By a Newsnet reporter

The BBC has claimed that it doesn’t have to present viewers and listeners with a balanced view of the independence debate.

Newsnet Scotland can reveal that in an extraordinary email, a licence payer who had complained about imbalance in a recent radio debate was told “…we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no.”

The complaint followed a broadcast of the Brian Taylor’s Big Debate Radio programme that saw three pro-Union panellists debate the referendum with one SNP MSP.

Labour MP Mike Connarty, Conservative businessman Iain McGill and journalist Hamish Macdonell were pitched against SNP MSP Angela Constance as they debated topics that included the independence referendum.

The complaint resulted in the BBC insisting that the official referendum campaign had not yet started and therefore they were not obliged to ensure an equal representation of pro-independence guests to pro-Union guests whenever independence was discussed.

In the official response, a BBC official wrote: “Brian’s debate is a general programme which discusses a number of subjects every week and the programme brings a range of voices to those subjects. In addition, we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no.”

On Saturday, Newsnet Scotland contacted BBC Scotland press office asking for a response to the claim, but as yet we have received no reply.

The extraordinary statement follows concerns over the quality of debate being provided by broadcasters, with the BBC coming in for significant criticism.

A recent appearance in front of Holyrood’s Culture Committee saw BBC Scotland Chiefs defend the broadcaster’s output in Scotland amid fears that job cuts would hit the referendum coverage. The BBC is facing widespread industrial action if management insist on going ahead with compulsory redundancies in Scotland.

The committee members have since put further questions to BBC Scotland bosses relating to staff morale, staff cuts, quality and Commonwealth Games funding.

MEANWHILE, organisers of a public rally calling for balance from broadcasters in their coverage of the referendum debate have announced the official location and schedule for the event.

Entitled ‘Illuminate The Debate’ the event will see participants assemble on Saturday Feb 23rd at Strathclyde University at 10:00am in readiness for a 10:30am march which will take a route past George Square to the destination at St Enoch’s Square.

An organiser told Newsnet Scotland that the rally was not intended to promote any side in the independence debate but was a simple call for balanced and honest coverage from the BBC and STV.

The spokesman said: “We have probably less than 20 months to go before the nation makes the biggest decision in over 300 years.

“Sadly, aside from STV’s Scotland Tonight programme there has been little sign that our broadcasters are interested in using this historic moment in order to illuminate what has been tagged ‘the great debate’.

“Those programmes that are broadcast are dominated by the same political parties and mostly male pundits, with little regard for balance.”

Commenting on the BBC’s claim that debates do not have to be balanced because the campaign has yet to officially begin, the spokesman added:

“This statement highlights the need for the public to start demanding that the BBC live up to its reputation. Scotland pays £325 million in licence fees and only £100 million is spent here.”

Calling for people to come along to the rally, he added: “If we don’t highlight this broadcasting deficit then we may well find we have missed the chance to educate the electorate – something that future generations will find unforgiveable.”


2013-02-13 00:33

Given the “encouragement and travel options” that I received when I posted about the change in time – I accept the feedback and will be at the march. I hope for a large turnout.
2013-02-13 22:03

I live in the outer hebrides and I’m going I also went to the march in Edinburgh I really hope that there is a good turn out for something so crucially important.

2013-02-13 01:07

I would rather all of a post were deleted than parts of it with its responses.
2013-02-13 01:28

Campaign for Balanced Broadcasting in Scotland:…/


Please inform everyone of this event, webpage to follow that’s Balanced, All inclusive, Referendum, Debate. All we can ask for from our media. This event is IMPARTIAL and relates to both quality and equality.

2013-02-13 01:42

Finally Illuminate the Debate has a website in place

Hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Please spread the word, this is the start of a campaign to engage the public and let them see just how impartial our media really is!


2013-02-13 01:13

Aye Westminster’s “Dirty tricks brigade” have warned them well.Still if the have to show balance when the debate gets officially started then we may have a chance.Although,I do think we the Scottish voters are seeing through the lies maybe one at a time but we will all see through eventually.
2013-02-13 05:07

In what sense are we not “in an official referendum campaign”?

The official Yes and No organisations have both formally launched their campaigns.

2013-02-13 08:38

I believe this is when the full political campaign starts several weeks before the Ref. like in an a GE and observered by the electoral commission.

The BBC then ‘should’ give representative weight to different parties. As we know, even that is totally abused and dominated by Labour and Tories. So still expect at least a 3:1 representation of No to Yes just before the referendum across BBC broadcasts.

What they will do is balance representation on talk and question shows/emissions, but nothing else.

I wish they would just come out and state “Our remit is to keep the UK together, this is what we are doing”.


2013-02-13 09:17

We all know that the real villan here is the perfidious BBC. Fair and Balanced it certainly ain’t and my banner will say precisely that.
What fools are we who pay for this state sponsored vitriol. I am proud to say I have never owned a license as I regard it as a colonial fee for which there is no representation.

[Organisers have politely asked that the rally centre on a request for balance.]

2013-02-13 09:19

O/T from politicalbettin

Ipsos-Mori poll on Scottish Independence, the changes are from their last poll in October.
Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 34% (+4)
No 55% (-3)
Undecided 11% (-1)

On the ratings on how some of the politicians are viewed in Scotland, will also give comfort to the SNP and supporters for Independence.

Alex Salmond 50/43, net rating of plus 7
David Cameron 27/67, net rating of minus 40
Nicola Sturgeon 50/33, net rating of plus 17
Alastair Darling 33/32, net rating of plus 1.

There was more good news for the SNP in the poll when it comes to asking voters how they would use their first vote if there was a Holyrood election tomorrow (again changes from the last Mori poll in October)

SNP 43% (+3)
Labour 35% (-)
Conservatives 13% (-)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
Others 2% (-2)

Ready to Start
2013-02-13 10:15

The poll also reveals an extraordinary surge in support for independence among young Scots aged between 18 and 24. Last October, support was running at 27 per cent but it has more than doubled in only four months and stands at 58 per cent among an age group feeling the full force of poor employment prospects and Westminster welfare cuts.

Ms Sturgeon is easily outscoring Alistair Darling, the head of the pro-Union Better Together campaign, when it comes to voter satisfaction.

But perhaps even more concerning for Mr Darling and Better Together is that more than one in three Scots (35 per cent) says they have no opinion on Mr Darling’s performance, a possible pointer to a perceived lack of impact on the part of the former Labour Chancellor.

2013-02-13 10:52

The No camp will become even more shrill after reading the poll data, expect more personal attacks on Nicola Sturgeon.

2013-02-13 13:51

Ipsos Mori poll end of November 2010:

With five months to go until the Scottish Parliament elections, Labour has increased its lead over the SNP to 10 points in the latest poll from Ipsos MORI Scotland.

Mark Diffley, Research Director at Ipsos MORI said:

“As the Holyrood election looms ever closer, Labour has opened up a substantial lead in our latest poll. This represents a gradual shift in fortunes in the past 12 months which has seen the Labour’s share of the vote increase from 32% to 41% since November 2009, while the SNP’s share has fallen 36% to 31% over the same period. Labour also seems to be the main beneficiary from a fall in the popularity of the Liberal Democrats, who now stand at 11%, while the Conservatives stand at 13%.”

Who said polls in Scotland are designed to influence opinion?


2013-02-13 10:11

Newsnet Scotland should quote what the bbc said about ‘balance’ during the Holyrood elections, over sport for instance where Alex Salmond was prevented from innocent commentary on a sports match because the bbc claimed they needed to show ‘balance’-completely missing from the Olympic events right enough.

Make no mistake, the public charter of the bbc does not give them the choice when to be ‘balanced’, not with OUR money.

From The Suburbs
2013-02-13 10:39

The point that should be made to the BBC at all times is that the Greens and Independents have as many MSPs as the Lib Dems and should be given equal treatment (i.e alternate on any political / current affairs programme)
2013-02-13 10:42

It can’t be long until BBC Scotland play ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ to accompany the opening titles of Misreporting Scotland and ‘Jerusalem’ over the closing titles.
2013-02-13 11:21

“”were not obliged to ensure an equal representation”. BBC
So, their default choice is for bias.
I remember they used to ridicule the USSR for their bias.

Well, well.

2013-02-13 11:37

Complaining is pointless other than potential value of a log of complaints for future use.
The BBC hold the studios, the cameras, the license to broadcast,
all sanctioned by their Unionist political masters.
And they have your money via your license fee payment.
Why pay to be lied to?
Ah the fear factor – you may be fined if you dare receive a signal from a non-BBC satellite of a non-BBC programme, into your home.
To repeat – why pay to be lied to?
2013-02-13 12:49

For the BBC to claim it has no limitations or promises to produce balanced, FAIR & ethical programming is frankly, a nonsense on stilts!

it has hundreds of promises to provide listeners & viewers with fair and balanced standards in ALL it’s broadcasts.

It has been a very poor month for Unionist broadcasters with accusations of “misconstruing” foreign dignitary’s agreement with legal opinion for YesScotland, the PrimeMinister’s campaign hiring an expert that stated support for Scot’s independence (although Unionists appear to have either failed to read the report or understand it’s meaning), repeated accusations of breaches of the Offensive Communications Act as Scotland &Eire; suffered multiple insults & abuses on BBCQT editing, and the BBC’s hilarity at a cartoon requesting Scotland to go and get Fu**ed, then came the misspeak that Scotland (or North Britain) was secretly assimilated as a region of greater England in 1707.

2013-02-13 12:51

BBC Scotland is in full swing now regardless of their denials and their obfuscation to ensure the anti-independence, pro – unionist message is carried to the people of Scotland. It seems like they are p*****g against the wind, but that is historically expected from a metaphoric dying dinosaur. They know their number is up in Scotland and are clinging hopelessly to straws which will have to blow them back to their beloved england where they belong…Good Riddance. Vote YES 2014
2013-02-13 12:51

Why is BBC Scotland different for BBC radio 5 live, I listened to 5live for years and if they have someone on discussing a current topic they have to balance it out with an opposing view, from what I was lead to believe it’s the BBC way so why is BBC Scotland acting differently, surely there must be a way to put a stop to this.

Does anyone know what the likely outcome would be, if I said when taken to court for not having a TV license, that I’m not paying it on political grounds due to BBC bias which they have even admitted themselves ?

2013-02-13 14:45

I may have misheard the Distorting Scotland but I think the debate on independence in the HoC has been cancelled due to a furore over the separation/independence wording – anyone know??
2013-02-13 15:01

Hi Diablo,

Yes, heard that and they have an article on the website now:

“Scottish independence: Word ‘separate’ banned by Commons”…/…

“A row has broken out at Westminster after parliamentary ­authorities banned the use of the word “separate” in a Commons debate on independence.

The move by House of Commons clerks in the wake of SNP protests prompted Labour to cancel a debate on the future of Royal Mail in Scotland.”

I think the upshot of this is that the labour party are about to tell us that we can’t afford a state mail system without westminster subsidy, being the subsidy junkies that we in the something for nothing English region are!

call me dave
2013-02-13 15:26

I believe that the SNP were not responsible for the complaint (although they should be)
This according to BBC Radio 5 live.
It was the fact that according to the HoC administrators (paraphrasing here)

To debate (a separate Scotland mail service) would be to provide information about what things would / could look like in Scotland after independence, this is a no no!
(wait for this) any debate must have a ‘neutral’ heading / title.
Are you listening BBC!
Apparently it’s the jam tomorrow thing.

Vote NO and then we will tell you what the pig in the poke is.

Surprise! surprise! please don’t get fooled again


2013-02-13 15:01

I dont know if it’s been cancelled but there is certainly one helluva row going on because they have been told that the words ‘separate’ and ‘separation’ were not allowed. I assume they dont want to change their speeches. However without those words I’m sure they will still manage to be derogatory.
2013-02-13 16:38

Having always believed that Scotland was a clearly delineated country, the situation had been one of merely changing constitutional status back to independence and that therefore usage of terms like ‘separatists’ were wholly inappropriate.

[As compared to less well defined regions like the Basque region (part of which I believe is in France) where they would be separating out a brand new country.]

It is therefore ironic that with the recent revelation that Scotland is just a region of Greater England (yeah right!), they should choose to bar the usage now.

Or – conspiracy hat on – could this be seen as an attempt to re-bottle that genie by the UK government?


2013-02-13 15:08

Anyone concerned by these assertions by the BBC can sign the following epetition. The BBC should have to comply to Ofcom referendum regulations:…/…
2013-02-13 19:35

Done and shared on FB

2013-02-13 15:10

Not only do they not feel the need to be balanced, they don’t feel the need to report information either. In the Herald today, 13/2/13, there is a Times Mori poll showing 58% of under 25s support Independence. I don’t see this anywhere else, though others might have heard.
2013-02-13 16:32

Remember that a TV licence is only required to watch or record live TV programs, using any device, TV, laptop, settop box, etc. Watching programs using a catch up on demand service does NOT need a licence.
Mad Jock McMad
2013-02-13 17:25

Pete Wishart MP has posted this from his ‘twitter’ feed:…/

2013-02-13 17:38…/…

Scottish independence: Word ‘separate’ banned by Commons


From The Suburbs
2013-02-13 17:46

BBC Scotland keeps repeating the archaic monthly Scottish Questions from Westminster at 11.30 pm but no consideration for those of us who are working by repeating First Minister Questions in the evening.
2013-02-13 22:11

BBC Parliament normally show FMQs in full and without BBC spin at 23:30 the same day and again at week-ends. Not this week, though, as Holyrood is not sitting.

2013-02-13 18:24

If we are really serious about gaining Independence for our country we must support everything that helps towards that end. This issue is one of many to come and important. Come the days after the ‘big’ vote if it’s negative, how will we console our conscience. Set your sights on the high ground and go for it if not for yourself for the sake of generations to come. I’ll be there hell or high water.
2013-02-13 19:27

We don’t have to be balanced in Referendum Debate says BBC

No Change There Then!

Nor will there be unless we support the planned March and Rally in our thousands.

VOTE YES in 2014

2013-02-13 19:57

Will be very interesting when it comes to the official start date, then they will have to be balanced no more hiding and the lies will all be exposed thus delivering a big YES.In the meantime please keep exposing there bias and support the rally.
2013-02-13 20:32

Since there is no difference in policies between all three Unionist Parties in Holyrood, they should not have three spokespersons in any debate or political programme? The solution is quite simple. Put them on a rota..
2013-02-14 02:23

Quoting cuckooshoe:

Since there is no difference in policies between all three Unionist Parties in Holyrood, they should not have three spokespersons in any debate or political programme? The solution is quite simple. Put them on a rota..

Think your on to something there, Cuckoo, it’s always 3 Unionista’s against 1 YES voter – it should b the other way round, 3 YES versus 1 trougher;-)))


2013-02-13 20:33

The BBC should have to comply to Ofcom referendum regulations:…/…[/quote

Signed the petition but concerned the wording doesn’t cover the 18 months between now and the run-up to the referendum. The BBC claims this is why it doesn’t have to provide a balanced panel on QT. So what’s the answer, or is there some devil in the detail of Ofcom referendum regulations which would cover this situation?

2013-02-13 20:44

The BBC charter is just a fig leaf to try and give some legitimacy to what is in reality a state-sponsored propaganda machine.

That is why complaints to the BBC are fobbed off with disdain and why they can operate with impunity free from Freedom Information legislation and any other scrutiny that could expose their close links with Whitehall’s spooks who routinely plant stories via the BBC and MSM “in defence of the state”.

The sooner Scots wake up to this the sooner we will have a fair fight on our hands.

2013-02-13 20:50

OFF TOPIC Why does the BBC feel the need to transmit Prime Minister’s Question Time simultaneously on BBC2 Politics Show,the BBC News Channel and the BBC Parliamentary Channel
2013-02-13 21:18

Thanks X-sticks ,Call me Dave et al.

I really did think my ears were deceiving me but it was only the trailer for Scottish news – I gave up watching BBBC news a while back.Thinking of doing the same with STV since Lennon appears to take the most regular slot.

2013-02-13 22:01

I gave up on the BBC a long time ago, and found their replies to my complaints condescending in the extreme. (I know, we’ve all been there!) But I finally cracked after Brewer’s bullying attitude towards Nicola Sturgeon during the EU ‘story’. As the BBC put it in their reply, “people like his combative style.” Well I bloody don’t, and told them exactly what I thought of this self inflated windbag, before demanding a refund and cancelling all future licence payments. Asked for reasons, I referred them to previous complaints using the codes attached, and have been watching videos, DVD’s, and iPlayer since with no regrets. p.s. Does anyone know what has happened to Isobel Fraser. She is the only reporter I find with any sense of what that title really means.
2013-02-14 09:42

Kenneth. Isobel Fraser has committed the ultimate sin within the BBC – she showed she understood the concept of balance.
Despite the producer blaring in her earpiece, I believe she truly tried to be neutral but it was an up-hill struggle.
The podgy Kerr and the bland others are not up to the job and Paxman Jnr tends to be too much up his own **** for fairness.
As for the planting of spooks within, probably been there ever since 1999 ?.
2013-02-14 10:27

Regarding the TV licence, I know I can watch catch-up TV but in the light of BBC Scotland saying they do not have to be balanced regarding the Independence Debate until I presume 16 weeks before the vote I would dearly love to challenge this in court.

I’m not talking about hiring lawyers here, let them take me to court for refusing to pay the BBC for the privilege of biased one sided political content which they have admitted themselves, this at a time when our people will have to make the biggest decision ever faced by our citizens, it’s not the biggest decision in 300 years, we didn’t have a choice then. It’s the biggest decision ever.

The BBC is supposed to be fair and balanced at all times so with them admitting they are not I would surely have a valid case.

2013-02-14 12:24

Apologies for the long response, but I believe this adds a lot of background info. I complained about the similarly pro-unionist bias on Question Time back in October 2012.

You can read my complaint here…/…

This comment box isn’t big enough to send the response I got, but I can forward it to anyone who wants it.



2013-02-14 19:59

Well the SNP have just made a party political broadcast for the “Yes” campaign. So does that mean it’s started now? Someone phone the BBC and tell them.
2013-02-15 11:58

@UpSpake. Cheers. I think you are absolutely right. Sadly, Sundays haven’t been the same without Fraser. She gave everyone a hard time if they deserved it, and approached each interview with a forensic eye. It isn’t just her professionalism I miss, she comes over well as a decent human being with a genuine desire to inform the public. A sadly rare quality these days with air time being wasted on the ‘combative’ mini-me Paxman that is Brewer and his ilk, who seemingly consider themselves the stars of the show. As a consequence they fail miserably in their duty as news reporters. Come back Isobel, we need you!
Conan the Librarian™
2013-02-15 12:53

Interesting that a march for a balanced and informative debate should go along Cochrane St…
2013-02-16 10:37


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