OFCOM has dismissed a new complaint about BBC bias from Alex Salmond's Alba Party over election campaign coverage despite a warning of potential court action.

It comes after the BBC agreed to conduct a special interview with Mr Salmond linked to Tuesday's Leaders Debate - in which the Alba Party were not represented.

It comes after the broadcast regulator dismissed previous complaints by Mr Salmond.

Last month, Mr Salmond wrote to Ofcom and broadcasters to demand his party was included in televised leaders’ debates – but Alba was not invited to take part in the first two events.

The party lodged a complaint through its solicitors about the different criteria to debates and coverage being applied by BBC Wales where the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party were given full participation in the leaders discussion programme alongside Labour, Conservative, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in the first hour.

Leader of Abolish Richard Suchorzewski - the six-year-old party whose primary aim is to return the powers held at the Senedd to the UK Parliament - was a controversial pick for the April 29 Senedd election debate.

READ MORE: Ofcom gets court threat from Alex Salmond's Alba Party which demands review over BBC bias

The party, which gained two members of the Senedd through their defects from Ukip, polled between 3-8% ahead of the May 6 Welsh election.

The regulator has previously dismissed complaints from Mr Salmond about a "virtual blackout" of his party by the public broadcaster.

Alba's legal letter states that counsel's advice is that the committee’s decision is "in error and susceptible to judicial review".

The Alba Party chief previously said that while not being included in televised Leaders’ Debates is “deplorable”, the lack of coverage has been “even worse”.

Mr Salmond accused the BBC of having “learnt nothing from their blatant bias of 2014”.

Mr Salmond said the broadcast regulator "should step in right now and put the BBC house in order".

But Ofcom has dismissed the complaint, after the Election Committee carried out an urgent review and found that the BBC had offered a separate interview platform for Alba linked to the Tuesday debate.

It pointed out that normally the Election Committee decisions are final and not subject to internal review.


It said it noted that Mr Salmond had been invited for an interview on BBC One Scotland at 7pm on Tuesday before the last live televised debate before Thursday's Holyrood election.

It was scheduled 50 minutes before the Second Leaders Debate  was due to air and the BBC had explained that this programme "will be clearly linked with the Second Debate".

Ofcom in a letter from Adam Baxter, the broadcast standards director said the level of support for political parties is, "by its nature, dynamic and the BBC would need to assess the Alba Party’s level of support and political context afresh in advance of the Second Leaders Debate in order to determine what level of coverage, if any, should be provided to the Alba Party in that debate or in any linked programmes".

He said: "We recognise that the BBC has more information now regarding the likely level of support for the Alba Party than it did at the time of the First Leaders Debate.

"Taking account of the 15 opinion polls conducted subsequent to the Alba Party’s launch, the Alba Party’s (rolling) average level of support in the regional vote as at the date of this letter is currently 3.3%.

"However, Ofcom is a post-broadcast regulator and therefore assesses content once it has been broadcast. We do not consider that it would be appropriate for Ofcom to pronounce on the content of the BBC’s Second Leaders Debate... before the programme and any linked programming has actually been broadcast.

"We nevertheless want to take this opportunity to reiterate that it is an editorial matter for a broadcaster as to how it maintains due impartiality under the Code, and that there are a range of techniques for maintaining due impartiality.

"This was a point made specifically by Mr Salmond in his oral submissions to the Election Committee on 23 April 2021, where he noted that the BBC could have (when covering the First Leaders Debate), included 'an Alba Party spokesperson in follow-up analysis or linked related programming'."

Mr Baxter added: "We recognise that inviting all party leaders to participate in a debate programme is one means of preserving due impartiality and including an appropriately wide range of significant views and perspectives in election-related programming. However, we do not consider that this is the only means of doing so.

"We are mindful, in this regard, that the Second Leaders Debate and Welsh Leaders Debate relate to different elections in different nations with different political context and that the evidence of support for the different political parties in both of these elections is different (with the Alba Party having no past electoral support).

"Further... due impartiality can also be achieved over clearly linked and timely programmes."

The row with over bias escalated two weeks ago after an appearance by Mr Salmond on BBC Scotland’s The Nine following the launch of the Alba Party manifesto.

In response to questions about previous behaviour the former first minister insisted that “most fair-minded people don’t appreciate the constant attempts by the BBC to re-try the case” in which he was cleared of all criminal charges against him.

But Ofcom's election committee decided that it did not breach Broadcasting Code regulations relating to due impartiality, accuracy and undue prominence of views.

It also decided it did not breach the code in relation to the special impartiality requirements over the broadcasting of elections.

In reaching its decision the committee considered 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 broadcast regulator said it also took into account that the BBC’s coverage to date has also given "due weight to the significant views and perspectives" held by the Alba Party.