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  By Lindsay Scott
 
A quarter of a century ago I resigned my post as a producer/presenter with the English language radio service of the South West African Broadcasting Corporation, a nominally independent subsidiary of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, in Windhoek, the soon-to-be capital of the independent republic of Namibia.

I had become increasingly disenchanted with the content of news bulletins and current affairs programmes I had to present, in that they were so blatantly one-sided that they seriously jeopardised the once-in-a-lifetime decision facing the people of South West Africa – making an informed choice and either voting for change and becoming the world’s next independent country or staying with the status quo as a vassal state of South Africa.

I should explain that both the Director General and the Controller of News & Current Affairs at the SWABC were members of the Afrikaner Broederbond, a secret, exclusively male South African organisation dedicated to the advancement of Afrikaner interests.  These interests did not include meekly surrendering a huge area of land rich in diamonds, uranium and other precious metals and gems as well as a massive coastline teaming with fish, despite this being the will of the international community as expressed in United Nations’ Resolution 435.

Fortunately for me, my period of unemployment did not last long, and I was hired by an American NGO to monitor SWABC news and current affairs output for evidence of bias and compile a report with evidence for possible presentation to the United Nations’ Special Representative for Namibia and later President of Finland and Nobel laureate, Martti Ahtisaari.

This I duly did, with some zeal as you may well imagine, and found that my report was received by the SWABC with the same enthusiasm that BBC Scotland recently afforded a similar one by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland. The similarity ends there – in my case there was someone who could punish the outlet, and severely.

Mr Ahtisaari acted promptly, calling in broadcast professionals from UN headquarters in New York, placing them in the newsroom and studios and instructing the South African nationalist government and its local proxy, the Administrator General, Louis Pienaar, to ensure impartiality and fairness until the vote by suspending both the daily press review and identified news personnel across the ranks.

Most of the suspended news staff did not return after the vote and on March 21st 1990, Namibia became the forty-seventh African colony to gain its independence.

In my two decades of operating across the continent, literally, from covering South African budgets in Cape Town to the 30th OAU summit in Cairo, the manner in which the BBC World Service did its job through programmes such as “Focus on Africa” and “Network Africa” saw it generally viewed as a force for good.

Back then the corporation had a worldwide reputation for objectivity, impartiality and fairness, in time allocated, treating differing viewpoints with equity, the civilised interrogation of issues, providing an immediate right of reply and not gleefully manufacturing consent by regurgitating a daily diet of disinformation fed by nameless sources on behalf of vested interests.

It is a great pity that given the enormity of what’s at stake, the blatant pro-union stance of most of the mainstream ‘Scottish’ media and BBC Scotland’s ‘special’ position as a national, public broadcaster – catering to everyone, funded by you and me for you and me regardless of our political viewpoints, there is no Martti Ahtisaari at hand to help it change its ways and provide badly-needed neutrality at this crucial juncture in our history.


Lindsay Scott is a former broadcast journalist and trainer who has worked in television and radio for a variety of outlets, including the BBC World Service, on four continents.  He returned to Scotland 13 years ago and now works in communications and public affairs.

Comments  

 
# neoloon 2014-07-08 18:05
Interesting article. The BBC in Scotland has lost all credibility as an impartial broadcaster; it has nobody but itself to blame.
Is the BBC worried about its name should Scotland vote Yes? For what it’s worth, in my opinion, it can still call itself the BBC. Who cares.

Regardless of the September result this has been a shameful period in the BBC’s mostly noble history.

If, God forbid, it’s a No vote I expect an even greater number of people in Scotland will refuse to pay the licence fee.
 
 
# Jacque De Molay 2014-07-08 18:51
Now THAT was a scary comparison!

The only difference being, unlike the article, our MSM will continue to push out propaganda all the way up to the 18th of September.
 
 
# crapdriver 2014-07-08 20:30
What I can’t even begin to get my head around, is how on this God’s given Earth they and the rest of the MSM are going to recover if there is a thumping great ‘Yes’ vote… Interesting times.
 
 
# Massan_Gow 2014-07-09 07:53
I always have respect for someone who is prepared to take a stand (in this case resigning) because of their principles.

There are no such principles to be seen at the BBC.
 
 
# Muscleguy 2014-07-09 10:00
If we vote Yes in September academic theses on how this was achieved in the face of an almost universally hostile media will undoubtedly proliferate. Just like others will be written about the political genius of Alex Salmond.

We won’t want to read the theses that will be written if we vote No.

Mind you the recent pollster who asked Westminster voting intentions in the case of a No vote found the Labour vote collapsing and going almost entirely to the SNP. Probably the 30% of Labour voters found to be Yes supporters in the polls crying foul.

So even if, horror, it’s a No I expect political pressure will be kept on and we will get another chance just by being ornery and difficult to govern.

More SNP MPs will not a significant bloc create but the more there are the more often they get to speak in the house. You can do a lot with that, as AS did.
 
 
# alistair 2014-07-09 13:49
Just a reminder to all like minded commenters who are fed up with the MSM bias that we need a big turn out for the anti-bbc bias protest on Sunday 27th July just beside Pacific Quay. There is a facebook page link below and also a page for organising shared lifts as well. Please register your intention to go and bring along some friends and family. Thanks very much
facebook.com/…/…
 
 
# Will 2014-07-09 14:10
Two differences should be noted.
1 South Africa had illegally annexed South-West Africa.
2)SW Africa was indeed a vassal state of apartheid South Africa.
Scotland by contrast joined the UK by the vote of its Parliamentary representatives  .
The Union is a partnership. As Alex Salmond has observed, the relationship between the UK and Scotland is not colonial.
 

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