Belfast Telegraph exposes political PR plot to 'hijack' BBC radio phone-in show

The head press officer for a political party in Northern Ireland has been exposed calling on members to “hijack” a BBC phone-in radio show hosting interviews with political leaders.

In messages posted to a private Facebook group – visible only to members – Scott Jamison urged Alliance Party members to contact BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback with “softballs” for party leader Naomi Long during her appearance and “tricky” questions for her political rivals.

Northern Ireland goes to the polls in a snap general election on 2 March.

Former journalist Jamison, whose Facebook posts were exposed by the Belfast Telegraph, also revealed that he had orchestrated a similar takeover of the radio show last year.

In a post to the group on 2 February, he said: “Talkback are once again doing a series of phone-in interviews with party leaders ahead of the election. We were pretty successful last year with hijacking the show with a series of callers and texters, so I’m looking to do the same again.”

In his instructions to supporters about phoning in to ask questions of the party’s rivals, Jamison said: “You can obviously ask as many tricky questions as you’d like but if you’re stuck we can email you a few ideas. Feel free to use a fake name and location if you’re so inclined as well.”

Highlighting Long’s upcoming appearance on 14 February, he said: “A few supportive callers and texters on that day wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.”

In a later post, he added: “It doesn’t have to be ‘why are you so amazing?’ questions but by the same token, some softballs wouldn’t go amiss.”

Alliance has dismissed the messages as “tongue-in-cheek” and said of the private Facebook group that it would be “surprised if every other party does not have a similar outlet”.

A spokesperson told the Telegraph: “Encouraging, not instructing, party members and supporters, who are members of the public themselves, to call in to public phone-ins is standard practice in all political parties.”

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