By Paul T Kavanagh

The recent paper from the University of the West of Scotland on bias in the Scottish broadcast media has not been given any coverage in the media which is the subject of its study.  Scotland’s broadcasters don’t want their audience to know that they are biased, partial, and only covering one side of the story.

BBC Scotland’s management have mounted an extraordinary attack on the paper and its author, but undaunted the paper’s author Dr John Robertson has come out all guns blazing and has published the snotty letter he received from the BBC, together with his devastating critique.  Full details can be read here.

There can now be no doubt that BBC management are deliberately downplaying the referendum and equally deliberately are favouring the No campaign.  However the report from UWS only covered stories which actually get airtime.  Dr Robertson pointed out in his reply that he had not studied the bias involved in story selection, and said that he believed that the Scottish media was also skewing its coverage of the independence debate by not giving airtime to many stories favourable to independence.

There was yet another example of media bias by omission today.  On Monday the Financial Times, no supporter of Scottish independence, published an article detailing the financial situation of an independent Scotland, using UK government figures.  The bottom line is that we’d be in the money – every man woman and child in the country would be almost £1400 a year better off.

There are reports on the article on the Yes International website and on Wings Over Scotland.

The FT showed that the Scottish government would immediately have some £7 billion a year on top of the existing Scottish budget of £64 billion – and this is under the assumption that the government of a newly independent Scotland would continue to spend according to UK priorities.

Even if we were daft enough to keep paying for Trident, and other “UK national” projects like London Crossrail, the High Speed Railway between London and Birmingham, and the London sewer upgrade, we’d still be in a much stronger financial situation than we are at the moment.

Neither do the figures account for companies operating in Scotland who currently pay taxes via head offices in England – taxes like Corporation Tax or VAT for example.  After independence these companies would have to pay taxes on their Scottish operations to the Scottish government, not the UK Treasury as they do at the moment.  It’s very difficult to quantify just how much extra this would bring in, but it’s certainly a substantial amount.

When we take all these other things into account, the financial situation for an independent Scotland looks extremely rosy indeed.  You’d think that this was important and relevant information for people who are making their minds up about how to vote in September, and that it would be plastered all over the Scottish media – especially since, as Dr Robertson pointed out in his reply to the BBC bosses, the Scottish media focus almost exclusively on the economic aspects of independence and seek to reduce the argument to one about pounds and pence.

But there’s been not a word about the FT’s report on Reporting Scotland – Scotland’s national news programme according to the BBC.  Today BBC Scotland chose to lead with a story on ecstasy.  There was not one single mention anywhere in our supposedly professional media of an important story which goes right to the heart of the independence debate on the very grounds that the media have chosen to present that debate.

The media in Scotland have chosen to reduce independence to economics yet when presented with clear evidence, from a Unionist source no less, that Scotland would be a far wealthier country as an independent state, they don’t report it.

As Dr Robertson noted in his reply to the BBC, the Scottish media almost entirely ignores the democratic or political reasons for independence.  There is little or no discussion on telly about the relative merits of a country choosing its own government, or having its government chosen for it by a much larger neighbour.  It’s not hard to see why the media don’t want to discuss that.  Equally it’s not hard to see why they have suppressed Dr Robertson’s report and don’t want to discuss their biased presentation of the independence debate.

Under the Union, Scotland is not a fully democratic country.  A free and fair media is not an optional extra in a democracy.  Without access to full facts and information, citizens cannot make principled choices about how they wish to vote.  The Scottish media does not allow Scotland to make principled and informed decisions, and that’s just the way they like it.  They only want us to talk about what they think is important, they are determined to shape the debate and direct it onto a Unionist path, they are not content with simply reporting.

The state of the Scottish media is now an issue in this independence campaign.  We’re not just campaigning for national independence, we are campaiging for the basic democratic rights that define any democracy – the right to access to information, and the right to have the full range of Scottish opinion represented.

If we want a media that truly reflects our nation, there’s only one way we’re going to get it.  Vote yes in September.

Read more from Paul T Kavanagh on Wee Ginger Dug


2014-02-03 22:25


“…said that he believed that the Scottish media was also skewing its coverage of the independence debate by not giving airtime to many stories favourable to independence.”

The problem is that many think that bias means lying when in fact the omission of information, the way information in a story is ordered and presented, the running order of stories and how long a story is kept alive by the media are just as important when considering bias.

The BBC news, whether it’s the national news or Reporting Scotland, is presented by well known faces in a comfortable and relaxed style and for years the idea of the BBC as the most unbiased news organisation in the World has been promoted endlessly by the very same BBC.

The BBC is biased and it’s been proved by Dr. Robertson but the belief which has been fostered by the BBC for years that it is the only unbiased news organisation on the planet is one that is hard to break in the general public.

Signal Rock
2014-02-04 18:30

Agreed. There are also very subtle and hard to quantify aspects of biased presentation, such as facial expression, tone of voice, what is in the background, and often, who gets the last word (or sneer).

Jamie Black
2014-02-03 22:31

newsnetscotland are incredible in the way they put spin on non-stories.

This report on ‘bias’ was based on the tv broadcasts for 1 single hour per day for two channels. And you wonder why no-one reports on it? get with it and stop peddling trivial nonsense.
2014-02-03 23:45

The report was based on the two main Scottish TV channels largest news programmes each and every day over the period of one year. These two programmes are watched by more Scots than all the newspaper circulations added together.

And you call them trivial.
2014-02-03 23:59

The hour was 6pm til 7pm, the prime time news slot. Read the report.
2014-02-04 00:31

Yeah…and over a 12 MONTH period!

There is no spin here.

2014-02-04 00:16

And what is your view on BBC’s omission of surely the biggest recent pro independence event when the UK’s most illustrious financial rag, the FT, publishes what YES campaigners have said forever, Scotland contributes far more than it gets back. Ie Scotland subsidises rUK – how trivial do you consider this wee thing!
2014-02-04 05:13

If you think bias reporting is a non report, then you my friend are in a sorry place,
2014-02-04 09:44

In a democracy, with an unbiased main broadcaster, Jamie, you would be fully entitled to hold that view and cut them a little slack if their coverage of a key political issue veered somewhat from side to side over a week or so.

But here, do at least ask yourself why BBC Scotland’s Head of Public Policy & Corporate Affairs felt compelled to challenge so vehemently the rigorous academic study by Dr Robertson which proves that BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme significantly violated the BBC Charter and editorial guidelines, without even broadcasting the challenge, let alone the report.

At the very least, is that in itself not news which the wider public should know, if only to protect the BBC’s reputation?

Yet the bias continues. Monday’s 2 FT good news stories for Yes [GDP & Spain] ignored; today’s FT good news story for No [Pensions] trumpeted.

Flower of Scotland
2014-02-03 22:32

This bias has been going on for years ! It’s not just a recent thing . Dr Robertson has to be congratulated on his paper and his dogged determination to have the BBC recognise this bias .
If the NO vote wins by scurrilous means I think that there could be real trouble in Scotland !
2014-02-03 22:34

Spot on, not so long ago the realization came to me that we don’t actually live in a democracy here in Scotland. Not one most people would recognize as one anyway. The BBC has been right at the very heart of the situation we find ourselves in today. They are nothing more than a department of the British state.
We must challenge them head on asap because they have shown they do not intend to change. This is too important an issue to be left unchallenged at the most important time since the union was foisted upon us.
2014-02-03 22:35

The sad thing is, there are still many people, especially older, who do not use the internet and they rely on tv and so called newspapers on a daily basis to (mis)inform them about all things political, they believe the lies. We are living in dangerous times at the moment given that democracy, especially with regard to the referendum this year, is teetering on the edge and people are being taken for a very long ride by the media. Having said that, many people are quite aware of just how manipulative government down in westminster and their media are, the information about their motives can only be shoved under the carpet for so long. Just pray that people trip themselves up on the carpet, and vote yes before its too late!
call me dave
2014-02-03 22:53

O/T Sorry
Aye the Nelson technique. “I see no ships”

FM threatened. . . tumbleweed!
FT report . . . tumbleweed!
Spain will not stand in Scotland’s way

It’s the way they don’t tell em!

YouGov produces the latest poll….

YES 33% (+2)
NO 52% (-3)

Only tables not much:…/…
2014-02-04 00:33

“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone” I think that sums up MSM in Scotland and why, not a word on this.
2014-02-04 01:55

This is over a year old now, but it has not become any less relevant.…/…
2014-02-04 03:59

I am truly appalled. One used to imagine that press manipulation and state propaganda only happened in places like Stalin’s Russia or Honeker’s East Germany.

It comes as a shock still to realise that this madness is happening here and now and been going on in Scotland for decades. How long have we suffered ‘fitba and murder’ instead of real news. Our only hope to end this insanity is to vote YES for democracy’s sake at least.
2014-02-04 06:30

Hi all

All those who get a chance to be on tv or radio or at these debates should bring these omissions up at every opportunity
2014-02-04 07:55

Art1001, see that murder mayhem bit? It really drives me up the wall!
Who in the name of the wee man thinks that some twit standing outside the High Court giving a ” he said ,she said ” account of the days proceedings night after bloody night is news?
By all means tell us a trial is on and then wait for the verdict but this drivel masquerading as news is not on.
I have to be fair and say that the STV news is more guilty than the BBBC of this kind of mind numbing ordure.
2014-02-04 08:00

@James black: “trivial”, you are in denial. The BBC themselves wrote to the head of the University warning of the damage the report could cause to both institutions. QED.

Also I think you may be a friend of JoLa’s and also consider trident, illegal war etc. as “wee things”?

@P. Kavanagh: “biased, partial, and only covering one side of the story.”.
Biased and partial, sure. ‘Only’ covering one side of the story is exaggeration. The analysis of BBC bias is strong enough on its own, since it demonstrated that the BBC favoured no over yes on a 3:2 ratio.

In any case ‘only’ covering one side of a story would be far too blatant. For me, the report shows the BBC manufactures controlled bias in subtle ways over time. It also shows that instead of reporting referendum news even handedly it instead takes a position(using various angles) and then tries to set public opinion towards that position using several techniques.
2014-02-04 08:58

and what do we get today from the BBC?

A pension scare story –
you genuinely could not make this up!
2014-02-04 09:21

To take a broader overview, and take the issue of Scotland out of the equation for a moment, I can’t avoid the feeling these are benchmark global events in progress.

There have been parallels drawn with Goebbles and the vilification of the Jews, but don’t forget what limited exposure the German population had to TV in their own homes.

We also draw parallels with Pravda, the Soviet control of news, but Pravda was political newspaper.

You could argue that Goebbels and Pravda were old world propaganda tools, and to some extent, the arrival of TV has been their undoing.

However, a picture is appearing in Scotland that TV has succumbed to this old world propaganda, and allowed itself to become the tool of those who want to manipulate public opinion.

What makes these benchmark times? Why the power struggle between television and the internet, and the battle for the truth.

We all have ring side seats.
2014-02-04 09:31

Send a link!

There is something simple and useful we ordinary folk can do to get stories like this out into the public domain: we can send a link to this Paul Kavanagh article to every relevant person in our email address book.

Look on it as “Crowd Publishing”.

We’re not entirely helpless in countering media secrecy:

Let’s show what Crowd Publishing can do … send a link!
2014-02-04 09:45

Get the slippers on and a comfy seat – Willie Rennie is spelling out Lib Dem style DevoMAX in a speech to the David Hume Institute.

This should be good for a chuckle. This parrot DevoMAX is no more. He has ceased to be. He’s expired and gone to meet his maker. He’s a stiff, bereft of life…

Go on then Wullie, if you really must…
call me dave
2014-02-04 10:10

No!. . .Devo jam is alive and squacking. All three parties are putting their product on sale to the gullible starting with the Lib/dem federalism, sell by date 1920’s.

Let’s not swarm round the sticky false sweet stuff good out independence jam is better. I’ve got my popcorn in for the speech too.
Dundonian West
2014-02-04 11:06

BBC Scotland is not reporting in a balanced and ethical manner expected from a national broadcaster.
It’s a busted flush.
“There are reports on the article on the Yes International website and on Wings Over Scotland.”
Not forgetting Newsnetscotland one of the leaders in exposing the glaring defecits in Scottish democracy.
Many thanks.
Andy Anderson
2014-02-04 11:48

Paul is right, this clear evidence that the BBC and the media in general are biased against independence is not a side issue it is at the centre of the issue. The Scottish people are not able to exercise their democratic rights to make a considered choice on the merits of independence if they are being denied access to the facts such as the basic fact that Scotland produces more wealth per head than England. This is intolerable and we must not tolerate it.
2014-02-04 13:05

Looks like the BBC have been in touch with BP boss Bob Dudley regarding a loss in profit and decided they would chuck in a question about Scottish independence to see if they could turn in into a scare story.

I reckon this is how the BBC work & if they get a positive reaction they don’t publish it, however a negative response provides a top story knowing the rest of the msm will pick up on it and and it will front page news the following day and it will also provide Lamont with a script form FMQ’s.

How anyone can believe that an international oil company who deals in multi currencies would be concerned about Scotland’s currency is beyond me.

Why are BBC staff not speaking up, they can’t all be a twisted bunch or are they??
Marga B
2014-02-04 13:18

Today there’s a small article in the independentist digital press on mainstream press bias. Sample: 4 days of 8 opinion columns in national Spanish newspaper El País.

Author: anonymous group Contrastant – anecdotally pinpointing exactly the same kind of practices academically analysed by Dr. Robertson.

Particular note of heavy use of Catalan (anti-independence) authors and intellectuals for credibility, and creating a “climate” of undermining Catalan aspirations in general rather than attacking independence directly as a tactic, so (in theory) preserving the newspaper’s prized reputation for neutrality.

El País and the BBC, fallen angels both.

Source: Vilaweb – with English version to keep up with developments in Catalonia if you’re interested.
2014-02-04 13:35

Once this weather improves it’s gonna take a demonstration outside BBC Scotland wi’ placards and NOISE. Placards decrying BIAS and OMISSION.. get into their face and see if that’s broadcast
2014-02-04 15:47

Jamie black: Yes are going to win no matter what your limited knowledge and opinion is. Are you one of those proud Scots who will head south to the bosom of Westminster, or will you stay and help build a better Scotland?

If lying to the Scottish people is criminal, what about crowd funding a private prosecution of say Jackie bird or some of the board? Would this have merit? Would certainly make individuals consider their own actions!
2014-02-04 16:46

It is interesting to see the way that BBC London and Weegie have both leapt with glee on to the speech by BP’s head honcho.

It really is amazing to see the way it has been reported as an attack on the YES Campaign completely ignoring the fact that it is YES policy to have a joint sterling currency which completely negates the attack on YES over the speech.

It is surprising to see this giant multinational pleading potential problems dealing in 2 currencies which would only apply if Westminster denied us a joint currency. They must deal in countless different currencies the US$ and Russian Rouble to name just 2 – Think Gulf of Mexico and Prudhoe Bay and their recent problems with Putin’s goverment.

We shouldn’t forget that BP used to be known as The Anglo Iranian Oil Co. When I was a boy there was a liquid Soap called Iranopol later changed to ByProx.
call me dave
2014-02-04 17:57

BP operate in some dodgy places in the world whether there is uncertainty, some uncertainty, big uncertainties, quite big uncertainties, very big uncertainties involved.

I’ve heard them all in the last two hours on just the BBC Scotland radio.

Anyhoo! Where there is oil there is money!…/…

Another love bomb from the BBC

It’s all right then!

Flower of Scotland
2014-02-04 16:58

I have just sent Radio Scotland a text telling them I’m still waiting for today’s top story about the Con/Dems not allowing the SNP/Labour initiative to axe the hated bedroom TAX . It’s absolutely outrageous ! They are now being openly biased and will continue this until Sept 18 th. Something has to be done and QUICKLY .
2014-02-04 18:14

Just seen the man from BP saying Britain really is great, he might have gotten away with it until that point, eh and the fact that they operate in some of the dodgiest places on earth, do they think peoples heads zip up the back.
2014-02-04 18:35

#mountain cadre.
How many more dummies is the ‘NO’ ventriloquist going to wheel on to the stage and work from the back? Yes, I heard that big headline on GMS this morning quoting the utterances of Bob Dudley, CEO of BP.
The Telegraph writes: ‘The head of multinational BP has delivered a major blow to Alex Salmond’s case for independence.’ They quote Bob Dudley as saying “Britain is great and ought to stay together.”
I hope this had the same effect on other Scots as it had on me. I was livid. What right has this American to express any opinion on the democracy of Scots? If he doesn’t want to invest in our coastal waters, he can sling his hook. There are plenty oil companies to take his place.
After Deepwater Horizon, I have had doubts about BP operating west of Orkney and Shetland anyway. If you’re all like me, it’s another few hundred DON’T KNOWS in the ‘YES’ camp.
Ready to Start
2014-02-04 18:43

Are BP “conning” us?

They had a 22% drop in profits announcement to-day and what a perfect way to deflect attention.

Marketing Director Iain Conn went to Lorretto same school as Alistair Darling.
2014-02-04 18:52

If he thinks Britain is Great does he want the Great to take America back with the red coats.
2014-02-04 19:12

Rich American tells Scots what to do.
Like that’s going to work!
call me dave
2014-02-04 19:42

Some solace here from the FT today.
call me dave
2014-02-04 20:44

Posted on Guardian comments & WoS.

Looks like Dud Bubley (Bob Dudley) may be in breach of BP’s code of conduct by intervening in the Indy Ref and giving his ‘personal opinion’…

74 Our stance on political activity

• BP will not take part directly in party political activity.
• BP will make no political contributions – either in cash or in kind.
We recognize our employees’ right to take part as individuals in the political process, in ways that are appropriate to each country.

Basic rules you must follow


• Use company time, property or equipment to carry out or support your personal political activities. Ensure that you only engage in the political process in your own time and with your own resources.

• Undertake lobbying activities without authorization.…/…
2014-02-04 21:41

Omission – try as I might, I have found no BBC online reference to the FT article of yesterday which indicated that Scotland would be billions better off if independent. Have I missed something?
call me dave
2014-02-04 23:36

Did I detect a moment of shock at R4 when Ivan put them straight on BP statement.…/


Here is surprising another interviewer later on tv. well done Ivan.…/
Marga B
2014-02-04 23:49

Just a reminder that the BBC’s draft referendum guidelines do not come into effect until Friday 30th May 2014 at 00.01.

Until then, it’s business as usual. Or was that bias as usual? Funny how they’ve got Mr Naughtie in harness so long before the guidelines come into force. Seems a bit out of phase really – anyway, watch out for the sudden change in his behaviour from the 30th on.…/…
2014-02-05 00:01

BP have nailed their colours. So be it. I think the shareholders will be speaking with Dud come September.
2014-02-05 03:19

The Statoil ASA model will look increasingly attractive to the Scottish electorate !?

I like it,
2014-02-05 08:29

None of this media bias is new. I moved to Dublin in 1976 during the height of the Troubles and, as a Scottish protestant, was very fearful of how I would be treated. The British media, including the BBC, presented the Irish as uniformly hostile and murderous towards Britons except, of course, for Northern Irish protestants. It took me about 48 hours to realise I had been lied to, and I’ve never trusted the British media since then.
2014-02-05 19:08


“A FOI request submitted by the BBC revealed that the amount of fraud detected by Scotland’s 14 health boards has risen from £337,442 in 2008-2009 to £479,135 in 2012-2013, representing an increase of 41.9% over the five-year period”…/…

The actual amount of ‘undetected’ fraud is therefore open to debate…….

Jackie Bird on Reporting Scotland has just headlined ‘AS FACT’ that fraud in the NHS in Scotland ‘IS’ costing the tax payer £800million a year. This was unchallenged, and no reference to the actual content of the FOI was broadcast in her report!
2014-02-06 07:38

Of course the way this was reported we are supposed to come to the conclusion that NHS fraud has rocketed under The SNP Government whereas what has actually happened is that the authorities have been much more successful in identifying fraud than was the case previously.

Nowhere is there the slightest bit of evidence that there has actually been an increase in fraud since the halcyon days of the Labour government.

Yet another example of unionist spin by our favourite broadcaster.

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