The BBC has defended its promotion of a false front page headline published by The Herald newspaper, insisting its broadcast of newspaper front pages is “appropriate for us to do so”.
In a response to a complaint after a fake news headline was promoted on Radio Scotland and BBC Scotland online, an official said: “We regularly report on what the newspapers are reporting on any given day and are satisfied it is appropriate for us to do so.”
The broadcaster also refused to address a call in the complaint for a correction to be issued, insisting the claim had been attributed to The Herald and the false headline had subsequently been corrected by the paper in its online version..
The BBC response added: “We believe it was clear in both cases you have mentioned that we attributed the claims made to The Herald. Our online piece introduction reads: Nicola Sturgeon faces criticism in several papers during her trip to China.
“There is then a link to the amended Herald story which reads: The Herald’s top story details a ‘planning row’ after SNP ministers intervened in a controversial application backed by the Chinese government.”
The complaint centred around BBC Scotland coverage of a headline that appeared on the front page of The Herald newspaper on April 13th. The headline read: ‘Fury after Sturgeon pulls rank on Chinese wind farm’. Beneath the headline, a sub-heading read: ‘FM overrules council planners a day before Beijing meeting with financers’.
The newspaper headline was included in a series of headlines read out by Good Morning Presenter Gary Robertson that same morning.
An image of The Herald front page appeared in the BBC Scotland online daily newspaper section that day. Headlined ‘The papers: Sturgeon’s China wind farm row‘, the article was the third item on the BBC Scotland main online news page. The introductory sentence read: “A row over Chinese investors makes Scotland’s front pages as the first minister calls in a planning decision.”
Both The Herald front page and the BBC’s own brief summary were false. Nicola Sturgeon had neither called in a planning decision nor had she pulled rank on, or overruled, council planners. The day after The Herald published its front page, the newspaper issued a correction and an apology.
According to the complaint, the correction should have been given the same coverage by BBC Scotland as that given to the fake news headline promoted by the corporation.
The complaint, which can be seen in full here, stated: “Given the false front page accusation was broadcast word-for-word on Good Morning Scotland, then it is only fair that the correction and apology is also broadcast word-for-word on the same programme.
“Given an image of the front page appeared in BBC Scotland’s online newspaper promo that same day, then it is only fair that an image of the apology and correction also appear in the same section.”
The complaint also highlighted the BBC’s own erroneous claim that the “first minister calls in a planning decision” and called for a similar correction.
The response from the BBC has been met with anger on socal media with many commentators accusing the corporation of using its newspaper reviews in order to promote politically motivated stories from newspapers that hold anti-SNP and anti-Independence editorial lines. Below is a broadcast from August 2016 which saw attacks on the SNP by pro-Union newspapers read out on Radio Scotland’s flagship morning news programme.
The Herald’s attempt to smear the First Minister over trade talks with China wasn’t the first time such newspaper smear stories have received promotion courtsey of BBC Scotland. In 2016 a similar smear campaign was aired on Good Morning Scotland.
Perhaps the most infamous newspaper review broadcast by BBC Scotland occured seven days before the 2014 independence referendum which witnessed a plethora of anti-independence headlines read out by Good Morning Scotland presenters.
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