Prior to each Autumn Conference this year, Reporting Scotland carried an item for each of the four main parties – Lib Dems, Labour, Conservatives and the SNP. Indyref2 recorded each of the items in turn and each can be seen below.
The reason we have reproduced each of the items is to demonstrate the different approaches adopted by Reporting Scotland for each party. The results will not surprise those of you who are familiar with BBC Scotland’s handling of political news.
Vince Cable pre-conference 13/09/18
Vince Cable’s interview was the tenth story on that evening’s Reporting Scotland. It was missing from the programme’s introductory bulletin. The Lib Dem leader is asked about a second independence referendum, a so-called ‘peoples vote’ and who his replacement as leader might be. Viewers are presented with footage of Jo Swinson holding her baby. The interview is very comfortable and provides Cable with a platform to push his message which he readily accepts. Time length two minutes.
Jeremy Corbyn pre-conference 20/09/18
Jeremy Corbyn’s interview was the fifth item on the programme. It was mentioned third in the programme’s introductory bulletin. Corbyn is asked whether he would ‘allow’ a second independence referendum, his views on a second EU referendum and whether he’d leave the EU. The questions were gently probing with Nick Eardley pressing the Labour leader. Corbyn is allowed to answer with no attempt to deviate by the interviewer. Time length is just under three minutes.
Theresa May pre-conference 27/09/18
Theresa May’s interview was the lead story on that evening’s Reporting Scotland. It was the first item in the programme’s introductory bulletin. Theresa May is asked whether there should be a second independence referendum. The interviewer mentions the ‘Tory revival in Scotland’ and the fishing sector is introduced as the item moves onto Brexit. The PM is asked for her views on Nicola Sturgeon. The item is very comfortable and provides Theresa May with opportunities to attack Nicola Sturgeon and the issue of a second independence referendum. The inclusion of fishing helps May present Brexit in a positive light. Time length is just under three and a half minutes.
Keith Brown pre-conference 05/10/18
Keith Brown’s interview was the seventh item on the programme. It was missing from the programme’s introductory bulletin. The item starts with the SNP MSP talking about Brexit and the party’s Single Market/Customs Union preference, however interviewer Andrew Kerr immediately veers off with a clip of Alex Salmond on his RT show. Viewers are told the show is “controversial” and that there are “tensions between the [SNP] leadership and the membership on independence”. Andrew Kerr frames comments by Alex Neil as “calls from the membership”. The issue of a second EU referendum is raised with the BBC reporter telling viewers “The Liberal Democrats have urged the SNP to show leadership on the issue”. The item is odd with the interviewer appearing to be trying to combat Keith Brown’s attempted message on Brexit and a second independence referendum. Time length is just under two and a half minutes.
There is a very clear difference in approach between all four interviews. Theresa May is offered the highest profile of the four. The Tory PM’s attack on Nicola Sturgeon led that evening’s programme. It was also the longest in terms of duration. Only Vince Cable enjoyed a similar soft approach in terms of questions and presentation, however the Lib Dem leader’s interview was pushed way down the programme pecking order.
Jeremy Corbyn was pressed on areas most would deem uncomfortable. The interview though was a straight question and answer with no diversionary video clips and subjective summaries from the BBC reporter.
The interview with Keith Brown was completely different in terms of presentation and editing. It was the only interview that featured clips aimed at undermining the SNP man’s message. It was the only interview that included an attack from another party [Lib Dems]. Claims by the interviewer of “tensions” between the SNP leadership and the party membership over independence suggested an agenda on the part of Andrew Kerr. That a different approach was used in the SNP pre-conference interview, to that used in the Conservative pre-conference interview, is beyond dispute.
It’s worth noting that the BBC raises the issue of independence in each interview. If Ruth Davidson is tired if hearing about a second independence referendum then she should perhaps aim her ire at the British state broadcaster.
The SNP Conference
It’s worth keeping an eye on BBC Scotland’s coverage of the SNP conference this weekend and into next week. Do not be surprised if the broadcaster seeks to suggest differences between the independence movement and the SNP with respect to the timing of a second independence referendum. Look out for the phrase “pressure on Nicola Sturgeon”. Brexit may be presented only in terms of a so-called ‘people’s vote’. The four video clips above are proof that the BBC cannot be trusted.
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