Journalists at Work

I’ve been asked for my views on the Bias in Broadcasting evidence to the Culture Committee earlier in the week and I’ve been putting off a response. The BBC hate me when I do and my correspondents hate me more. I criticise one and defend them to the other. It’s the Endurance of the Long-Distance Blogger.


From what I saw, the BBC are in full assault mode and totally unapologetic and as a result look unreasonable, defensive and flustered. It has become the default position of an organisation caught out by events and floundering.

To be fair, the BBC has to defend its reputation. It has a duty to do so and to stand up for its staff. It is the way it has gone about it that is wrong, by opening an inquisition on the author, referring the matter upwards to his boss, adopting an aggressive tone, questioning his credentials, nit-picking his report and failing to make sure it was reported in the normal way. At every stage, they made their predictable mistakes, one after the other, displaying a total lack of what an enlightened management would have regarded as a one-day wonder. By blundering into attack mode, placing themselves above another institution, resenting criticism and overreacting they insured we are still talking about the issue today, have had to read about it in the mainstream papers and found themselves hauled before MSPs.

It all underlines what I said about the day in 2011 when Salmond won his majority – the BBC should have seen the signs and prepared. From that moment the game was on and the Corporation was going to be centre stage. McQuarrie took his eye off the ball because 1) he was concentrating on cutting budgets and getting rid of journalists and 2) he spends far too much time in London and has no effective deputy. That is institutional failure.

Two things about the performance struck me. The first is how shifty John Boothman manages to look when asked a challenging question. He quickly shifts into angry mode creating an air of confrontation when a dash of humility or even, heaven help me, wit would be immeasurably more helpful. There is always a sense in which it is a personal attack he is undergoing rather than an inquiry into the organisation he represents, a fundamental flaw in a manager in which the two become interchangeable. It is exactly what I disliked about his dealings with Paul Sinclair in Johann Lamont’s office, seeming to confuse a personal relationship with what is surely a professional role heading BBC news and current affairs. Questions about programme content should be dealt with through the proper channels, not answered personally. His tendency to bridle and build up aggression doesn’t, to me, leave a positive impression of the BBC. I also suspect that he is everything Kenny McQuarrie dislikes as an urbane and cultured man himself. He must be aware of the image his head of news projects.


There is too a conundrum here. In any other newsroom in the world where their executives were facing a grilling from politicians, the journalists would crowd round the screens and egg their bosses on. ‘Defend us. Tell them we won’t be intimidated. Free speech’ etc. I doubt if a single journalist in the BBC newsroom did that. Instead they would be hoping the MSPs would land a blow or two on the BBC, so discredited and disliked are BBC managers. When McQuarrie praised the impartiality and professionalism of the journalists and the high quality output, you just knew they would be listening and saying: ‘If only…’ They know who cut the budgets and sacked their colleagues and damaged morale and made quality journalism that much harder. In sport it’s called losing the dressing-room.

Incidentally, I heard them say they didn’t have a number for how many complaints had been received about referendum coverage. I don’t believe it. That information is retrievable and if it showed say one per cent complaints, would have bolstered their argument. We’re not hearing the number because it’s too embarrassing to publicise.

The Bias story is a little tragedy for BBC Scotland. When I survey the output, I genuinely find very little to object to. Brian Taylor on GERs for example in his blog this week gave the classic fair BBC analysis. I don’t consume the mainstream obsessively though so inevitably miss a lot. What disappoints me is the failure to take control of this massive story and lead it…to provide exemplary coverage, to bring to the fore their own talented people into frontline roles (James Cook is the exception on the Scottish question time programme, interestingly produced by an independent company which presumably chose him for the job, not the BBC).  The Bias row will be a legacy for the BBC, passed into the history of the campaign, leaving a taint over its reputation and for a huge number of Scots voting Yes, it will be confirmation for them of the Corporation’s failure. But right now the journalists have to get on with the job and put it behind them, as they have had to do over budget cuts since the whole suicidal exercise began. You don’t need John Robertson’s report to know how bad things are in the newsroom – check out the departure lounge. People are choosing to walk, leaving a career and pension and benefits behind in order to breathe freely and start again.  And the air is good.

88 thoughts on “Journalists at Work

  1. Comments open on every political BBC blog bar one is undeniably a classic own goal, leaving BBCScotland open to the observation that any visitor to this planet might make: that this is a Glasgow inspired policy to deny free speech.

  2. I have to take others’ word for it all now, as I was so put off by the coverage and perceived bias that I stopped watching.

    This, in my view, is the big danger for the BBC. People will switch off. If enough then question the payment of a tax for something they no longer use, it will be cut. It will be a death spiral.

    If I were in charge of a new SBC, there are few in the current BBC Scotland I would employ. And that may be the danger for all of them.

  3. Mr. Bateman, you’re way too soft on these people. Broadcasting & news output is hardly novel. They’ve been doing it for decades. So they should be superbly competent at it. They are not. They are not even competent managing themselves. Once Scotland becomes independent, we can dissolve this pitiful organisation & start afresh with a national broadcaster that delivers what we need by people who know what they are doing. If that means a bunch of people lose their jobs, well it’s a price worth paying. Democracy is expensive.

  4. Interesting that on Politics Scotland, they introduced a video clip of Messrs McQuarrie and Boothman’s appearance in front of the committee. When it ended, unlike every other item on the show, they immediately passed on to the next item without any discussion. Obviously they were too embarrassed to linger.

    • Interesting too was that on the day the lunch time news carried the story in a little detail with picture coverage of the committee. But strangely it wasn’t even mentioned in the 6.30 pm news.

  5. I thought Mr Robertson’s evidence to be the most revealing.

    That he is a YES supporter who believes that folk in the BBC ‘..are blindly loyal to a fatally corrupt Labour Party’ is hardly surprising given the lack of objectivity in his report.

    However the chair of the committee refused Labour members the chance to investigate Mr Robertson’s motivation was a worry.

    As was Mr Robertson’s failure to explain how and why he decided what news items to include and what to reject.

    The Libdems started an interesting line of questioning about why Mr Robertson chose not to include the SNP’s personal attacks on tory toffs etc however this was not followed up.

    Lastly, Mr Robertson’s personal attack on Kirsty Wark was unfortunate and unprofessional. I do hope Derek shuddered when he saw his favourite professor snort that he didn’t have any evidence to back up his attack on Ms Wark’s professionalism…

    • I think you and your ilk are well served by those who are actual members of Labour in Scotland who work for the BBC. So making accusations, something which sadly I remember from my days on the comments pages of the AHEM, Scotsman Grahamski, against a much more intelligent and trustworthy man than yourself is downright disgusting. The BBC are not saints, I am sure there are people there who would love to be impartial but I seem to remember when I was working that there were pressures brought to bear that were never voiced but you knew they were there any way. I utterly hated the way they chose to blame the messenger for pointing out that they were a really large fail. As I never watch any of their political output as I spotted them for what they were many years ago they will not be missed.

      • Like you I remember some of the comments in the Scotsman from Grahamski which showed disrespect to the First Minister.I wonder if Grahamski will take up Mr Bateman’s suggestion to write his own blog so we can have a look at it.

    • Grahamski, you wrote the following: “However the chair of the committee refused Labour members the chance to investigate Mr Robertson’s motivation was a worry.” Read it aloud to yourself. It simply does NOT make sense. I see now why another contributor described one of your previous posts as being like “something glued together from the contents of a cross-cut shredder.”

      • Mea culpa.

        Sentence should have read: “However the chair of the committee refused Labour members the chance to investigate Mr Robertson’s motivation which was a worry.”

        Thank you for allowing me to correct this.

    • It’s Professor Robertson. It was Dr. Robertson until recently, but he was promoted. It is not Mr. Robertson and hasn’t been since he was awarded his PhD, which I suspect may have been some decades ago.

      Nobody has referred to him as Mr. Robertson in any of the reports or discussions of this subject. That Grahamski chooses to do that says a great deal about his personal bias and agenda, I think.

    • Are you seriously claiming that the BBC’s coverage of the referendum has been balanced? If so why are comments not allowed on any of their website articles on this?

    • So you think it fair that two or three unionists being asked about the same issue as one pro independence is fair? As happened with the GERS figures for example, also why is Boothman still in charge when anyone associated with the SNP eg Liz Quigley, David Kerr are dumped while ex Labour councillor Renton was allowed to continue reporting politics for a time even after her past was exposed.
      That is not democracy to my mind

      • Nor mine Murdo, seem to remember hearing from one commentator or another whilst attending a Labour Party conference saying that their man was doing very well. Labour are well represented in the BBC and none will give up their position.

  6. It would be dishonest to say that I don’t much care what the BBC says about Scotland, but it’s getting on for being true. What really frightens me is their lusty warmongering for the United States and its client satellite of Ukania. All that stuff isn’t just irritating, it’s lethal.

    BBC news has supported, argued for, defended and normalised the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents, for no reason other than that they had the misfortune to live in the neighbourhood of oil required by the United States. Let’s correctly calibrate the scale of concern, Derek – it’s not poor, mismanaged or underfunded journalism. It is ruthless,naked and dangerous amorality.

  7. The damage is done on the 6 o’clock news. Very scripted with Bird ‘flickering eyelids’ of disapproval. Magnusson does it straight. other news times and blogs can be used to give ‘pretendy’ balance. It’s the 6 that Bitter use for their propaganda message.

  8. Douglas Gregory

    Derek, I understand your argument that the organisation is poorly resourced and that this manifests itself in poor staff morale (amongst other things) which in turn results in lower quality output but that does not address the issue of imbalance per se.

    There is an entrenched institutional bias that takes the ‘British’ or unionist view as the default, ‘correct’ position. Surely if it was only a question of resources analysis of both sides argument’s would be poor? It seems there is no lack of investigative vigour when it comes to looking at yes whilst only a lazy, critical eye is cast upon no.

  9. Douglas Gregory

    Sorry ‘uncritical eye’ that last sentence should say!

  10. Anthony Armstrong

    To Grahanski,

    I hope you were as critical of Murdo Frasers performance as chair last week, immediately after it was all finished Fraser was on the BBC slaughtering Beveridge & Co, not exactly responsible unless Murdo knows more than all the experts he listened to that day.

  11. The BBC will never be trusted in Scotland again. However, there must be many people of integrity working within BBC Scotland who might like to air their grievances [anonymously, to protect themselves] in sites like this one.

  12. Having watched the hearing it was interesting to watch the Labour and Conservative/LibDem MSPs also ‘having a go’ at Prof Robertson. This doesn’t bode well for the BBC; rightly or wrongly, it confirms in people’s minds a link between those Parties and the BBC.
    Those MSPs weren’t defending or examining the impartiality of the BBC, or the contents of the study, but attacking Robertson. Stupid and shortsighted.

    I don’t judge Mr Bateman’s views but enjoy the insights and the specific knowledge of the workings of the BBC. We are not going to get that from anywhere else!
    Discussion isn’t a No campaign approach.
    It doesn’t happen on the No campaign side. Discussion goes badly for them. We usually get talked at from TV prgrams and newspaper articles. Cameron is doing it again today.

  13. Is there any form of protection offered to ‘whistleblowers’ at the BBC? Is it career suicide to spill the beans? You finish off with ‘ .. People are choosing to walk, leaving a career and pension and benefits behind in order to breathe freely and start again…’ As someone who’s been there, done it, got the ‘T-Shirt’ Derek, just how do the miscreants at the top in the BBC control their staff and practically muzzle them from speaking out and push them to a stage where their only option is to walk away?

    This is a very unhealthy organisation and what’s more they are paid for through the public purse, but refuse to take criticism and close down all sorts of comment as to how they go about their public service role. In the corporate world the shareholders take the executives to task. In the BBC world where the shareholders are the paying public they give them the two finger salute.

    I know you try very hard to respect the functional principles of the BBC and I can see you clearly have issues with those in the BBC who would slurry these principle aims, but there must be a ‘nuclear button’ that will regain all that should be good once pressed. What is it Derek?

    • Hi It is a condition of employment that you don’t engage in any activity that may be detrimental to interests of the BBC. No public comments no politics without permission etc. they try to enforce it on those leaving and many signed vows of silence. This is anti democratic and prevents the public knowing the truth. I think the management are actively detrimental to the interests of the BBC but it’s never viewed that way round. After the leave many still fear failing out with the BBC because of its power and connections. You might wonder why someone with a lifetime in broadcasting and politics and now successfully engaged in the referendum debate has never been asked into the BBC studio to comment when many sometimes with less knowledge or ability are regulars…. Derek Sent from my iPad


      • No, I don’t think it’s any wonder at all why you haven’t been invited into any B.B.C studio to air your views. Quite obviously it’s because of your opinion expressed here, and your expert inside knowledge. But on your line that you don’t find much to object to I must disagree, and as usual it’s the little things that annoy me. Such as last night on B.B.C News on a report from Crimea concerning the referendum to be held there on Sunday, the reporter tried, albeit surreptitiously, to link the situation in that country to our own event on the 18th September. That’s what gets to me. They, the B.B.C, use any opportunity, on any story, if they think that it will damage the campaign for Scottish independence. I can only hope in the event of a Yes vote being successful that the S.B.S will be a different organisation, with a very different attitude from the one that presently serves us, although with the Scottish Government guaranteeing the present staff contracts, I have reservations. Can the leopard really change it’s spots Derek?

      • This is not a new phenomenon, Derek. Indeed, a number of highly respected journalists, such as Ruth Wishart and Colin Bell, were subjected to truculent management bullying in the run-up to the 1999 Devo vote. Something stinks, and the stench has been around for years.

      • I was one of those journalists. Derek

  14. The BBC Scotland Executives were unwilling to provide details of BBC Scotland complaints at the inquiry *and* through later written evidence.

    That the same Executives appeared highly critical of typos in Prof Robertson’s published report is quite ridiculous. It’s like turning up to court only willing to present evidence for and discuss one side of a case.

    The BBC Executive came across, to me, as above the democratic process. The questioning by MSPs seemed beneath them.

    • Murray – “The BBC Executive came across, to me, as above the democratic process. The questioning by MSPs seemed beneath them.”

      Funny, that’s exactly the feeling you get in replies to complaints or comments. I honestly think they don’t realise it. It’s a bad case of institutionalisation, not ideal in a body charged with neutrality in news giving.

  15. Derek, I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it.

    What is required at the BBC is a complete change of mindset. Boothman and McQuarrie should not be defending the BBC as it stands, they should welcome the thorough study made by Prof. Robertson.

    These two numpties do not own the BBC – though by their actions you would believe they do. The BBC is a public institution, it is owned by us, the licence fee payers. They are merely custodians whose role should be to leave the BBC in a better condition than when they arrived. That’s all.

    Look at the way the BBC avoids answering any complaints or enquiries, they avoid FOI requests through a loophole that allows them to not answer by invoking ‘commercial interests’ that might see them placed at a disadvantage with commercial channels. That’s absolute bollocks ! The BBC is funded by a tax, it isn’t a private company relying on profit making activities through advertising.

    It is a service, not a business.

    It should welcome constructive criticism of it’s output which would only increase a positive public perception and engagement.

  16. tartanfever – “These two numpties do not own the BBC – though by their actions you would believe they do.”

    On the same lines, have people seen Tessa Jowell’s idea of mutualising the BBC “Each licence fee payer would be a shareholder in the BBC,” with public members on the trust – “It is a simple principle that if we pay for the BBC, the institution should be more accountable to us.” Hm.

    So would you see any benefit in owning a bit of the BBC?

  17. When I, a school cleaner, could give the likes of flipper a better factual and challenging interview than the many BBC jouno’s have, then I think its fair to say the BBC is failing and failing badly.

  18. Perfidy Prober

    The BBC can protest as much as they wish about Professor Robertson’s paper but until they can show me a critical analysis from an expert with equivalent credentials I refuse to accept their rejection of his findings.

  19. The problem is as I see it Derek. No matter how hard you try as an individual to be non partisan. Everyone has an opinion about something or a belief system. So when I speak to someone about independence it is from the yes point of view. Now that’s fine on an individual basis as I am not representing the media or BBC as an impatial questioner. However what has happened at the BBC is the journalists represent the establishment and with that goes their personal belief in unionism. I can’t prove it but I suspect there is not one of them in mainstream Scottish TV or Radio who is pro independence. You were Derek and look where you are now. So in a way what has happened is because none of them come from the Yes side they are by default pro union.There personal opinion and attitude comes across in their interviews because people are human and not machines. You cannot expect them to be impartial individualy. So the only way to achieve balance is to employ some journalist from the yes side. But we know that will never happen withn the BBC.How many Yes journalist would ever get a sniff at a job at the BBC. So my blunt answer is forget it we are not going to get impartiality as humans are human.

  20. Derek – Your words –
    “You might wonder why someone with a lifetime in broadcasting and politics and now successfully engaged in the referendum debate has never been asked into the BBC studio to comment when many sometimes with less knowledge or ability are regulars.”
    Does this not point to “political bias” Derek? They cannot include you because you would say things that their ‘masters’ would not like. In addition, you would help prove the case against them. The BBC is denying access to honest debate in a variety of ways and it is so obvious and ‘in-our-faces’ that we don’t need University research to prove it.
    The current BBC exists for Westminster/establishment/status quo/Union; call it what you will. The Union sees the resources of Scotland as an important element in bolstering the power of South-East England. Clearly, that has been the case for quite some time. It is not rocket science. It really is not complicated. And we Scots now have the opportunity to end this discrimination and to move on. Oh what joy if we can achieve that vote!!!
    Keep up the great work, Derek. If ever your country needed you, it is now my friend.

  21. Pacific Quay should be demolished brick-by-brick and dumped over the border. That is where it really belongs.

  22. Funnily enough my complaint the BBC about the lack of coverage of the Education and Culture Committee session was answered this morning.

    Although I specifically selected the “bias” option I was answered in such a perfunctory way that I really think they just don’t care – and don’t care that we know they don’t care! They’ve given up the ghost. If I could be bothered I’d take it further – but is it worth repeating myself again? At least with this complaint I’ll have upped the numbers by 1 so when they are finally forced to disclose numbers mine will be included 🙂

    The reply I got was (and no, I did not find this information useful!):

    “BBC Scotland’s Democracy Live website covered the entire Education and Culture Committee live, including Professor John Robertson’s evidence and BBC Scotland’s evidence from 10am on Tuesday 11 March 2014.

    The coverage is available to view on demand at – – and will be there until the end of the week at least. Thereafter it can be found by a search or by referring to the previous schedule.

    Professor Robertson also appeared on Good Morning Scotland on Saturday 25th January to discuss his report, shortly after it was first published.

    I hope you find this information useful.

    Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.

    Details of the BBC complaints process are available online at

    Kind Regards
    Alastair O’Donnell
    BBC Complaints

    • “If I could be bothered I’d take it further.” It’s a deliberate ploy. They intend to wear down the complainants so that most give up because they have better things to do with their time. It’s successful because it’s true. People do have better things to do with their time and only the seriously obsessed are likely to pursue then to the point of causing any inconvenience. Even then, that isn’t going to change anything. They have the viewers over a barrel on this and I don’t think it’s worth it. Either you spend a phenomenal amount of time and energy pursuing them, and they’ve won because you lost that time and energy you could have been spending on something else, or you see the futility of it and they’ve won because you didn’t pursue it. The perfect no-lose scenarion.

      • Yes I totally agree. They don’t make it easy – there’s no box on the complaints form to tick saying you want to take it further – I think you have to submit the complaint a second time from scratch.

        On one previous occasion I tried to take things further was when they banned comments from the BBC Scotland website. I specifically said I wanted it dealt with by BBC in London and not BBC Scotland – but hey presto the “Sir Humphrey-speak” reply came back from BBC Scotland 🙂

  23. I have not had a television for many years now and I have to say that when I am in a house and the television news is on I despair at the superficiality of the treatment. I listen to radio 4 news which whilst light on subjects north of the border is fairly balanced on everything else. I think the BBC has got itself into a “news lite” populist style which has served to keep viewing figures up at the expense of quality. We do not really notice this much when receiving information about Iraq or Afghanistan or even Brussels because generally we have no information to compare it with. From our low knowledge threshold any bias or selective reporting is missed and not commented upon.

    But here, suddenly, on our doorstep we have a major story. And it is not an overnight one. It is medium term, and unlike some other stories the audience is not only very well informed about certain aspects but has a very high critical standard. We expect perfection. This is what the BBC should be prepared and capable of producing, and would probably have been able to do a few years ago without any effort. But the relentless march towards viewing figures has reduced so much of television to the level of the tabloids. What we need for the referendum debate is not the shock horror treatment of the tabloid but the measured well-informed response of the broadsheet.

    Perhaps I am banging on too much about depth and quality, but I really believe if you give people the right information they will make the right choice. Therefore, by extension, the better informed the journalists and management are about the subject the more likely they are to be balanced. Even ppoliticians can be balanced when they want to be. Not because they necessarily agree with the opposing viewpoint, but because as they understand the issue they can actually see both sides. Hence information brings balance. . A case in point would be Cameron’s assertion that there is no reason why Scotland should not be a small successful country a la Denmark etc. He apparently disagrees with the validity of the aspiration but at least he has enough information to see the other side.

    On the flip side, prejudice is usually the result of ignorance. And from a starting point of ignorance and prejudice it is almost impossible to arrive at balance. There will inevitably be bias, not necessarily intentionally, but out of ignorance and misinformation.

    So my take on this would be to ensure that everybody connected with editing and presenting the news and comment embarks on a crash course on as many facts as they can possibly acquire. ANC out of that depth of information we have a chance of achieving impartiality.

    This is the biggest question I have come across in my lifetime. The same is probably true for most people on whichever side of the argument. We have to pull out all the stops to get things back on an even keel.

  24. Quote, Derek Bateman, “Incidentally, I heard them say they didn’t have a number for how many complaints had been received about referendum coverage. I don’t believe it. That information is retrievable and if it showed say one per cent complaints, would have bolstered their argument. We’re not hearing the number because it’s too embarrassing to publicise.”

    Are you saying that these 4 BBC executives deliberately misled the Scottish parliament? If you are then it is very important that the convener of the Culture Committee be told.

  25. The problem with the BBC management is very much as you Derek have stated above. They have missed the memo from the business 1.01 module, which begins, ‘in business, what a customer perceives, rightly or wrongly is their ‘reality”. Or in its shortened form, ‘perceotion is reality’. The average BBC viewer knows nothing of management structures at the BBC, nor indeed how journalists work effectively, all they know is what they see, read or hear from the BBC – the output.

    My perception, as a well educated individual, is that the BBC is blatantly biased against both Scottish independence and the SNP political party. Aside from biased reporting, I could cite in evidence the systematic failure in BBC political coverage to give equal time to the SNP, as it does Labour or the conservatives, despite the fact that the SNP have been the Government of Scotland since 2007 – a good example being the simply disgraceful lack of coverage afforded to the SNP conferences relative to say the Tories or Labour. Of course they have the well worn excuse about the SNP only being a Scottish party, but really that ceased being tenable with the introduction of devolution. Politics have moved on, but the BBC have their head in the sand. As things stand, the BBC give greater airtime to a chap called Nigel farage (who has no MP’s or MSP’s) than the SNP, who ARE the Government of Scotland. Hardly a day passes without Mr. Farage on the Daily politics, news bulletins or question time.

    I could also cite, ‘newspaper reviews’ on the news channel, where commenters are given free reign to rubbish Scottish independence, the SNP and the Scottish Government and parliament, with no equal voice given to independence supporting commenters.

    Then again, I would make reference to the rather odd scenario whereby since 2007, the number of mainstream BBC programmes to feature the word ‘Britain, ‘British’, or ‘Brit’, has more than quadrupled. Odd how almost every single BBC programme now features those words in their title, since the SNP first came to power.

    So, whilst I appreciate your insider knowledge and take it seriously, from my viewpoint as an ordinary Scots punter, my perception of the BBC is it is biased to the Nth degree. It is actually very, very sad, but as soon as the requirement to have a license is removed, I will be burning mine.

    I do not think the people of Scotland will easily forgive them, if at all.

    • The British thing is pushed at every opportunity, ad nauseam.

      Interestingly, in Kirsty Alsop’s programme Best of Both Worlds you can guarantee Union Jack cushions and Union Jack mugs appear with unfailing regularity, leading me to suspect they are programme props that someone trails around to be inserted in every shot of people’s homes, and every piece of film with Kirsty and couple of the week quaffing tea around the kitchen table. There may just be such Union Jack stuff to be found in every home Kirsty enters, but on the other hand…

      Brainwashing comes in many forms.

  26. Oh and the BBC chaps were unable to explain why the most important aspect of the Standard & Poor report was omitted. that is, without oil, Scotland would warrant their highest rating. They just keep failing on all the important pro indy bits, clarifying the Lucinda Creighton statement, the long line of EU politicians rubbishing Barosso, the FT report, AVIVA and S&P.

  27. We live in a nation of 5 million people, whose citizens are living through what is probably the most important year of the past three millenniums in Scotland – that’s no exaggeration. In addition to this unfolding historic year, lots of other things – newsworthy things – happen every day in this nation called Scotland. But when I wake up every morning and watch the BBC Breakfast programme, I’m only presented with a compressed 2-3 minutes of Scottish news on the half-hour. The other 27 minutes is a litany of England and Wales grief about their troubled NHS, their troubled education system, their troubled social care system…you name it, and perhaps a stage-managed live report from a biscuit factory in Rochdale or an exercise class in Bristol to lighten the gloom.

    Can anyone tell me just what the h**l is BBC Scotland for? Because its not for me and others like me who want to know – and in some depth – *what’s the news in Scotland today ?* Instead it’s 27 minutes of mostly blinding irrelevance followed by 3 minutes from Pacific Quay, with the crane in the background just to visually remind us that this is the local bit now. Blink and you’ll miss it if you’re putting the toast on.

    We are poorly served indeed by the BBC in Scotland and the tragedy is that we’re so used to it, that this feels “normal” to many Scots.

    The subliminal – and largely accepted message over decades of TV – is that we’re too small to have enough news worth talking about – and the BBC reinforces that by making sure it does nothing to seek it out, to expand it, and to inform. This is astonishing under-ambition by BBC Scotland – and yet theres no prospect of it changing. Hard to believe and makes your heart sink when you think about it.

    This has to change and the only way I can see it doing so is with independence.

    • I totally agree – for most news programs such as Breakfast or the Six and Ten O’clock news bulletins, Scotland is treated exactly the same as an English region. If you visit, for example, East Anglia, you’ll see on BBC TV exactly the same kinds of news “opt-outs” for that English region as you do in Scotland – they even use very similar sets.

      However, all these English regional programs have to report on are local council proceedings and things like local court cases, etc. Scotland is given no importance that that!!

      • It is the refusal of the BBC to recognise that Scotland a nation within a state (albeit temporarily I trust) with its own parliament, laws, NHS, etc. and not a “region”, that is the root of the problem.

        This is why BBC imposes its one size fits all broadcasting output on Scotland when it is entirely inappropriate to do so.

        As Derek says this is institutional failure on the part of the BBC.

      • Actually Marian, Scotland like Wales and NI is a nation in BBC parlance, it’s just that it’s put together with the English regions n something they call Nations and regions, making clear what our status really is. Derek

        Sent from my iPad


    • If, for all of your working life, news has consisted of murrderrr and fitba’ with a bit of brain-dead politics thrown in, then it’s maybe hardly surprising that you just can’t get your head around a massive story involving the re-awakening of a nation. It’s like being an occasional writer on showbiz for the Daily Star who wakes up to an alien spaceship landing in the garden and is expected to report it. The inbuilt reaction is to ask what the aliens think of One Direction….

  28. It looks like a Norwegian prison that picture.

  29. Re McQuarrie took his eye off the ball because;
    3) He was wedded to and blindly following, the requirements of the Labour Party.
    Brian, let us not forget there is a perception in Scotland that the Labour Party and BBC Scotland are essentially the same organisation, pursuing identical goals.

  30. I should have said Derek, but you get my (unintended) pun 🙂

  31. Why are folk even discussing BBC impartiality?
    It is the broadcaster of the British State, with an unelected board of placemen!
    Did folk in former USSR countries discuss the impartiality of Pravda?
    Some folk really need to waken up.

  32. Quote Derek”
    “I don’t consume the mainstream obsessively though so inevitably miss a lot.”

    Fair enough so you probably missed Thursday’s day time Radio coverage of Laura Biker’s report of a YES meeting. One of the interviewees said she was undecided but after the meeting was moving towards a Yes. Reporting Scotland’s coverage had edited out the same interviewee’s above comment, and substituted another part of her statement. This change in presentation for peak viewing (radio and TV) is a daily occurence. In my experience articles that are pro YES are airbrushed out for peak viewing.
    Obviously this is not “lazy journalism” or due to a lack of man power. AS (let me spell it out) it takes additional work to whittle out the pro YES articles or comments for peak viewing.

    The exact point can be made for Jim Ratcliffe’s statement earlier in the week
    “It will survive in both scenarios.”
    “I don’t think the Scottish vote will make any difference to Grangemouth one way or the other.”
    This was played in Radio Scotland morning news bulletins and the 6.00pm news bulletin. and at no other time. So peak time listeners 12noon to 1pm and 5pm to 6pm didn’t get to hear it.

    This level of news management goes on every day. It always goes against the YES campaign and takes a considerable effort.

    ** Unsurprisingly the BBC omitted the following part of Jim Ratcliffe’s statement

    “It will work whether Scotland is part of the UK or independent. It will work as an independent country in the same way that Switzerland works.

    “You don’t have to be big to be successful. Switzerland is small and it is very efficient and it has got one of the highest gross domestic products on the planet.”

  33. You’re right about Brian Taylor on GERS, he was even handed and fair, he wasn’t being naughtie…sorry naughty.

  34. Derek, it’s good to know that you question the claim that the BBC don’t know how many complaints were lodged re the referendum coverage and in particular those complaints concerning the treatment of Prof. Robertson. Kenny McQuarrie appeared extremely ill at ease while expressing his denial and for me that was the point where he lost the bulldozer effect.
    I’m glad, however, that you yourself are now enjoying clear, clean air for I can assure you that you were a breath of fresh air for us when you worked for BBC Scotland.
    And now you’re devoting time and effort towards our independence. More power to you!

  35. Do those sections of the media who are knowingly trying to persuade us to side with the no campaign plan to move their headquarters south of the border when Scotland votes YES? Because, when the full extent of their propaganda is exposed, I think it unlikely that they will find many customers here. We won’t miss them or mourn their loss.

  36. Prof. Dumb Down


    One of the aspects of the committee evidence which I haven’t seen addressed anywhere is the question of the policy that has been agreed from May onwards, when the BBC will be under the formal referendum broadcasting rules. There were some oblique references to the policy document as part of the evidence, and from memory I think the implication was that this has been sent to the Trust for approval. Have you had sight of this Derek? Can you offer any insight here?

    We know some of the changes already, as some of the new radio and TV programming has been announced, but apart from the recruitment drive etc. what are you expecting the BBC to change come the end of May? Will anything change?

    The thing which comforts me the most is the feeling I have that our political culture is changing. The referendum is a wonderful fusion of the old and the new. The renaissance of the town meeting and reclamation of some of our traditional public political spaces has been nothing short of inspirational. Demonstrating a real hunger for information, and a desire to engage with each other. A visible sense in which the referendum is energising our political communities in ways politics has not done for a generation. But the new is just as important. The media has failed, and indeed will fail, the YES generation. However, despite this we have managed to fashion new communities, new forums for discussion and engagement. New interlocutors have emerged and become pivotal to the intellectual milieu of the YES generation. It is not just that your blog and others are an antidote to the bias of the BBC and that of the MSM as a whole, they portend a better future not just in terms of the final outcome, but for politics afterwards. Whatever happens reversion to the old is unthinkable. The MSM is dying before our eyes, becoming more irrelevant with every keystroke. A quiet revolution is under way in our country, and you are a part of it. Keep up the good work!

  37. Oops, I forgot. Most of them already have their headquarters south of the border. But when they realise the game’s up, and try switching on a pro-scottish message, they deserve to be on the receiving end of a massive boycott.

  38. “At every stage, they made their predictable mistakes, one after the other, displaying a total lack of what an enlightened management would have regarded as a one-day wonder. ”

    You are referring to BBC Management’s handling of Prof Robertson’s Report on bias in that quote. And There isn’t an enlightened management anywhere who would have considered a full year’s detailed study of a particular programme’s output as a “one-day wonder”. An enlightened management would have considered the report in detail and taken due cognisance of its findings.

    • I agree. I had to read that again when I first saw it. I can’t believe, Derek, that you consider Professor Robertson’s meticulous examination of the BBC’s political output on the referendum and his careful conclusions about bias in the national broadcaster as a “one day wonder”. Really.

  39. The BBC is more institutionally biased against Scottish independence than the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist.

    “It has a duty to do so and to stand up for its staff.” It has done exactly that – it has practised its institutional bias.

    “However, there must be many people of integrity working within BBC”.

    There isn’t a single one as far as the Scottish independence issue is concerned. They are all highly paid to practise the BBC’s institutional bias against Scottish independence – they have no integrity whatsoever. Only money and power matters to them.

  40. “You don’t need John Robertson’s report to know how bad things are in the newsroom – check out the departure lounge. People are choosing to walk, leaving a career and pension and benefits behind in order to breathe freely and start again.” Leaving behind the “company men”.

  41. I have to say the new BBC Guidelines for the Referendum still leaves a huge amount of room for misrepresentation of information, e.g. on Devolved and Reserved powers it has:
    “Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, it has had control over devolved areas
    including health, education, local government, social work, housing, planning, tourism, economic
    development, law, home affairs, police and fire, the environment, heritage, agriculture, forestry,
    fisheries, sport, the arts, statistics and transport.
    It does not have control over areas ‘reserved’ to Westminster, which include foreign affairs, defence
    and national security and social security”
    It would be easy to present that to the public as a lot of powers for Holyrood, not a lot Reserved to Westminster.
    It gives no indication of the massive content in the reserved powers, and makes no mention of the tax revenues that go to the Treasury.
    In fact it would be easy to present that as very close to Devo-Max i.e. everything except defence and foreign affairs.
    Incidentally many people don’t know Scotland doesn’t have a Treasury!

  42. Further to my post on the BBC guidelines on Devolved and Reserved powers: the guidelines doesn’t make clear the control of the ability to legislate on both sets of Powers stays with Westminster. Extremely important, as the Better Together argument that we have the best of both worlds, (they say,Strong Holyrood within the UK) doesn’t exist.
    Most don’t know this either.

  43. Something surprising about Mr Mcquarries evidence. Is he seriously suggesting in a world where an FOI can give the amount of complaints about the NHS in Scotland, a large institution like BBC Scotland dont have the total number and breakdown of.complaints? Perhaps the question should be ( in order to improve service) if they don’t, why not?

  44. Has there been an FOI request made on the number of complaints received by the BBC? If not, why not? If it in deed was turned down by the BBC then our elected folks should be hammering at the same door.

  45. cynicalHighlander

    According to Bella Headlines is being axwd in May.

    Headlines to be Axed

  46. I see Ken MacDonald is to get the boot at BBC Scotland.

    Sounds like Paul Sinclair is calling the shots at Pacific Quay.

  47. Derek, Is it true that the BBC are to axe the radio Scotland Headlines show. If that’s true then I’m incensed. It’s the only show I regularly listen to as I feel it is the only show on the beeb that regularly gives the yes campaign a fair hearing. If it’s axed then what more evidence do we need of BBC bias?

  48. Alex Salmond ‘interviewed’ by Andrew Marr this morning. First topic, the EU to which Alex Salmond quoted some weighty sources as to why Scotland wouldn’t find it difficult to become a member of EU after independence. Andrew Marr finished topic by ‘I think Scotland would find it very difficult to become a member if there was a YES vote’. And that was to be the end of the topic for Andrew Marr, however, nimble First Minister pulled him up on it, pointing out to us all listening that was his opinion and went on to repeat the weighty sources who said it wouldn’t be difficult for Scotland. Derek, the SNP are on the case and well done. Couldn’t get over that sneaky we bit of Andrew Marr going off professionalism as a journalist by showing his Unionist credentials. Someone dock his huge wages for that or discipline him. Will complain to the BBC.

  49. We used to be able to comment as I am doing now on Brian Taylors Blog. Great fun and we fairly gave the “Noes” a pasting! Then the McQuarrie/Boothman axis put a stop to it and BBC Scotland became the only “Regional” broadcaster to disallow comment on the Political Editors opinions.

    Was this the action of an inefficient down trodden staff or a decision taken by a management hell bent on denying Yes voters an opportunity to express their opinions?

    Your” no bias conspiracy “claims do not hold water Derek although I have no doubt you believe it to be the case.

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