BBC news has been forced to apologise after misleading viewers on figures contained in the latest GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] report.
On Wednesday the broadcaster claimed GERS showed that the Scottish government had spent £13bn more last year than it raised.
Following the news broadcast, SMP MSP tweeted his anger: “This is disgraceful @BBCNews – Your presenter clearly states that GERS says “…the Scottish Government last year spent nearly £13.5Bn more than it raised…”. This is a really serious factual error & I expect to see a equally prominent/high profile apology to @DerekMackaySNP!
On Thursday, BBC News at One issued a correcttion and an apology. Newsreader Jane Hill stated: “We said that the Scottish government last year spent nearly thirteen billion pounds more than it raised.
“That was incorrect. That figure covers all public sector expenditure in Scotland, including areas controlled by the UK government and other public bodies.
“We apologise for that mistake on yesterday’s programme.”
The error is a carbon copy of a similar misleading broadcast last year. In 2017 Reporting Scotland was found to have misled viewers after presenter Jackie Bird told viewers “The Scottish Government is spending nearly fifteen billion pounds more than it’s bringing in in tax.”
In its ruling the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit said of Jackie Bird’s introduction: “The sentence complained of gave the impression that the report which followed was about revenue raised and spending incurred by the Scottish Government, whereas it combined figures for the Scottish and UK governments. Though the report itself was duly accurate, it did not offset this misleading impression.”
However, despite a request from the complainant that a correction be broadcast that “reaches the same audience that heard the inaccurate statement”, there was no correction from BBC Scotland.
The BBC is currently investigating a similar complaint after a broadcast last week on Reporting Scotland witnessed Ms Bird tell viewers that Scottish GDP had “roughly matched” the GDP of the rest of the UK for the first quarter of 2018.
She said: “Growth in the Scottish economy was stronger at the start of this year than previously thought. Figures published today show that it roughly matched the growth rate of the UK as a whole.”
In fact economic data for the first quarter of the year found Scotland’s GDP was 0.4% for the period, which was double the corresponding UK figure of 0.2%, and did not “roughly match” that of the UK.
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