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By Derek Bateman

Wow! What a reaction…dozens of conversations and observations and some truly enlightening contributions full of fact and analysis. This is the place to be, I think. Even with all the assortment of emphasis and approach, it is clear we are all agreed that we are not being well served by BBC Scotland. That’s putting it mildly.

I know some responders are suggesting I am defending the BBC against claims of bias. I am not. I said at the outset that there was a general thrust in news and current affairs which doesn’t challenge enough and is too happy to accept a script which has Made in Britain stamped on it.

I did try to move critics away from the idea that there is an organised conspiracy to stop independence. There isn’t. There are individuals who I agree sound as if they have a Unionist mindset and there is weak or poor journalism, mostly the result of ineffective leadership and remorseless budget pruning.

In a way, as some of you point out, it matters not. What does matter is the perception of the BBC’s coverage and it is undoubtedly clear that a large number of Scots have lost faith and trust in the BBC. The corporation’s own polling shows us that and I think it is getting worse as this campaign goes on and will leave a residue of resentment afterwards.

This is deeply worrying for the BBC. Put it this way, there is in reality no such thing as complete impartiality. It is an aspiration and the BBC’s declared intention is to create a public perception of impartiality. That’s why for example they reprimanded Kirsty Wark for holidaying with McConnell. Of itself it means nothing but the perception has been damaging. The BBC is failing on the public perception front…which is one reason why they are appointing a parliamentary adviser.

This is the week when the management are asked at Holyrood about Professor Robertson’s report on Fairness in the First Year and I would like to see MSPs urging him to carry on his research throughout the year, asking the BBC to extend full access to the news decision-making process to him and promising they will  return to review this matter after September.

In other words the BBC should submit to a comprehensive external analysis of its output and approach so the public can see after September how it performed and if it met its obligations under the Royal Charter. This can’t be left to the BBC itself as it has proved itself pretty inept at defending its record so far.

The research should extend beyond early evening news to encompass all broadcast news on radio and television, excluding perhaps online as that would mushroom the work to overwhelming levels. It can use Professor Robertson’s template for judging bias and apply it to interviews and programme treatments so see if one side is favoured over another as in last week’s Danny Alexander episode.

The BBC should fund the work as an act of faith in itself to demonstrate its belief of impartiality and as a sign that it is genuinely committed to allaying public concerns about its role in this campaign. If it did so, it would provide the organisation with something of a PR coup to undo the bad impression given by its truculent and unworthy response to Professor Robertson’s work. It might be an idea to send such a plan to your MSP or any member of the Culture and Sport committee chaired by Stewart Maxwell who is probably sick of me by now.

By giving him access to speak to the decision-makers in the news department and allowing them to justify their decisions, they would allow him to make more precise and detailed analysis which is one of the criticisms they made of his work. It would also oblige everyone in the BBC to think very clearly why judgements were being made if they had to be accounted for – which is really management’s job but which doesn’t happen. What do you think?


Courtesy of Derek Bateman

Comments  

 
# Breeks 2014-03-10 00:18
Said it before Mr Bateman, but you have a blindspot when it comes to the BBC. That BBC program with Brian Tailor, Douglas Fraser, Reival Alderson and some woman I'd never heard of sitting at table chatting away as apolitical neutrals made my flesh crawl.
It isn't their unionist beliefs which offend, but their faux impartiality and smugness in conspiracy. BBC Scotland is unfit for purpose. I don't want it fixed, I want it gone.
 
 
# Hugo 2014-03-10 06:10
Didn't the BBC say they had no oblication to be impartial, when replying to someone who complained about blatant bias?

That lowered my trust in the BBC.
 
 
# Will 2014-03-11 15:06
Hugo wrote, "Didn't the BBC say they had no oblication [sic] to be impartial, when replying to someone who complained about blatant bias?" Did it? Any source for this allegation?
Otherwise, it just looks like an unsubstantiated smear, and you wouldn't want to do that, would you?
 
 
# snowthistle 2014-03-11 19:29
Perhaps you missed this?

newsnetscotland.com/.../...
 
 
# Will 2014-03-12 14:46
Thanks snowthistle. It appears as "In the official response, a BBC official wrote ..." So your source is an unnamed official, with no 'official' status. Hmm, sounds like the lazy journalist's trick of writing 'Official sources can confirm ..."
Still, any stick will do to beat the BBC!
 
 
# Breeks 2014-03-12 22:06
You asked for the source of an allegation, and you've been referred to the BBC's own words in a reply sent to a formal complaint from a viewer. The allegation you disliked is thus substantiated by the BBC's own words of admission.
 
 
# theycantbeserious 2014-03-10 06:19
The bbc in Scotland, along with labour in Scotland are together fighting tooth and nail to undermine democracy in Scotland. They have colluded in order to keep Scotland subservient to Westminster rule. They continuously attack and undermine the Scottish government, without foundation which is not just an attack on democracy but an attack on the people of Scotland who elected the Scottish government.

The bbc in Scotland have allowed themselves to be wielded as a blunt instrument, by the unionist parties, to beat the SNP and its leader. In blatantly doing so they are rightly viewed by the people of Scotland biased and very much pro-union and anti-independence, therefore lying to the people about achievements of Scotland and her government, the benefits of independence to her people and pissing on their aspirations.
 
 
# Breeks 2014-03-10 10:17
Just for perspective, we have the progressive case for Independence in the white paper, then the Common Weal, then Radical Independence, even social literature like Blossom. No sleaze, no corruption, but good ideas robust enough to stand scrutiny.

Compare and contrast the anti independence persona: threats, scaremongering, misrepresentati on. Secrets revealed, suppressed truths emerging, smear tactics, duplicity, routine derogatory abuse of Scotland's properly elected First Minister. No compelling case to promote the Union, no positive case to present at all. Hour after hour of easy rides through media interviews when Unionists have seldom had so little of consequence to say.

Scratch the veneer of your anti independence commentator and there lies the vested interest in the Union, the ermine robe, the gravy train, the years of career development aimed South to where the money is.
I'm not claiming YES are all selfless altruists, but...
 
 
# brusque 2014-03-10 12:08
If there ever was anything to "reveal" about Mr Salmond, you can bet your pension (if we still have one after Westminster has time to remove it altogether!)it would have been said by now.
Endless FOI requests have failed to provide significant fodder for the MSM; Johann Lamont's weekly accusations of dishonesty and trickery, along with insults and abuse; have failed to give the NO Campaign any traction whatsoever.

The people of Scotland have already made it clear that they will decide what is best for them, their children and Grandchildren. Be that a Yes or No vote.
 
 
# cjmjr 2014-03-10 14:06
I for one don't believe an Independent Scotland has need of a state broadcaster a BBC clone, much better to fund a film and programing industry than a TV station you would get a better return. There are more than enough established broadcasters more than willing enough to fill any gap left behind by the BBC. Besides judging by the amount of repeats there is a market for new program's and films readily available within the industry as is. Voting YES for Independence and for closing down the BBC.
 
 
# Seagetagrip 2014-03-10 20:55
It would be nice to indulge you generous perception of BBC Scotland`s behaviour between now and September by which time the damage will be well and truely done!

I respect the fact that you worked with many of the accused but am astounded at the defence of their current behaviour.

There have been innumerable articles in Newsnet and elsewhere providing adequate proof of their bias in situations which could only have arisen with collusion among the guilty parties.

I am afraid I find your motives somewhat questionable.
 
 
# Clydebuilt 2014-03-10 22:41
Today bbc radio had coverage of Jum Ratcliffe of Ineos

"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 statement was covered at 9.00am 10.00am 11.00am .......then 6.00pm.
During Peak listenning slots of 12.00 noon to 1.00pm and 5.00pm to 6.00pm Ratcliffe's statement had no coverage. BUT it hadn't been forgotten the story resurfaced in the 6.00PM bulletin. The Standardlife threat was given full coverage repeated several times during peak slots. Just one example Derrek and it happened today. It happens every day.
 
 
# Onwards 2014-03-10 23:16
An excellent proposal, but I agree with the poster above.

After September is too late.

It would be useful to have reports produced on a MONTHLY basis, at such an important time for this country.

If the BBC aim to be impartial is genuine, there should be no problem co-operating with any researchers.

Certain areas are subjective eg easy/difficult interviews, but it should be possible to agree on a basic methodology covering:

- TV broadcast time and prominence given to positive/negative stories.
- Guest balance.
- Vox Pop balance.
- Last word.
- Personal attacks on campaign leaders.


Same for the BBC Scotland webpage - plus details of the number of political articles opened up for Scotland-only debate.
 
 
# Seagetagrip 2014-03-11 07:50
Derek, on atleast three occasions recently you have stated emphatically that there is "no conspiracy" in the BBC.

How can you possibly make this statement with such certainty unless you bugged the joint before you left.

Are you saying that the manderins of 10 Downing Street and beyond have absolutely no influence on their counterparts at BBC HQ? More likely than not.

Given the overall behaviour of Westminster in their attempts to thwart Independence I would think that a "conspiracy" was more likely than not!
 

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