BBC dismisses complaint over Jenny Marra NHS-payout ‘fake news’

The BBC’s internal watchdog has dismissed a complaint against BBC Scotland after the Glasgow based broadcaster allowed false claims from a Labour MSP to dominate its news coverage.

The Editorial Complaints Unit [ECU] said Pacific Quay behaved appropriately when it allowed an accusation from MSP Jenny Marra to lead its news output, because bulletins also included a denial from the Health Board Marra had falsely targeted.

In it’s ruling, the ECU wrote: “Ms Marra holds a senior position as the convenor of the Audit Committee and the BBC was entitled to report her claim about the award. NHS Tayside did not provide a figure for the payment but its denial was carried prominently.

“I consider that the fact that Reporting Scotland attributed the figure to Ms Marra would have made it clear to a viewer that it was not one which the BBC was able to report as undisputed fact. The prominence of the denial by NHS Tayside would also have underlined the fact that the figure was contested.

“Accordingly I do not believe viewers would have been materially misled and I am not upholding your complaint.”

The complaint was submitted after a story appeared across BBC Scotland platforms on Monday August 6th.  The story was based on comments given to BBC Scotland by Scottish Labour MSP, Jenny Marra.  Ms Marra told the BBC she understood a payment of over £300,000 had been made to the former Chief Executive of NHS Tayside.

Shortly afterwards, a BBC Scotland film crew confronted Nicola Sturgeon with the claim.  The FM’s response was heard on news bulletins.


An article appeared online with the following headline ‘Former NHS Tayside chief executive ‘received £300,000 pay-off‘.  However despite a strongly worded statement from NHS Tayside calling the claim “categorically untrue”, the story led Reporting Scotland that evening.

“The claims made about any sum of money received by Ms McLay are categorically untrue.  As with any NHS Tayside employee, Ms McLay received what she was contractually entitled to and nothing more upon leaving the organisation.”

Following the BBC Scotland news reports, Tory MSP Miles Briggs issued a statement attacking “SNP Ministers”.  The MSP included a link to the BBC Scotland article.

Other opposition politicians attacked Scottish government Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman.

Viewers to that evening’s edition of Reporting Scotland witnessed the First Minister being confronted by a BBC Scotland film-crew.

However the accusation on which the news reports had been based was subsequently shown to be fake when the Health Board revealed the figure paid to its former Chief Executive was less than one third that claimed by Jenny Marra.

Commenting on the ruling from the BBC watchdog, the complainant said: “This was a glaring example of fake news.

“BBC Scotland didn’t apply any scrutiny to Jenny Marra’s claim that £300,000 had been paid out. For all we know she made it up.

“Even when unambiguosly told by the Health Board that the £300,000 figure was codswallop, the corporation continued headlining Marra’s accusation as though credible.

“Unionist politicians will be rubbing their hands in glee now they know they can level any wild allegation with not a shred of evidence and it will still be headlined by this compliant sham of a public broadcaster.”


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12 thoughts on “BBC dismisses complaint over Jenny Marra NHS-payout ‘fake news’

  1. John

    What a surprise , but keep piling the complaints in , there has got to come a day when we get an honest broadcaster in Scotland that is not in Labour’s pockets !

  2. Thoams

    Unbelievable absolutely unbelievable, even when they are caught lying they wont admit it, even when they were informed the figure was completely untrue they still continued to report it.

    They have absolutely to credibility what so ever its now a second rate shitty propaganda channel, absolute disgrace of an organisation. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud. I am utterly shocked at the level of duplicity and lies now being reported on the BBC and they don’t give a shit.

  3. Robert Graham

    This government organisation certainly won’t criticise another government organisation ,

    These two go in the same frame with the electoral commission , they all follow the same script while outwardly presenting a fair and balanced approach to everyone while protecting a very suspect and devious Westminster government ,

    They all are in the end the proverbial brick wall ,answerable to the Westminster gang who happens to be in charge at any particular time,

    Keep up the good work and lets hope more people waken up to the fact they are actually being deceived and on a grand scale , its difficult when the whole Scottish media are on the same side and following the same line , protect the union .

  4. Brian Powell

    The two possibilities: BBC is utterly corrupt or it is utterly incompetent news service, not understanding how presenting news works.
    I say it is corrupt and it knows how to misrepresent and distort.

  5. Brian Powell

    Though this does raise another issue, as ‘Ms Marra holds a senior position as the convenor of the Audit Committee’ and she issued a lie, then she is not competent to hold such an important position.

  6. Jon

    The Yes movement have to educate the public about media lies. We have to get this message out to those who live in ignorance.
    Rob the British Nationalists of their means of control.

  7. Robert Graham

    The biggest march and conference this year will shortly be held in Scotland and as per usual these events will be mostly ignored by all the media , what are they scared of .I mean this precious union works for all dosnt it so will stand the test of time .Aye Right .

  8. Independent Woman

    Where is the SNP unit which was set up to refute British Unionist lies and misinformation? I can’t believe they don’t read this website. It is up to them to take the BBC to task over their constant behaviour in doorstepping SNP figures to explain British Unionist lies and misrepresentations while allowing said BRs to spout any tripe they like and giving it pride of place in their running order of news.

    Can the SNP submit a FOI query to the BBC over the frequency of complaints about biased and inaccurate reporting and get some idea of the numbers of these complaints being dismissed out of hand?

    As I said in an earlier post, individual complainants are being blown a giant raspberry by the BBC as they say ‘Ya boo sucks to you.’

  9. Col

    The colonialist BBC will never stop their efforts to damage those who they see as a direct threat to their power. I wish SNP ministers and Nicola Sturgeon when being interviewed with false accusations would instead of answering throw it right back at them by asking are you going to lead your news tonight with a non story? Make sure always that someone is there actually filming the interview also. Cut the interview leaving them with nothing.
    The BBC are wider than the clyde they sit alongside. Time we played them at their own game I think because the current approach isn’t working and hasn’t been for a long time. Let’s put a little fear into the propagandists of them being exposed for what they are. They might think twice in the future but we all know they would just change their tactics to suit the new environment they find themselves in.
    They may act like their untouchable but they are not.

  10. Jason Smoothpiece

    There should be consequences for politicians and broadcasters including the press who mislead the public with lies.

    I am talking jail time for these scumbags.

    Their activities are simply an attack on democracy pure and simple.

  11. gregor

    BBC says:

    Journalists must operate within legal and ethical guidelines…and follow codes of conduct which set out good, ethical practice….Broadcast journalists must follow ethical guidelines set out in the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

    Good practice detailed in the codes includes:

    * The double-checking of sources.

    Journalists are entitled to breach these guidelines only in cases of overwhelming public interest (public interest itself being a strong ethical principle).

    Public interest includes:

    * Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

  12. Neil McDonald

    Come independence one of the very first things on the agenda should be the setting up of a SCOTTISH national broadcaster COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of any ties to any other UK broadcasting body .Secondly the rescinding of BBC License fees which have NEVER given a balanced value or output of programming that reflects ALL of Scottish society.The London /SE imbalance of output and input has NEVER truly given value outside the London/Home Counties in balance of content, production or jobs.

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