as we discussed on May2015 in October, publicity and the polls can reinforce each other. If Ofcom had labelled the Greens a major party, the publicity it ensured them could have propelled them in the polls.

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An extract from Ofcom’s report is copied below. To keep up to date on how Ukip and the Greens are polling, explore May2015‘s Poll of Polls.

Review of Ofcom list of major political parties

8 January 2015

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Ofcom has today published a consultation on the political parties it lists as ‘major parties’ ahead of the General Election in May 2015. The list of major parties is important for Ofcom’s regulation of election coverage, in particular requiring the relevant broadcasters to allocate at least two Party Election Broadcasts to each major party ahead of an election.

These broadcasters are ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Classic FM, Talksport and Absolute Radio. Broadcasters can also choose to allocate additional Party Election Broadcasts. Party Election Broadcasts on the BBC are regulated by the BBC Trust and currently the subject of a consultation. Ofcom keeps its list of major parties under review to ensure it reflects political developments in the UK.

 Ofcom’s initial view is that UKIP may qualify for major party status in England and Wales for the General Election and English local elections on 7 May 2015.

 Ofcom’s initial view is neither the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party) nor the TUV have secured sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls to be added to Ofcom’s major party list for the purposes of the May 2015 elections.

Evidence for proposed change to major parties list

In deciding which parties are on the list, Ofcom assesses all relevant evidence of support including:

  • previous electoral performance, including an analysis of share of vote alongside seats won; and
  • current opinion polling data.

In relation to the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party), the TUV and UKIP the evidence indicates that:

The Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party)

The party has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in General Elections. The Green Party has performed better in some other forms of election, such as the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, obtaining 8.0% and 8.1% of the vote in England and Scotland.

In terms of evidence of current support, the party’s opinion poll rating in Great Britain-wide polls has increased in recent months to 5.9% in December 2014 (4.0% on average during 2014).