Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Incredibly boring & obvious letter to BBC World Have Your Say!!! YAAAA (crying) WWWWNNNNN!!!!

Dear BBC,

I watched several hours of your US election coverage. I thought it generally excellent, with Dimbleby superb as ever. However I was disappointed not to hear any mention of the third party candidates, especially Stein and Johnson. While no one disputes this was a two horse race, there are plenty of reasons to bring them up:

(1) In a race so tight, third party voting patterns could have had a bearing on the outcome.

(2) Regardless of any direct bearing, votes for third parties can help us form an impression of why a state or county is voting the way that it is. (Of course, making distinctions within the third party vote category would be crucial: the catch-all category "other" tells us very little).

(3) A bit of variety! There were plenty of long stretches where nothing was happening, nor was likely to happen. These shouldn't be exclusively used to reiterate the major themes. Some viewers are dipping in and out, but the lucky ones are in for the long haul. (I lost count of the number of times I heard the phrase, "No surprises there." SO SURPRISE ME).

(4) The BBC can play a particularly strong role in interpreting the US election for an international audience.  For a viewer more familiar with UK politics, for example, it is tempting to make lazy and misleading identifications between the GOP and the Tories, and the Dems and Labour respectively. Talking about third parties is a useful way into a more nuanced and contextualised view of the American political landscape (particularly this time round, when the narrative of voters disliking both options was so strong).

(5) Likewise, the BBC can play a particularly strong role in locating the US election within an international context, and its issues within as broad as possible a spectrum of political opinion, geographically and historically. If some mainstream feature of European political life would appear radical or fringe in the USA, or vice-versa, I'd like that to be teased out. It makes your coverage more relevant, interesting and true.

(6) Even if third parties get little or no discussion, I would count it a valuable service to have the 1% or so of "other" votes further broken down on your infographics. (Perhaps this would be prohibitively administratively complex -- but it's certainly worth investigating, if you haven't already. Perhaps it would be possible on the BBC web site, if it isn't possible on the telly).

(7) Someone close to me who has dual US/UK citizenship, and had just voted for Stein by absentee ballot was similarly dismayed. Third party voters often make the morally difficult decision of declining a tactical vote, on the basis that a vote of conscience may raise awareness, influence debate and help to shape the political climate. But it is less likely to do this if it is ignored by organisations like the BBC.

It was of course not an omission unique to the BBC: throughout election night, and even today, the day after, it is extremely hard to find any discussion whatsoever of third parties. I write to you only because my expectations of you are a little higher.

Kind regards,
Lara Buckerton

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