By a Newsnet reporter
Bosses at BBC Scotland’s Glasgow HQ are spending cash given to them to improve referendum coverage, in order to discredit a university study critical of their news output.
Former presenter Derek Bateman has claimed that extra staff, who were recruited specifically to help carry out research aimed at expanding the broadcaster’s coverage of the referendum, have instead been told to go over past news broadcasts.

According to Mr Bateman, who spent over twenty years at BBC Scotland, bosses at his former employer are using the new recruits to “subsidise the BBC’s PR response” in a bid at discrediting a university study that found the broadcaster was favouring the No campaign in its evening news reports.

Writing on his blog, the respected journalist and broadcaster criticised the decision to hand the task of trying to determine whether BBC Scotland is biased in favour of the No campaign, to raw recruits with no experience.

He said: “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.”

Last year BBC Scotland announced it had secured £5m extra funding which would be used to recruit fifteen trainees to help up its referendum coverage.

In a statement to Newsnet Scotland, at the time the £5m extra referendum cash was announced, BBC Scotland said: “We will be offering high quality training provided and supported by the BBC College of Journalism and senior BBC News staff, as well as the chance to learn on the job. These posts represent an excellent opportunity for trainees to gain valuable experience and to make a contribution to the BBC’s coverage of such a significant story.”

Claims that the recruits are being used to go over old broadcasts follows publication of a study carried out by an academic of the University of the West of Scotland which found both STV and BBC Scotland had favoured the No campaign by a factor of three to two in early evening news items.

The study by Dr John Robertson was criticised by both STV and the BBC with both broadcasters challenging the figures and conclusions of a subsequent report.

However a row has grown after it emerged an official at BBC Scotland had sent what was described as a ‘bullying’ email to Dr Robertson that called the academic’s professional integrity into question.  The email described the study as lacking validity, it also criticised the methodology Dr Robertson had used.

Mr Bateman added: “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.”

Last week it emerged that Holyrood’s Culture Committee is to examine the study carried out by Dr Robertson.

Publication of the study followed news that the BBC Trust had found BBC Scotland guilty of misleading viewers over a key issue of the independence debate.  The guilty verdict followed an item broadcast on Reporting Scotland that dealt with the EU membership of an independent Scotland.

BBC Scotland reporter Raymond Buchanan, who was responsible for item, resigned days before the Trust confirmed it would hold its own investigation.

Despite the ruling, BBC Scotland management have refused to issue a correction or any apology for the misleading item which appeared on the flagship news programme over a year ago.


Flower of Scotland
2014-02-05 23:36

I am afraid the BBC is becoming a bit of a laughing stock ? Everyone seems to be waiting for the next hiatus . Good work by D Bateman though .
2014-02-06 01:03

This is disgusting and nothing more than trainees being taught how to cover the BBC`s arse which i`am sure the BBC are expert in doing so.
No doubt they will have a guiding hand to show them the direction the BBC wishes the outcome to go in.
They must be brought to account in public for all to see that all is far from well in the British Biased Corporation when it comes to little things you know? Like democracy!
2014-02-06 05:33

I can’t help but feel that radical action is the only way to stop the state-sponsored propaganda machine from causing any more damage.

Imagine someone went on hunger strike, with the simple demand that the BBC air an uninhibited apology on it’s UK-wide evening news programme, as the leading article.

Imagine a man standing chained to the spot in some public space, bearing the sign “BBC Scotland: I am hungry for justice, please let me eat.”

Surely such a stunt would gain enough attention to put enough pressure on the BBC to reverse some of the damage they have done to the refendum, and hopefully put a stop to any further antics.

I’d absolutely do it myself but I love food too damn much. But if someone out there was willing to do that, they’d surely take their place in history as a hero.
2014-02-06 07:05

I get the impression that the Referendum Themed documentaries currently being shown on BBC2 are relatively free of unionist bias and if anything lean slightly in the direction of YES.

Is this a sign that they are produced outwith the control of Boothman and his Project Fear lackeys in the News Dept.?

We still of couse have to put up with the fact that whereas most BBC Scotland network opt-outs are shown on BBC1 this series is being broadcast on BBC2 a channel many viewers never watch.

It will be interesting to see the viewing figures.
2014-02-06 07:52

Latest RAJAR year-on-year figures not good reading for BBC Radio Scotland’s management.…/…
2014-02-06 08:39

The BBC has become emboldened since the BBC and its newspaper chums got away with concealing Dr Robertson’s report from the public and nothing will stop it now.

Hence why has also successfully concealed the FT report showing that Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK.

Hence why they have recruited someone with impeccable Labour credentials out of all the journalists available in the UK, to host their new evening current affairs programme “setting the referendum agenda” – aye that’ll be right.

We now have conclusive proof that the once respected BBC is nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece of Westminster and should treat it accordingly.
2014-02-06 08:54

What’s this then.

Newsnight Scotland to be axed ahead of referendum

Does this mean Brewer is on his way out and why not give the position to Isobel Fraser not Sarah Smith.
2014-02-06 13:40


They are showing us 2 very arrogant fingers with this appointment.

What will her salary be compared with Isobel Fraser?

2014-02-06 09:00

Simple answer. They’re clearly not going to change. Stop watching BBC Scotland. If enough people do that their viewing figures would be badly affected.
2014-02-06 14:19

JimW makes a good point. I would recommend anyone who still watches the heavily weighted pro-union BBC news broadcasts, to switch instead to Al Jazeera. It is much fairer in its coverage and presentation of UK news as well as world news.

This will also benefit your blood pressure readings! The alternative of shouting angrily at so-called “experts” (the ubiquitous Prof. John Curtice springs to mind) doesn’t work, trust me on that. As an added bonus, you’ll no longer be put off your food by the sight of Kerr, Robertson, Brewer etc., on your TV screens. Happy viewing!
2014-02-08 12:04

Here’s a quick thought = How to spike the guns of any would be DevoMax type unionist you meet on your doorstep…- (Come on be fair, it might happen).

OK, even though DevoMax is dead in the water, let’s talk hypothetically about more powers devolved to Scotland. Let’s put Broadcasting top of the list…
Auld Rock
2014-02-08 16:20

I’ve been thinking how I can do some damage to the BBC/Scot and its bias. I’m considering cancelling my D/D mandate for my monthly licence fee to the EBC (English Broadcasting Corporation) and transferring it to an ‘ESCROW’ account to hold the money until such times as I can transfer it to the new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation after INDEPENDENCE.

Anyone join me?

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