I see no bias…

I hear the BBC have found a novel way of combatting claims of bias in Reporting Scotland – they’re reviewing the news output for themselves by using staff from the referendum unit. So the £5,000,000 allocated to pay for extra staff to bring us better programming about independence is being used to subsidise the BBC’s PR response to the UWS bias report. There’s value…

This looks like another act of desperation as they battle to save face. Remember these are all novice broadcast people who are being trained on the job, having never worked in the industry before. Now some are being asked to make judgements about the content, tone and balance of programme output when they simply don’t have the experience in journalism to know if a news item is being personalised, if it’s weighted to one side and has enough independent content or indeed if an expert can fairly be described as independent. These are judgements only an experienced professional could make and, as I have written before, this work needs to be monitored by an independent academic source. Otherwise how can any information the BBC produces be said to be impartial – landing them in exactly the same quandary they accuse Dr John Robertson of creating. These trainees were specifically brought in using the additional budget in order to aid programme-making, not as crisis management assistants.

When the BBC suits have finished this latest stage of the Rescue Plan, who will the public be more likely to believe – the BBC’s own in-house, staff-adjudicated version or the year-long independent, disinterested academic study by a university professional and his research team? I don’t see how the BBC can win this. With complaints raining in to the Trust and the MSPs gearing up for an inquiry, they needed to find an elegant point of exit and retreat tail between legs. Instead they’re in full war cry, determined to prove Dr Robertson wrong and or biased himself. They need corporate strategy help to save themselves otherwise I think there must be a real chance that someone is sacrificed. How they must rue their decision to write such an objectionable letter of complaint in the first place.

Great news about Lucy Adams joining the BBC for the referendum…a real reporter and nobody’s patsy and a grievous loss for the Herald. She will really add intelligence and fire to the BBC Scotland effort. Sarah Smith is a good catch and the press will love it but I always worry a bit about people who have missed key years in our modern history – she missed all the devolution years and its really hard to know the detail if you weren’t around…makes it tougher to have perspective if you don’t have the hinterland. The appointment of Marcus Ryder to the replacement for Newsnight will cause a few smiles at PQ where his reputation is to put it mildly less than stellar. Still…things looking up at the Beeb and maybe now we’ll get some meaty journalism. Again though, why no word to the audience about their plans for Gordon Brewer? They’re happy to crow about new recruits and rightly so but you can’t airbrush all those years presenting programme like Newsnight out of the picture. I can’t see any mention of him or the existing team I worked with. It is disrespectful to say the least to them and dismissive of the audience. Where are their communication skills?

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31 thoughts on “I see no bias…

  1. For those of you who have not already done so, there is an opportunity to give your feedback to the so-called BBC Trust on BBC Television performance. Note that BBC Alba is not included in the survey. It is worth filling in, even if only to add further to the evidence for BBC Bias. It can be found at
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/have_your_say/
    I took the time to fill in every point relating to news and current affairs, using not only BBC Scotland, but coverage of events in Syria as evidence of Establishment bias in so-called reporting of events.

  2. Surely this work is being done in London or at BT Glasgow. Are J. Boothman & P. Sinclair Journalists? or are they PR consultants. If the latter, they do a great disservice to Broadcasting. If the former, does BBC employ none NUJ Journalists?

  3. This is gearing up to be one hell of a hole the BBC are digging themselves into. Once they (guess what…) find there’s no case to answer from their own internal checking of the output, then surely this throws doubt on *all* Dr Robertson’s work. If he and his group are “wrong” here, then they could be “wrong” in every similar exercise they’ve undertaken. I hope that UWS and his fellow-academics in his area of expertise will give him robust 100% support, because at this point, his methodology and his body of work stands on the verge of being rubbished by BBC Scotland.

  4. Yesterday was the final straw for me. Up until then I genuinely believed (and wanted to believe) that that the bias was a local issue largely driven by the cosy relationship between the Labour party in Scotland and BBC Scotland. This can be viewed in part as the interactions of the “elite”, as identified by Dr Robertson. (Please note that I use the word “elite” only in the context identified by Dr Robertson and not in any broader sense!)

    However, yesterday’s decision by the national BBC news to lead with the BP story, while simultaneously ignoring the FT articles and Spain’s acquiescence with regard to EU membership, demonstrates that there is now not even a pretence of providing balanced coverage.

    Derek has expertly summarised the reasons as to why the BP item is a non-story, but even if one considers, “well he would say that wouldn’t he”, what possible reason can the BBC give for promoting this as a lead item and devoting so much time to it across its various platforms. I wouldn’t suggest that the FT articles or Spain’s change of heart should lead the national bulletins but they are a damn site more newsworthy than BP’s intervention.

    Unlike Derek (and many others) I’m quite happy being Scottish and British from a cultural and historic perspective, I just happen to think that we can make a better fist of things if we go it alone.

    My anger is not just at the fact that the BBC behaves like this while taking our money, but that it does so in such a blatant fashion and treats its viewers with such contempt in their assumption that we are gullible enough to be swayed by this appalling propaganda.

    I hope that we, as a nation, are not that gullible – are we?

    • I agree with you, and with what DB states above. The squirming mendacity at Pacific Quay is an affront to all of us: Scottish, English, British or whatever variety of licence-payer we might be. If their job description is not simply and cynically to prop up the interests of the Westminster parties then whatever scurrilous flag they’re flying over their actions deserves to be hauled down pronto. If it is, then they have no moral right to be taking our money.

    • I hope the public are not gullible enough to be swayed by the Scottish government’s mindlessly optimistic independence propaganda.

      • I’ll take mindlessly optimistic over mindlessly negative any day.

        I’ve spent a lot of time in Norway and see how it could be done.

        Lift the scales from your eyes, Max, and have faith in our future.

    • I G My thoughts exactly on the BP/FT “news management” line by the BBC nationally. This is clearly a campaign against independence for Scotland, not coverage of an independence referendum campaign. We need to spread the word as far as each of us can and keep the pressure on the BBC over this.

  5. Who are all these new recruits? Surely this should be public knowledge.
    Internal moderation or monitoring is fraught with problems.
    Given the track record of BBC Scotland, who is to deny that any young, inexperienced recruit could easily be persuaded to follow the establishment’s line for personal career reasons, and it is not difficult to imagine how readily pressure could be brought to bear upon a young person who elicits bias in the reporting of a senior editor or TV presenter.
    An independent monitor is the only recourse for BBC Scotland. In fact, there are reasons to argue that, after the failure to report the Financial Times article of last Monday, the BBC have publicly signalled their editorial stance, and monitoring now too late.

  6. I think most people, even unionists, can and do see that nearly everything they are being fed is either lies, one-sided opinion or distortions. They don’t need anything other than their own eyes and ears to tell them that. That no doubt will have predispositioned them into not trusting the Establishment media, and so it should.

    However, that distrust alone, is not enough a YES convert to make. They also need access to factual, evidence based, source identified, alternative information before they can properly decide for themselves on the matter. Democracy 1.0.1.

    It is that censorship by omission which is in my book the far greater crime rather than just the spinning of what is presented to the electorate.

    On line outlets are just about the only way to get the factual information people require to properly assess the scare story of the day. What an utter disgrace.

    However, one thing I would say is that any obligation pro indy folk might at one time have felt they had in regard to accepting a no vote ‘for a generation’ surely vanished at the same time as media, especially TV and Radio, balance and impartiality evaporated.
    You reap what you sow.

    I’m already designing my “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Yes” and “We Told You They Were Lying” T-shirts but of course, I hope I never have to wear them.

  7. macgilleleabhar

    Hi bigbuachaille, May I suggest you address that question to Ms. May? She’s bound to know some of them.

  8. Derek

    Why do you still think the bbc bias is an accident or down to a lack of trained staff?

  9. You are a trainee with the Worlds most famous broadcaster, how impartial can you be if you want a career?
    This morning BBC 1 on the Newspaper review with Naga has done it for me.The commentator basically allowed to give his very personal view on Alex Salmond .No mention of the Referendum being a manifesto pledge,no mention of people in Scotland voting in the SNP , just him ranting , no evidence about business.The. BBC will claim it was a personal opinion but what other public figure would be allowed to be spoken about like that ? Like him or loathe him,he was democratically elected and at least he is giving the people of Scotland a choice.Which is a damn sight more than the BBC are.It is also very clear the BBC newscasters (BBC 1)don’t know enough about the Referendum and politics in Scotland. A disgraceful state of affairs.

  10. The one I noted this morning on R Scotland was the lie by a commentator, blythely delivered, almost as an aside given, that claims of unsustainability for a sterling zone reflected what Carney said last week.

    I would use the cliche ‘out of control’, but are they?

    • I believe the BBC king-pins have decided that since they have been “outed” they might as well ignore comment, disregard criticism and with concentrated determination follow their own agenda – which is to preserve the union at all cost.

  11. The BBC has been churning out biased anti SNP and anti independence content since the SNP were first elected in 2007. This last week however, it really does seem as though the BBC no longer even care for their reputation, such is the extent to which they have manipulated the news agenda.

    At the start of the week, the FT told us that Scotland, upon independence, will be in a much stronger financial position than as part of the UK. A full extensive analysis and data was provided. It was completely ignored by the BBC. Yesterday, however, the BBC ran wall to wall coverage of a two line comment made by the CEO of BP, against Scottish independence.

    That is just the tip of the iceberg, and it really raises two significant issues. Firstly, if there is a narrow NO vote, will all of us who know the BBC have been peddling lies and misinformation really accept it? Secondly, how can we really say we live in a democracy, when the state broadcaster (BBC) which dominates the news agenda, is behaving no better than the cold war USSR state media outlet, Pravda?

  12. Strike that ‘lie’ I was using it in the colloquial sense to mean ‘untruth’ or ‘falsehood’, the guy might very well have believed what he was saying. Please get an edit facility.

  13. Murray McCallum

    When Gordon Brewer rushed to close his news show last night he managed to get the BP story up there on screen for all to see.

    Isn’t that the kind of highly selective and subjective closing news item that the UWS study highlighted in their 12 month research?

    I don’t know how news shows work. Or maybe don’t work in the case of Gordon’s Nesnicht. It starts at different times and usually ends in a rushed panic. This is likely outside of Gordon’s control. However, there surely must have been a prior agreement as to which front page news were to be displayed?

  14. People starting out in journalism being tasked to review the output of senior journalists and editors?????

    Desperate days at BBC Scotland.

  15. Having employees, who obviously are in NO position to give negative feedback to their employers, do a bias study is so patently absurd as to be laughable!

  16. cynicalHighlander

    HeraldScotland appoints first TV reviewer, Julie McDowall

    From next week, Julie McDowall will be providing her own take on topical TV programmes issues twice a week, in TV: A Tube with a View.

  17. I’ve no idea about Marcus Ryder, but Sarah Smith oooh yummy. However hope her time in the US will have given her the objectivity she will need to resist Establishment pressure, and agree she’s been out of the scene up here big time.

  18. From the looks of it Sarah Smith will be no friend of independence.

    Her mother is Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill. Her sister is married to Lord Robertson’s son.

    Her wedding was conducted by Rev Douglas Alexander, Dougie and Wendy’s dad.

    Family friends include Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine and Lord Gordon.

    John Boothman thinks she will be an asset to the cause.

    Any comment on this appointment Derek?

  19. Will they be able to afford a few mods out of the £5M, so that the BBC Scotland comment threads can be opened up again? 🙂

  20. A tweaking of the saying “Fools and apprentices should not view unfinished work”
    To “Fools and apprentices should not comment on accredited work”.

  21. Lucy Adams? Very disappointed in her. She’s been one of the few journalists to investigate the Lockerbie case in a really professional way. When I published my book in December which absolutely conclusively shows the bomb that blew up the plane was introduced at Heathrow and not at Malta as the prosecution alleged, I made sure she got a review copy. No response, no acknowledgement.

    I realise that probably sounds like conspiracy theorising, but it’s not. The forensic scientists completely failed to perform a simple analysis of the blast-damaged suitcases that would have shown them London was the scene of the crime. Huge scandal, and is Miss Adams who has been gallivanting off to Libya to write about the released Megrahi even faintly interested? Not at all.

    Very personal reason for being off the bloody woman, but she really was my big hope for getting mainstream exposure for my work. What a let-down.

    • John Mccutcheon

      I think it’s there for all to see now, that the BBC have picked a side in the referendum debate. Even after everything that’s been flung at them over the last couple of weeks, not a hint of humility nor an attempt to be seen to be trying to rectify things instead there seems to be an agenda now of “taunting the yes side” to see how much they are able to get away. If someone can prove otherwise then I’ll be a happy man. Glad I got that of my chest!!!!!!

  22. I followed up my original complaint to the BBC and this time got the following response, this time from a named individual.

    ‘Thank you for your further correspondence about ‘Fairness in the First Year? BBC and ITV coverage of the Scottish Referendum campaign from September 2012 to September 2013’ by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland.

    As explained, our earlier response included input from relevant senior editorial staff at BBC Scotland, therefore not one individual.

    BBC Scotland has a number of serious concerns about the construction, content and conclusions of this report. In this respect we have responded in full to the university. The research, which was published on an online news website, was drawn to our attention by complainants to the BBC who were concerned about the seriousness of its claims about our broadcasting. The report author appeared on Good Morning Scotland on 25th January to discuss his report.

    That academic research should be able to be undertaken, freely and without constraint, is, of course, very important and we welcome any study or research into our broadcast output. Likewise, it is entirely proper that such research and its findings and conclusions should be open to critique and challenge. Such rights are fundamental within a democratic society.

    Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.
    Kind Regards
    Laurence Murray’

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