Failure at the BBC

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone consuming the news and following the national debate closely but the academic study of broadcast output in Scotland published today is a serious blow to the credibility of our national broadcasters. The numbers make worrying reading for the guardians of balance in the news on our screens and they demand a response.

The work by the University of West of Scotland http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/8598-broadcasters-favouring-no-campaign-according-to-new-academic-study is exactly what BBC Scotland should have been doing itself as part of its duty to the Scots to provide balanced and fair coverage. If even a token accounting had been started a year ago, they would have realised quickly there was a problem that needed to be addressed. The BBC is quick to claim people are forming perceptions not based on evidence when they complain about output. But that is disproved in this case and it is revealed as a hard reality that the national broadcaster is favouring one side in the national debate, a breach of its duty under the Royal Charter and a direct contradiction of the BBC’s own producer guidelines.

As a recent and long-term employee, I feel ashamed to learn that a fundamental tenet of BBC journalism lies in ruins while the country seeks the news and help needed to negotiate our biggest national debate.

I can’t find a copy of the actual report – it isn’t on the university website where it remains listed as an on-going project – but if the research appearing on Newsnet is accurate, as it appears to be, this is a dire judgement on Kenny McQuarrie’s chaotic management and confirmation of the failure of leadership in the news department under John Boothman. I can find no mention of it on the BBC website, presumably because it has not been formally published. But Scots must demand an explanation for being treated to a less than balanced news service at this critical time. I believe this calls for a Trust investigation. If this isn’t territory for a BBC Trust intervention, what is it for? It should demand answers from BBC management on how this imbalance in coverage occurred, who was responsible for monitoring it and why was nothing done to redress it. They should also question why management failed to grasp the political reality of the referendum as soon as the SNP was re-elected, as I argued in a previous post. That was the time to begin a thorough scrutiny of output to ensure relative balance. It cannot be scientific because it is to a large degree dictated by the generation of news itself but it means that as soon as a numeric bias is spotted, steps can be taken to correct it in upcoming programmes. This executive failure is the direct result of McQuarrie’s dictum of Business as Usual, meaning no special measures were needed to deal with the referendum which to him would simply be yet another in a steady stream of elections, British, Scottish, European etc. That is fundamentally wrong and he should have been put right by his news managers and political staff.

We now have a situation in which an outside organisation has to point out the BBC’s failure to do its own job properly, reveals that the broadcast output, including STV’s, is having a detrimental effect on the Yes campaign, and will, I believe, be a legacy issue after September. If there is a win for No, especially a narrow one, there will be withering reaction from Yes supporters to the BBC as a public institution. If there is a Yes win, the way is opened up for wholesale changes at the top irrespective of a new Scottish broadcaster being created. They are letting the Scots down.

No doubt they will hide behind yet another of their technicalities – that there is not yet an official period when balanced reporting is legally required – it starts on May 30 -but their repeated statements rejecting any suggestion of bias before that date the ring hollow today. It is their duty to report fairly every day no matter the story.

By their failure to monitor pro and anti items, the management have made it virtually impossible to argue, as I have, that there is no policy of bias in the news. The distinction I always make is between a natural tendency to flatter the power base of the organisation –London/Britain – and the deliberate orchestration of official prejudice in its journalism. I did not encounter – ever – an instruction to a journalist or programme team to angle an item for or against a partisan viewpoint. Nor do I think the producers of Reporting Scotland, which appears to be the main programme under research, sat down and agreed to run an anti-independence story to score a political point. They have broadcast what was making the news on their agenda and in their timeframe on the day. It is an editorial management responsibility to ensure over time there is fair and balanced output. They have not done so. The result is that, wilful and deliberate or not, it doesn’t really matter. The effect, as proved by the research, is the same…the public, a majority of whom have lost trust in the BBC, can now accurately say that the BBC is biased against independence. To me, that is shameful. To be honest, it hurts like hell that this view is now prevalent across the country and that BBC journalism where so many good broadcasters ply their trade, will be stained from now on.

One of the telling points to emerge was the linking of Alex Salmond in on-air copy with independence. At first glance this seems obvious. But what poor editorial decision-making has done is omit or diminish the concept of a wider Yes movement including Socialists, Greens, Labour and former Tories and turn a mature debate into tabloid simplicity…Salmond=independence. To play that game you need similarly to mark the No campaign with a matching leader/identifier as in “David Cameron’s Unionist movement…” or “Alistair Darling’s No campaign.”

For some reason the No side thinks Salmond is a liability, against all recorded evidence, and attacks his “obsession” when as Jim Sillars points out today, independence is a chance to get rid of Salmond and recreate a Labour-run Scotland. It is not the BBC’s job to play the Unionists’ game and subtly add to their message.

When I first wrote about the need for a review of political balance I said they had to rethink the imbalance of always having three party Unionists against one Nationalist. And here’s the report author, Dr John Robertson on the same point: “One obvious explanation lies in the editorial decision to allow all three anti-independence parties to respond to each SNP statement creating an unavoidable predominance of statements from the former even when these were kept short.”

It is blindingly obvious that this is a problem but when everyone is told by senior management it’s Business as Usual, you don’t get action on the shop floor.

The section on the importance of objective experts rather than partisan politicians strikes home with me because that was the approach we took on Saturday mornings, seeking out those who really did know not the politicians claiming to.

“The use of evidence from sources other than the parties themselves and which might be presented as ‘independent’, ‘academic’ or ‘scientific’ is a measure of quality in political debate. Notably, there was very little use of such evidence in the reporting overall and, where there was, there was clear tendency to use anti-independence over pro-independence evidence.”

Read the rest for yourself on Newsnet, I’m too downhearted…too embarrassed.

My plan is to ask the Trust to look into it, to send a copy to James Harding, the Director of BBC news and I think we should all demand Kenny McQuarrie explain how he let this situation develop and how he as Director will correct this embarrassment for BBC Scotland and BBC journalism.

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108 thoughts on “Failure at the BBC

  1. Tartanfever, I just read your link. What a load of candy-floss!

    It looks to me as if he had an article ready where he accused the Scottish Government of railroading through the Edinburgh Agreement for political reasons, before the report on the consultation was available which showed an overwhelming preference for a devo-max option. Then when he discovered that the overwhelming preference was for the single question, he just published it anyway with some minor copy-editing.

    Shock horror! SNP secures agreement to do exactly what the voters overwhelmingly want, before actually knowing that. Salmond accused of witchcraft.

  2. There is an epitaph on Rob Roy MacGregor’s Grave that reads:”MacGregor despite them” We should remember that when thinking of BBC Scotland:”Scottish despite them”.

  3. Derek,

    Just one step more for you to finally admit that there IS an AGREED anti-SNP and anti-Independence agenda at the BBC.

    Why does it takes educated people like yourself half a lifetime to work out and admit the bleeding obvious?

  4. Interesting… we pad around the issue – use terms for the BBC such as Anti-Independence… Anti-SNP… when the simple truth is that the BBC is… and always be.. Anti-Scottish…. make no mistake. Being Scottish and being “British” are mutually exclusive… Do not fool yourself….

  5. While some may be deserving of the classical description of being evil, i.e. those who knowingly tell lies, who say things they do not even believe themselves, only for reasons of career or self interest, there must also be those, like a large section of the Scottish public, who are themselves victim of the drip-drip propaganda which has gone on for decades.

    We should not be too hard on those who have genuinely succumbed to the relentless black propaganda of ‘Too wee, too poor, too stupid’ or ‘Scottish culture is rubbish.’ They are as much victims as we are, possibly in an even more debilitating way.

    Instead we should wish, that at some time after a Yes vote, they will, greatly to the benefit of their own mental health, have a healing catharsis.

  6. i phoned a few complaints several years back, joined in two campaigns in Glasgow,one in the sleet and snow, against BBC bias then decided to no longer be a BBC customer. I had a visit from two guys asking me to justify my non-payment. ” I’m not paying to be lied to or for Unionist propaganda”. I don’t miss the BBC, it’s TV programmes are a series of hopelessly parochial Great British silly programmes. Think about it. Each us, our life clock is ticking, are you prepared to spend the time sitting watching biased nonsense? There is a Yes campaign to be secured. Lets get out there and do it.

  7. Derek, this report is most welcome. It would have been really interesting if the scope of the study was widened to include BBC Scotland’s Radio and online output as I believe that this would have confirmed, and I know that you don’t want to hear this, the institutional context of the bias.
    I know you have stated your disbelief in institutional bias at the BBC many times before but the achievement of bias on this scale is, I believe, much simpler than you would think. It does not require a corporation wide conspiracy. A simple fear of your future, as an individual within the BBC, or any other organisation for that matter, will suffice. e.g. What happens to the reporter who does not quote his government source verbatim? Does he/she get any more newsworthy material from that source? What happens when all their sources dry up?
    The reporter with an interest in meeting their mortgage repayments reports in the only fashion open to them. Multiply this reporter out across government departments and news outlets and we are left with the situation where the perceptive news end users amongst us are left with a feeling that we are being misled and that the organisations providing our news are ‘institutionally biased’.
    Consider the following article on medialens: http://tinyurl.com/oswlnby It looks primarily at the comparison between the Western media and the Soviet era media in their reporting of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan by the Soviets (1979-1989) and the US and UK of both Afghanistan and Iraq (2001-present). For those of you who can’t be bothered reading the article it goes on to describe the many similarities between the reporting in both medias e.g. invasion as an act of self-defence, the liberation of the people, the legality of the occupations, the influence of external interference, backing our troops etc…
    The conclusion is that despite different environments that the media worked under in the Soviet and the US-UK the outcome was the same i.e. the journalists act as ‘mouthpieces for the state’.
    In the introduction we are asked how that came to be. John Piliger in his book ‘Tell me no lies’ quotes a group of Soviet era journalists exposed to the US media during the US-UK occupation of Afghanistan “In our country,” they said, “to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what’s your secret? How do you do it?”
    To me it’s simply answered by showing our Western journalists the route to personal gain. In our society everything from keeping your job, gaining promotions, maybe even a gong at the end of it all are tools which are used on a daily basis in a very subtle way.

  8. For all the posters above who are moaning about HAVING to pay the licence fee. The answer is simple don’t watch television. You can’t be shot for not watching television. (It rots your brain anyway).

  9. If there was the chance to prosecute those that twisted the truth for political gain=power=money,seems to me that we shall win our independence,and it should be let known to those who lie,blatant or by omission shall be brought account.

  10. Everyone knows MSM are biased and are Westminster Gov controlled. That why no one bothers with the Press or MSM. There is an alternative narrative in Scotland now. This blog is part of that movement. More successful and more widely read than MSM. There is a balance and the YES support is not only growing but in a majority, as a percentage of the electorate. Tax evading MSM groups are losing money faster than a seive loses water. The vast majority of people take absolutely no notice of the dire content. People get their information from other more reliable sources. The MSM have destroyed themselves. Don’t give them oxygen. Don’t read them, buy them or watch them. That way they will self-destruct, implode. It’s already happening.

    Power to the people. Independence is a natural progression, it will not be denied.

  11. Noone takes any pleasure from your Damascene conversion Derek as you yourself said the revelation was a painful experience destroying all you stood for and believed in,

    Several months ago I did say you were standing (no criticism) too close to the monolith to see round it and now you’ve become aware of something all the rest of us have seen for many months (if not more in some cases) hopefully you’ll be instrumental in forcing a change in the BBC’s approach but also alerting gullible people who do not know they are being lied to,

    But Freddie please “we are stuffed” not good man not good, all you’ve have to do is listen carefully to people around you and you will hear folk starting to wake up to the fact they are being taken for fools, and I don’t know about you but I don’t like being taken for a fool, there will come a point (god help us) before the referendum where there will be a mass awakening to the lies and obfuscation and they will migrate en masse to yes.

  12. But where do we go from here? I think we have to demand a statement from Ken McQuarrie on the measures he will take to address the institutional political bias at BBC Scotland. There has to be evidence of immediate action to tackle the problem. If this is not forthcoming, we have to start calling for McQuarrie’s resignation or removal.

  13. Brian Hill says
    However derek a quick email from you to Craig could get this line of action moving NOW. How about it?”

    I have on several occasions contacted the ODIHR regarding media bias which they are tasked to help prevent the problem is the only people who can ask for thier assistance is the soverieign government (go figure) but I did post on wing only this morning a request to Stu for a co signed letter to the ODIHR which if enough perssure is applied on them I think even if they will not in public assent to involvement they might be encouraged to use back channels to approach London to twist their arm into forcing a more balanced approach to the subject, can you imagine where we would be in the polls if the msm were as robust in challenging the better together camp as they are with the yes campaign, this referendum would already be in the bag,

    this is the post I wrote

    What about getting permission from the University and sending this research to the ODIHR?

    We cant just stand by and do nothing, I have contacted them on several occasions now and although I am getting a stock answer (no) I sense the personal response I got from their spokesman had an element of sympathy for Scotland’s plight
    I do believe if we send a continual stream of emails and letters to them they will contact the UK government in back channels and tell them to address the imbalance.

    Representative people like yourself Stu, Derek Bateman, Gordon MacIntyre Kemp, Ian Bell, and so on could co sign a letter maybe it would strike home.

  14. Derek, in your recent podcast you said that the no campaign had been more effective in having their press releases aired in the MSM, I got the impression that you thought there was a level playing field for yes and no – do you still think that to be the case?

  15. Thomas Rymer
    Spokesperson
    OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)

    Tel: +48 22 520 0640
    Mobile: +48 609 522 266

    this is the person I contacted at the OSCE he’s a very nice man and very approachable, email is info@osce.org

    • Have now emailed Mr Rymer. If anyone wants to copy the email then please feel free.

      Thomas Rymer
      Spokesperson
      OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)

      Dear Mr Rymer,

      A year-long impartial academic study carried out by researchers at the University of the West of Scotland, headed by Dr John Robertson, has revealed that both the BBC and STV have been favouring the anti-independence campaign in their TV news coverage of the independence referendum, which takes place on the 18th of September 2014.

      The study revealed:

      Reporting Scotland broadcast 272 news items deemed favourable to the No campaign against only 171 favourable to Yes. STV was only marginally less biased with the 255 for No and 172 for Yes.
      Statements which made use of academic, scientific or ‘independent’ evidence favoured the No campaign by 22 to 4 on BBC Scotland and by 20 to 7 on STV.
      Personalising independence arguments as being the wishes of Alex Salmond appeared 35 times on BBC and 34 times on ITV with no such personalisation of any of the No campaign’s arguments.
      Broadcasts containing language that was considered insulting to independence campaigners occurred on 18 times on both BBC Scotland and STV but language interpreted as insulting to pro-Union campaigners appeared only 3 times on each broadcaster’s news reports.
      Finishing a broadcast item with anti-independence claims which were unchallenged happened 28 times on BBC Scotland and 34 times on STV whilst ending items with unchallenged pro-independence claims occurred only 8 times and 17 times respectively.

      Mr Rymer, I am aware you appear to have no power to intervene because of the requirement that any request for intervention has to come from a government. But, as a citizen of Scotland, I urge you at least to publicly comment on the findings of the report.

      The study findings, although always suspected by many in the pro-independence campaign to be the case, nevertheless comes as a huge shock. The actions of the BBC and STV over the last year are reminiscent of the old Soviet-style propaganda outpourings from the likes of Tass and Pravda in the Cold War era – something the BBC particularly was vocal in condemning. Now the BBC is doing the same with regard to Scottish independence while proclaiming to the rest of the UK and the world that its coverage is fair and balanced.

      As well as being shocked, personally, I am also extremely saddened that an organisation like the BBC, which I was brought up to believe represented the highest standards of journalism, truth, balance and ethics, is nothing short of a UK government propaganda mouthpiece as far as the Scottish referendum debate is concerned.

      Please, is there anything you can do, before it’s too late? All we in the pro-independence campaign are looking for is truthful and balanced debate, nothing more.

      Yours sincerely,

      Your name…
      (an ordinary citizen of Scotland)

  16. Derek,

    In addition to the 3-1 set up there’s the unwillingness to ’empty chair’ the NO camp.

    Instead the discussion is pulled! The BBC regularly empty chairs politicians, businesses, individuals etc.

    What’s nothing short of sinister, regards the democratic process, NO is using it as a way to shut down debate.

    The BBC needs to stop pandering to this.

  17. “FAILURE AT THE BBC”?

    There is NO failure here the system is working just as it is planned and meant to by the ESTABLISHMENT.

    As Ian Hamilton has said “it’s the system that’s rotten”. Divide, control and conquer. Then pick their pockets and tell them you are the good guys, they’ll thank you! The BBC will ensure that.

    We do NOT live in a democracy, we live in a pseudo democracy! Grace, greed and favour that’s how we are herded (governed), via Westminster (not by Westminster). The direction of travel comes from “the great and good” via the PRIVY COUNCIL via the head of state (HMQ).

    “O the twisted web we weave when we spin our yarn to deceive” THE SYSTEM IS WORKING JUST FINE, IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE GREAT & GOOD. The BBC is doing its job, sublimely, just sublime!

  18. “There is NO failure here the system is working just as it is planned and meant to by the ESTABLISHMENT.”

    Could not agree more

  19. What now Derek now that you see what others have seen for months if not years?

    From ripping up the SNP’s 2007 manifesto on Reporting Scotland to unending “accused” stories in 2013 at what point does a former BBC employee come to terms with the fact that corporation bosses and news editors have been acting in the way that is clearly detrimental to democracy in Scotland.

    The state broadcaster can no longer be trusted with reporting the news in Scotland. Where do we go from here Derek?

  20. It is a pity that research takes time, since anecdotally for people like me who want balance, the disconnect has seemed obvious. May I assume Dr Robertson’s research wasn’t funded by Yes Scotland or the SNP ?

  21. I wouldn’t hold your breath on the BBC moving. We’re still wating for the publication of the Balen report, and that was back in 2004

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balen_Report

  22. The BRODCASTING companies including the good old BBC are distant arms of the state control system, they can pretty well broadcast any old drivel they want to, but when the establishment calls, all stops for HMV to give its direction and they dutifully obey or their licenses are pulled (or mabe SOMTHING more personal). Sounds fair to the establishment, who’s going to know or complain and if anybody does you just ignore or laugh at them. It’s the BBC management who takes the flack to divert the finger away from the “States” direction that is their primary job “PROTECT THE STATE” then they can run their soap operas, and collect their gongs.
    Stop complaining about the BBC they are doing what they are ment to do and doing it very clumsily but well, very well. Hence they will get their rewards at the end of their careers and a nice pension, who can blame them, that is our capitalist way.

    I am no lefty commy, just a realistic synic who unfortunately has to accept the facts as they are not as I would want. VOTE YES AND CROSS YOUR FINGERS THAT ENOUGH OF US SEE PAST THE SMOKE & mirrors

    I live in hope but not much else. Who said the world is fair?

  23. @yerkibreeks – the report is a statistical analysis, facts not opinions. Are you concerned that Dr Robertson cherry-picked the facts at the behest of the funder, if indeed there was a funder? Go and ask Dr Robertson if you are concerned.Please report back.

  24. Interesting take on the BBC’s reporting of the indyref. You seem to be claiming that it is unfair that a policy which attracts between 25% to 30% support from the Scottish people doesn’t receive 50% coverage.in the media.

    Also interesting that a former BBC journalist quotes a claim made by a pro-government propaganda wabsite involving an unseen report without even the merest of health warnings.

    That this attack on the BBC has attracted so many comments should tell us something about those who are exercised by their hatred of the BBC. I used to have fun on my blog with Derek’s ‘unbiased’ broadcasts, I genuinely enjoyed listening to him and didn’t mind in the slightest when he dredged up some obscure pro-indy European academic who would back up the latest SNP assertion. It was a hoot and certainly not worth the bother of writing a green ink letter to the beeb about…

    • Grahamski seems, with his comments regarding the 25% + that the views of minorities should not be heard on the BBC? Censorship rules in the Labour party it seems?

    • That is beyond barking. It certainly isn’t the arithmetic of democracy. There is a straight decision to be made, Yes or No, Both cases should be made and they should be made even handedly. STV and BBC not playing with a straight deck is a subversion of democracy. Control and weighting of the media is a trick much beloved of those leaning to the totalitarian. It could of course be worse but there is a definite list to one side in this debate. Time and again in town hall debates, even the one conducted by Newsnight shows that if the Yes campaign gets an opportunity to put its case on an even playing field it not only thrives it has on several occasion turned around a pre-debate voting intention similar to the polls to a Yes vote post debate. A fair hearing in the three months up the vote will make this a close race. One that I think the Yes vote can win. That is why it is imperative that unbalanced coverage in the media must be addressed (colour of ink is optional but I thought green was for auditors). I can also see why you think it must not be addressed.

    • Grahamski, here you go. http://issuu.com/creative_futur/docs/robertson2014fairnessinthefirstyear

      Now I am sure after reading their the statistics you can join your fellow unionists in blaming the academic for discovering the bias rather than the BBC and STV for allowing it to happen.

    • “You seem to be claiming that it is unfair that a policy which attracts between 25% to 30% support from the Scottish people doesn’t receive 50% coverage.in the media.”

      It’s called having a balanced debate. How many on each side can be convinced by such a debate is of course up for grabs. Another way to describe it is to have due impartiality in the coverage, which is what the BBC is supposed to do.

      “Nation shall speak peace unto nation” – unless it’s Scotland’s constitutional status of course, then you can let slip the dogs of war…

  25. About eight years ago it was pointed out to me that far from Scotland being a poor wee nation we are in fact a very rich nation. This got me thinking, how on earth did I ever come to the conclusion that Scotland was a poor country totally reliant on England to get by?
    In short, the media!
    This got me angry and ever since then it still gets me angry to watch the BBC give the platform for unionist politicians to constantly bombard us with utter lies regarding Scotland, its finances, economy, culture and so forth.
    It`s amazing to see folk who have only just realized what the media in Scotland are up to. I can only come to the conclusion that Scotland does not live in a democracy. A plutocracy maybe or mediaocracy where there`s no chance or maybe just a slim one that people can come to an informed decision on a whole range of issues including where to place their vote in an election and of course referendums.
    If there is a NO vote in september it will be a very dark day for Scotland, its democracy (word used lightly), its self confidence and I go as far to say it would also be a dark day for democracy in the world.
    What will happen when a large number of frustrated individuals turn to anger?
    Is there gonna be riots in the street? Probably not but never say never. A no vote will leave the country divided, a YES vote will see a unified Scotland like never before.

  26. Grahamski, don’t think you are part of the establishment, however you certainly are a lachie of the great and good. Tug at the forelock, bend the knee and a lick at the masters boots. That’s a good boy!

  27. It’s about yes versus no, whether we want to govern ourselves, making all of our own decisions, or allowing Westminster a free hand in deciding some of the most important areas in our lives.

    Fair enough, the Yes campaign has somewhere in the region of 30% to 40% support – and the No side has shown a gradual decline over the last 12 months or so. Therefore, for the sake of both sides of the debate, balance is required from the BBC and other broadcasters. Balance equates 50% coverage for either side, something which the university study referred to above falls far short of.

    This morning, I emailed Thomas Rymer, Spokesperson, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressing my sadness and disappointment at the decline in the BBC’s journalistic standards with regard to balance in the referendum debate.

    As you, too, are entitled to 50% coverage (I assume you are on the No side), will you join with me and add your voice calling for balance?

  28. thomas brotherston

    Lets be absolutely crystal clear. The BBC is the British state Broadcasting Company and is the voice of the British establishment.The state is not a neutral entity. It exists to preserve peace in a class divided society but always in the interest of the dominant ruling class. To be sure there are many great journalists within the BBC with integrity but they will never be allowed to shake the foundations of the British state. The movement for an independent Scotland threatens the very existence of the British state. In the coming months we will experience every dirty trick in the book both legal and illegal. The people we are dealing with did not build an empire on goodness and truth but by theft deception bribery and ultimately brutality. Lets not expect them act any differently when they are in danger of losing what they have left.

  29. Grahamski is articulating a new principle, that the balance of positive and negative broadcast coverage should be proportionate to the level of support the two sides appear to enjoy in recent opinion polls. I doubt whether that is consistent with the BBC Charter and how does it meet the needs of the substantial proportion who have yet to make up their minds?

    • I am suggesting that the four main political parties in Scotland should get fair and equal coverage. To suggest that the broadcasters should cut the coverage of three of our parties in an attempt to present a spurious 50:50 split is as ludicrous as it is profoundly undemocratic.

      • The Referendum is not General Election.

        It is a simple yes / no question and both sides should have equal opportunity and airtime, on the BBC anyway. STV is a private company and like newspapers can, and very much do take a position.

        The BBC’s unique funding by way of a tax demands that it is politically neutral. It quite evidently is not.

        It should be for the two campaigns to decide who represents them as and when they comment, whether they be Tory, Labour or Raving Monster Loony Party or SNP, S Greens, SSSP, Margo or Labour for Independence.

        50/50

        That isn’t too difficult to understand?

      • Why the four main parties? Why not just the top two? Or why not throw in all the parties, get the Greens in equally, the Scottish Socialists, the works. Just another example of how the debate can be engineered…

      • I agree with the Panda. Its not about political parties if it was it would be more than a 4 way split as suggested by Grahamski because there are at least 3 parties working together on the YES campaign. I underline “working together”

        I’ve always thought that Labour, Tories, UKIP and Lib Dems were strange bed fellows in the No corner and I would say that Grahamski’s points highlight that the cracks are beginning to show.

  30. Time to dust this one off again.

  31. Grahamski raises some good points. Derek Bateman’s information seems to come from a website that is clearly designed to promote a nationalist viewpoint, but he forgets his commitment to ‘balance’ by omitting to mention this. The academic study he’s quoting from seems to consist of statistics, which appear to show that the No viewpoint gets more mentions or has more hours of coverage than the Yes campaign. But statistics alone don’t convey the substance of the coverage. At pretty well every UK election you’ll find that one or other of the main parties (usually the Tories) comes up with statistics that they claim shows the BBC is biased against them. From my observation, the yes and no sides of the argument are normally represented equally on programmes like Newsnight Scotland. Gordon Brewer gives just as hard a time to Labour or LibDem spokespersons as he does to the nationalist ones – and I defy anyone to cite interviews of his where he goes easy on the No side and shows bias towards them. Isn’t the problem really that the Yes case is so flimsy, and that in so many respects it lacks credibility when put under scrutiny? Many nationalists seem to want the broadcast media, especially the BBC, to treat the idea of independence as the natural state of things in Scotland, and membership of the UK as an aberration. That, to them, would be ‘balance’. Unfortunately the vast majority of Scots don’t see it that way. The media portray the issue in the way the public already perceive it – it’s as simple as that.

    • Hi Robert
      Thanks for joining us. Just for clarification, I am not unbiased…most readers will have gathered that by now. I’m a blooger giving personal reflections.I have no obligation to balance if I choose not to, but the broadcasters do, especially the BBC. It is their duty under the Charter and a bedrock of their journalism. Everybody reading here knows what Newsnet is and as it happens, they not only were first with the story, but got it right and without them, you wouldn’t know anything about this story. Too late to rubbish them now. It’s all confirmed and rock solid. Sorry.
      The report should be read before doubted. It is not composed of statistics, they are the hard evidence which makes clear that there is a bias. The report goes onto explain how news items are treated, how some are personalised, how more often the last word goes to No, how negative headlines get bigger treatment and how it is disadvantaging the Yes side. I fear you haven’t done the obvious of reading first before telling us your view. And this is nothing to do with Newsnight or Brewer, it is only about Reporting Scotland – which is clear from actually reading it – which is more influential as it has sometimes the best part of ten times the audience.
      It is not about treating independence as natural – although it is for 99.9999 per cent of the people on the Earth, it is about fair play for both sides which is the BBC’s obligation. Would you be happy if the Yes side was given more time than NO?
      The media may well portray it the same way a majority of Scots do, but again you miss the point about the political process which is required to treat each side as credible – the SNP has an actual majority, more than the Tories in London do. I’m afraid you have made the same error you accuse me of…confusing your bias with the truth. And if the case for independence was flimsy I doubt if the full weight of the British state and its media cohorts would be working so damn hard, NO? Consider backing your own country and voting Yes.
      Thanks for posting
      Derek

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