At the turn of the year Newsnet Scotland published the results of an academic study into the referendum coverage broadcast on early evening TV news programmes.  The study found that news items were favouring the No campaign over the Yes campaign by a ratio of three to two.

STV and BBC Scotland were found to be equally at fault, but both rejected the study findings.

However the response from the BBC was to attack the integrity of the academic who had carried out the study and to suggest its findings lacked credibility.

The research led to BBC Scotland chiefs facing questions from MSPs on Holyrood’s Culture Committee.  Head of BBC Scotland Ken MacQuarrie repeated the criticisms the corporation had levelled at the academic, Professor John Robertson, and his methodology and refused to accept BBC Scotland had any issues to address.

Notwithstanding the interim nature of the original study, which continues, that’s where the episode ended.  Case apparently closed.

In light of this, Newsnet Scotland has decided to commission our own academic study into the referendum output reported by BBC Scotland.  We have been in communication with a respected academic who has agreed to carry out a similar study to that cited above.  Today we have launched an appeal [see bottom of article] to fund this research.

This new month long study will focus on one of five areas of BBC Scotland news coverage.

  • Good Morning Scotland
  • Newsdrive
  • Morning Call
  • Newsnight Scotland
  • BBC Scotland news online

There is argument for monitoring output from each of these BBC Scotland platforms.

Good Morning Scotland sets the day’s news agenda and its presenters set the tone.  Politicians and commentators add to this narrative through interviews and discussions.  The individual agenda of newspapers are regularly promoted free of charge and headlines read out.

Newsdrive has similar influence.  It picks up the stories from earlier in the day and keeps momentum going.  Breaking stories are also covered and similar interviews with politicians and commentators help set the agenda.  It is often a good barometer for what will appear on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.

Both the aforementioned radio programmes have faced accusations that presenters have been more aggressive with pro-independence interviewees that with their pro-Union counterparts.

Morning Call is the early morning weekday phone in programme.  Not always political but critical nevertheless in helping to fashion opinion on a string of key issues.  A clever mix of professional and public opinion makes this a very influential shaper of public opinion.  Topics can be designed in order to allow the promotion of views [sometimes hopelessly misinformed] that can help or hinder a campaign, policy or party.

Newsnight Scotland is soon to be replaced but still carries significant weight amongst those who influence the referendum debate.  Politicians, journalists and a whole plethora of talking heads will be invited onto the show to discuss whatever issue the BBC deems important.  Allthough broadcast late at night, it can still determine the news agenda as Stewart Stevenson found to his cost after an infamous interview with former BBC Scotland reporter Raymond Buchanan on the day heavy snowfall caused chaos on the M8.

BBC Scotland Online is one of the most visited news sites in Scotland, with a newspaper style format allowing headlines to steer the reader.  It can also allow one story to dominate over another through clever positioning.  Last Monday was a case in point when a pro-independence story was moved from top spot in a matter of hours down to number 15.  A story beneficial to the No campaign remained virtually unchanged in 2nd position throughout.

As mentioned already, we have set up an appeal to pay for this research.  The total amount required is £6000 – the appeal asks for a further £500 in order to take into account the fees of the crowdfunding company.

This research will be subject to the highest academic rigours.  Newsnet Scotland will have absolutely no involvement or input into the research or its methodology – our only role will be to commission and pay for the study.  We do not know what the findings will be.

BBC Scotland will not monitor its own output and even if it did it would not make findings public.  Management at BBC Scotland offer as proof that they are impartial the fact that they are the BBC.  We are the BBC therefore we are beyond reproach, is the mantra.  It’s a stance that necessitates outside monitoring.

If you believe, as we do, that BBC Scotland simply cannot be trusted to police itself then please visit our crowdfunding appeal by clicking the image below:


2014-03-28 18:44

That’s a very good idea.I’ll certainly put a bit in the pot tonight.
red kite
2014-03-28 19:37

Done. C’mon folks – money where mouth is time 🙂
call me dave
2014-03-28 20:11

Not been about for a while must have missed this? Donation made.


Straw in the wind?
2014-03-28 20:21

And, of course, users in Scotland have comments turned off for political stories on the BBC website…here’s my £25
george davie
2014-03-28 20:55

Just contributed.

Has anyone else noticed the number of debates where there has been a poll taken at the start and end of each session.

I think there have been over 20 so far (reported on the internet by those ghastly “cybernats”) where the INITIAL voting result was YES = in the 45% region, NO = about 25 % and the UNDECIDEDs = 30%

AFTER the debate has taken place the voting intentions show a significant shift;

YES = low 60%
NO = Mid to High 20%
UNDECIDEDs = 5 – 10%

e.g. Abertay University Dundee, Dundee & Angus College,etc.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think I have seen any of these results reported by major news outlets.

The opinion polls that show YES on 25 – 30% are a complete and utter myth.

Q. After the referendum will certain poll companies be shown to have manipulated their findings?

Al Ghaf
2014-03-28 21:31

Stumped up. However got to say I don’t think the default payment amount of £100 is a good idea.
call me dave
2014-03-28 22:14

Currency update. BBC reporting SG comment.

# Al Ghaf

You can adjust the amount to suit your pocket.
Early Ball
2014-03-28 23:19

#al ghaf I agree but please do not let that put anyone off donating.
2014-03-29 00:27

Will chip in here – nice initiative.

I like the idea that the selected study could be on any one of the areas mentioned.

Knowing that some serious research is ongoing might help to keep things straight..
2014-03-29 09:39


I love the new Labour Campaign Poster as shown by The Record – plenty of room for somebody with a white marker to add the letter NOT after ‘CAN’.

What a fortnight the last 2 weeks have been for Project Fear and we have The SNP Conference to come – no shortage of ammunition for the speeches courtesy of Project Fear and this morning’s Guardian Report on The Common Currency.
H Scott
2014-03-29 09:48

Happy to contribute.
Flower of Scotland
2014-03-29 10:18

Just listening to Radio Scotland waffle about kids in Kingussie, talking about the Referendum campaign , saying that these KIDS ( young people I would call them ) didn’t think politics should be discussed on a social media forum! They said that politics should only be discussed on radio and TV! Aye right! Who’s kidding who! Feeling a wee bit jittery maybe!
The Laird
2014-03-29 10:38

Done and good luck. Let’s see the results highlighted all over the place in the form of newspaper adverts, leaflets etc. and show these people that we won’t get fooled again.
2014-03-29 11:17

Donation sent for a cause that is even bigger than the independence referendum… the cause of democracy itself.
2014-03-29 11:45

Found an apt wee cartoon for this story……/…
2014-03-29 15:40

I tried to contribute but failed. I don’t have a phone so it aborts.

Give me another payment method
2014-03-29 22:06

Excellent idea, more than happy to donate to this.

If we double the money do we get two?

The BBC have claimed a post containing a link to the McCrone report is spam. I only posted it once before & that was referred for further consideration at the time.
2014-03-29 22:14

Whilst I will contribute, I do have some reservations as to the wisdom of this.

On another thread, NNS replied to my comment re. adverts on SPT underground saying not enough £ in the kitty to fund such. No chance to increase visitors to NNS thus fewer chances to influence undecided voters.

But here we have a proposal to spend several £K on proving what we already know – that the output of BBC Scotland is biased against the Yes campaign.

Will being under the microscope change the BBC’s behaviour? No. Will proving that they are biased change the referendum result? No. Will there be a re-run of the referendum if in 12 months time, following a ‘No’ vote, the BBC Trust agrees that Pacific Quay skewed the outcome? No.

Is this money well spent with only 6 months to go???

[Admin – We have a leaflet drive taking place over the next few weeks, which is currently underway. Half a million leaflets will be distributed to households in Scotland.

We will monitor the effectiveness of this drive before considering whether additional advertising may be required.

Our aim is to have a quarter of a million unique visitors to the site by the time of the referendum. Running in parallel is our aim to produce very high quality, persuasive content that will appeal to the undecided voter.

Monitoring BBC Scotland output is absolutely vital. Newspapers carry limited influence in today’s multi-media world. The BBC carries the biggest threat and why Newsnet Scotland has been in the vanguard in highlighting some of its worst excesses.]

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