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BBC and Ofcom receive wave of complaints over broadcaster's impartiality on Ukip election coverage

The BBC has received nearly 1,200 complaints accusing the corporation of giving too much coverage to Ukip during the recent European and local election campaigns.

The broadcaster is accused by complainants of being biased towards Ukip as well as giving the party excessive air time. Regulator Ofcom has also received 15 complaints regarding the BBC’s impartiality in its election coverage of Ukip.

Broadcasters must operate within strict guidelines set out by regulator Ofcom on election coverage and ensure balanced and impartial reporting during election campaigns. In March, Ofcom ordered broadcasters to give Ukip more TV exposure during the election campaign and treat it as a “major party” following “significant” electoral support in England and Wales.

However, an Ofcom spokesperson told The Drum that while the Ofcom Broadcasting Code does contain rules relating to matters of accuracy and due impartiality in news and current affairs, under the terms of the Communications Act the BBC is not licensed by Ofcom in the same way as the commercial broadcasters, and the case is therefore a matter for the BBC Trust.

The anti-EU party caused shock in the mainstream political agenda after winning the European elections in the UK, beating Labour into second place and the Conservatives into third.

In Friday’s edition of Newswatch on the BBC, scheduled for broadcast at 8.45pm, presenter Samira Ahmed challenges BBC News political editor, Nick Robinson, on the claims against the BBC. He defended the broadcaster’s coverage, saying: “And the BBC gets flak for either giving him [Nigel Farage, Ukip leader] too much flak, and on the other hand we get flak for giving him far too much airtime as well.”

Controversy surrounding the advertising campaign launched by Ukip ahead of the elections – its biggest advertising push so far – generated substantial media coverage for the party, although media commentator Chris Boffey said an overall “anti-media” approach from the party had delivered results. Meanwhile, social media analysis indicated a significant spike in Ukip's share of the political conversation in the UK.