BBC Scotland’s new current affairs show won’t address its ‘news deficit’

A new current affairs show has been announced by BBC Scotland.  The weekly half-hour show will be called ‘Timeline’.  It begins on January 26th.

The programme name is a play on the term used to describe messages that appear to a user on twitter.  The head of news at BBC Scotland, Gary Smith, said Timeline would be “the weekly centrepiece of a new engagement with our audience”.

According to the BBC, “the public would help shape the agenda of the programme which is to have a distinctive online and social media presence.”

How the public will “shape” the agenda of the programme is not explained although the mention of online and social media suggests this may be the conduit within which we, the public, set this agenda.

The show is presumably Donalda Mackinnon’s answer to what she acknowledged was a “deficit” in BBC Scotland news and current affairs.  What we know of the show suggests Donalda’s deficit may in fact increase.

The two hosts are themselves part of the deficit.  Glenn Campbell and Shereen Nanjiani are part of the old guard which have produced the political output that has led to the erosion of trust in BBC Scotland.

Nanjiani’s Saturday radio show is a perfect example of the elite culture that pervades BBC Scotland.  Guests are chosen from a tiny pool that rarely if ever challenges the main stream narrative of the day.  The show is saved from the radio booby prize by the dreadful Kaye Adams phone-in, a show that merits a licence fee rebate.

Below is an example of the media consensus that Nanjaini’s show indulges it.  The first voice you’ll hear is uber_Unionist and former former Lib Dem candidate Christine Jardine who loathes the SNP.


The choice of Glenn Campbell can only have been made by someone with no knowledge of his questionable past record when it comes to political reporting.  This is the guy who thought it acceptable to rip up the SNP manifesto after the 2007 election.  He pursued a relentless pro-Unionist agenda in the aftermath of the Megrahi release, notoriously describing Kenny MacAskill as “The Toast of Tripoli”.

During the independence referendum Campbell was taken to task by Luxembourg government officials after misrepresenting the country by claiming it was opposed to Scottish independence.

During last year’s Scottish election, Campbell suppressed Kezia Dugdale’s tax rebate U-turn on Reporting Scotland before misleading listeners on the same issue the day after on Good Morning Scotland [A complaint about this is still traversing the BBC’s complaints process even now].

The man is arguably the reporter trusted least by supporters of independence. He positively thrives when given the opportunity to promote anti-SNP smears.

Below is an infamous clip of him hectoring and interrupting Nicola Sturgeon in 2010.

The message sent to licence payers by installing Nanjiani and Campbell as the presenters of their new weekly current affairs programme is ‘business as usual’.  If Donalda Mackinnon wants to address the deficit she acknowledges is there, then this is not a good start.

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19 thoughts on “BBC Scotland’s new current affairs show won’t address its ‘news deficit’

  1. Kevin

    “Okay then, we’ll have Mr Campbell and Ms Nanjiani front this show, it’ll be perfect!”

    “Eh, Donalda, there might be some who don’t like our message”..
    “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about them, we’ll put our message across unchallenged”..

    “I’m not so sure about that. It’s not like the old days when we rode rough-shod over them, ignored their grievances, had them eat cake, and…”

    “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Gary, shut-up!”


  2. bringiton

    I suspect that the only people in Scotland who now follow BBC Scotland political programs are hard line unionists.
    This is their audience to which they have to play,anything else risks losing that diminishing number of people.
    A bit like the Labour party in Scotland and even the Tories in due course.

  3. Philip Maughan

    in his book ‘The BBC, myth of a public service’, Tom Mills summarises the BBCs relationship with the public rather well. Given the BBCs aims are to Inform, Educate and Entertain, delivery of the first two seems to be via the BBC deciding what we the public need to be Informed and Educated about – it’s a one-way street. Mills argues that a truly ‘public’ service broadcaster would provide a voice for the general public. Currently they appear to do this only on Question Time when David Dimbleby asks members of the audience for their two-pennyworth. The other 99.9% of current affairs broadcasting seems to be ‘experts’ giving us the benefit of their wisdom. If the BBC was a truly ‘public’ service, perhaps the misgivings of the many people who voted for Brexit would have been flagged up rather earlier than the 24th. June.

  4. Lochside

    ‘Doomwatch’ would be more appropriate. This vehicle for the continuin stream of Brit propaganda will die stillborn. Campbell and Nanjiani are paid collaborators.

  5. Clydebuilt

    Antidote to BBC’s propaganda

    Encourage Scots to listen / watch FMQ’s

    The case for an Independent Scotland made by our FM in the way she chooses without interruption.

    The stupidity of Unionist politicians laid bare for all to see.

    Simples init!

      1. Col

        Such a blatant display of one sided commentary does give us an opportunity to highlight the agenda of the BBC in Scotland to those who may have doubts.
        I have spoken to no voting friends and family who are aware of the biased behaviour emanating from Pacific Quay and they didn’t like it either because even they recognise the implications of such behaviour.
        Can we say in all honesty that we live in a democracy while the media in this country are hell bent on destroying the elected government while doing everything they can to protect the other parties. Even if that means shielding paedophiles from the spotlight with the implications of such a move being them escaping justice because possible victims would not be aware of that person going through the justice system and may not speak to the police with further evidence?

  6. Andy McKirdy

    As said many times before the BBC are the official opposition to independence. This is a series which we should rename “a party political broadcast on behalf of the BBC party”
    As stated by many above, only the unenlighted or proper yoons watch any news or current affairs the Beeb put out anyway!!!

  7. Dan Huil

    The britnat bbc shows no sign of ditching its anti-Scottish bias. Indeed if anything it has become more blatant.

  8. millie

    This new programme will just be an extension of what we saw on Reporting Scotland tonight- Misleading re Cromarty oil transfers- ie not highlighting that Westminster has control.

    A wee BBC opinion piece letting us all know that NHS Scotland is not ‘that’ much better than NHS England.

    A positive Scotrail piece which actually sounded quite negative.

    As an aside, I have mentioned before, keep your eye on the Parliamentary Reform Commission. One to watch.

    Jack McConnell was giving evidence today. See BBC headline on it.

  9. Alasdair Macdonald

    The author is right to point out the very – really very narrow – pool from which Ms Nanjiani’s panellists are chosen, and he might have mentioned the tag line, “are you thinking what we’re thinking?” which was Mr Michael Howard’s Conservative party slogan for the 2006 GE. Mr Tom Watson, in his book about his struggles with Rupert Murdoch (in which he was genuinely heroic) praises Mr Campbell for his supportiveness. Now, given the context, such supportiveness was acceptable, but, as the author makes clear, Mr Campbell has been particularly hostile to the SNP and generally ignores the Greens. So, a disappointing choice of anchors.

    Had the BBC been serious about being radical with this programme, it could have involved many of those involved in the electronic media, such as Common Space, Wings, Newsnet, etc and other websites presenting different political perspectives, as well as providing a geographical spread. Alba, for example, provides excellent and insightful coverage of things from a Highlands and Islands perspective, so there is genuine in-house talent in the BBC. We need to have similar perspectives presented from the Borders, Fife, the North East, etc. There should be opportunities for different groups of ‘new’ Scots or those whose family histories were in other parts of the globe.

    So, this is a missed opportunity.

  10. Andy McKirdy

    Alasdair, I don’t think it was ever going to be any other kind of opportunity, missed or otherwise.
    The BBC has absolutely NO intention of changing its spots. It is, as part of the British establishment, fundamentally opposed to Scottish independence and as such will never project Scotland in a positive manner.
    We will continue to be patronised with these type of “new” ways of doing things, nothing has changed and nothing will change in BBC land.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald


      “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,” as Gramsci wrote.

      Most of the evidence indicates that your pessimistic scepticism is justified. However, I think that we need to apply the second part, too, and put forward constructive suggestions which appeal to the better nature of people. To win independence, we have to convince a number of former ‘No’ voters to change. Some of them have a reasonable regard for the BBC and are susceptible to its output. In order to get a shift in attitude we need to put forward ideas which are relatively close to those they hold already, and are thus more easily accommodated within their own schema, but, nevertheless have produced a shift towards scepticism of much of the BBC’s output.

      A second point (and I have just made the error in the preceding paragraph!) is that the BBC is a construct and in our discourse we are reifying it. It is made up of many individuals and some of them will have personal views which are different from the views we are ascribing to ‘the BBC’. We need to put forward arguments which some of them can adopt and adapt to argue for change within the BBC. Changing institutional cultures is hard (I have had to do it on several occasions before I retired) but it can be done. The institutional culture will shift if some within the institution shift (but, on the other hand, they might be given their ‘jotters’ or shifted to reporting on traffic or sheep sales in Hawick)

  11. Dr Jim

    Reporting any news as bad news is good news for lazy “Journalists” it’s easy and requires no effort other than being unpleasant, and in old fashioned terms, it sells…..but does it?

    In the olden days of black and white when folk couldn’t check the validity of a story it did but not now and it’s not just the BBC it’s all of them, although the BBC agenda of searching and scrabbling around to create bad news particularly if they can lay it at the door of the SNP has become simply blatant bias which they don’t even try to hide anymore

    Good news doesn’t happen in Scotland and any impartial viewer would be forgiven for thinking Scotland was a terrible awful place and that friends is the responsibility of the BBC because we pay for it through our government tax which is the pretendy TV license

    The rise of the SNP wasn’t luck or a mistake it was and is Scotlands awakening, we’ve had enough and we want the forces of Unionism to cease and desist from running our, yes, our country down
    Scotland leads the world in many fields of expertise recognised throughout the world by many countries but you would’nt know it from the level of BBC reporting

    The target audience of the BBC is the old the bewildered and the Unionist I would suggest the first two of these categories is a diminishing return
    So how long does the BBC keep employing the same tactic and hoping it’ll work by being increasingly more unpleasant about the SNP and it’s voters
    In the last month SNP membership has jumped by around another thousand to well over 120 thousand members, now folk are not joining a party because they don’t like them or out of stupidity so who’s wrong

    And that’s the problem with the BBC Labour party and it’s the more they shout at us we’re wrong the more we wonder why then the more we check the facts then the more we reject the BBC

    See how that works!

  12. john

    Thumbs down Donalda before your program has even been aired . Your total lack of vision is astounding . This could have been a program that tried to bring a bit of credibility to the BBC in their political outlook . If she thinks this is what Scots viewers want ,she hasn’t a clue . This is supposed to be the new face of the BBC in Scotland and we are stuck with the same old presenters that we are fed up listening to because of their bias . Back to the drawing board Donalda , zero marks for thinking outside of the BBC agenda box !

  13. Kenny

    Whether the show is good, bad or indifferent, you’ve got to wonder about the BBC’s priorities when it comes to news and analysis. If Holyrood is really becoming the devolviest parliament in the world, why would now be the time to slash the amount of time devoted to analysing Scottish politics? It’s quite conceivable that Newsnight in a given week might cover the English health service, policing, prisons, education and sporting structures (along with international and UK-wide issues like Trump or climate change or defence or Europe or whatever.) “TImeline” would only have time to cover one of those, or maybe more but in substantially less depth. It’s a serious and unarguable deficit in the service provided to licence fee payers in Scotland.

    We all know that these problems already exist, given the “English by default” approach of the BBC. For example, the English national football, rugby and cricket teams get extensive coverage on the “national” news, whereas Scotland’s teams mostly only get covered on Reporting Scotland. Club football is even worse; the BBC spends £100m per year on English football but only £4m on ALL Scottish sport, and God help you if you want to see Scottish teams playing in Europe and even, on occasion, the Scottish national team playing competitive matches. I’m inclined to think that there’s a legal challenge to be made. After all, the BBC surely ought to provide the same (or at least an equivalent) service to everyone across the UK. That’s manifestly not the case. It’d be an interesting case to bring, given some of the witnesses that could be called. Tony Blair, for one, testifying on his work with John Birt on shooting down the Scottish Six proposals, would be a hell of an interesting thing to see (and perhaps more importantly would be a news story in and of itself, so the news media would be more or less obligated to report on the very fact that there was a case in progress to force the BBC to acknowledge its lopsidedness.) Greater legal minds than mine would need to figure out how that might work, but I think if we want to address that lopsidedness (I’m using that word from now on rather than “bias” because I think it better reflects the underlying problem and doesn’t have the same “zoomer” connotation) then it might be a really powerful way of doing it.

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