The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit [ECU] has upheld an appeal against BBC Scotland after the broadcaster refused to address a complaint over one of its news broadcasts.
The ECU sided with the complainant after BBC Scotland twice refused to address claims it was operating different naming conventions for the Scottish government depending on how controversial a story was.
According to the complainant, the broadcaster was employing a pejorative convention when reporting on controversial issues which involved the Scottish government. The convention saw the description of the administration changed to the “SNP government”. The complaint followed a broadcast on the flagship radio programme Good Morning Scotland.
On the programme, broadcast on April 29th, listeners heard presenter Laura Maxwell use politically benign terms when describing the UK and Welsh governments. However instead of describing the Scottish government in similar benign fashion, the presenter used the term “SNP government”.
Following the broadcast, a complaint was submitted which said: “There is a clear lack of consistency here. Conservative and Labour run administrations are not identified along party lines, only the SNP led administration is.”
The complaint included the following two requests:
1. An acknowledgement that this lack of consistency is unacceptable, a mistake and will not be repeated.
2. I would also appreciate a formal acknowledgement that production teams at BBC Scotland will be informed that the practice of describing the Scottish Govt as the ‘SNP Govt’ on exclusively controversial issues will end, unless reporters or presenters are quoting a third party.
However despite submitting the complaint well within the time limits as stated by the BBC, BBC Scotland chiefs refused to address it. According to Pacific Quay, the complaint was a follow up to an earlier similar complaint and the earlier date meant the new complaint was time-barred.
Despite having it pointed out them that this complaint was a separate stand-alone complaint, which was made clear in the complaint text, BBC Scotland still refused to address it.
Frustrated and angry at the behaviour of BBC Scotland, the complainant appealed to the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit.
“I have attempted to have the complaint addressed twice and been thwarted twice. Rather than seek to untangle the mess that is the arithmetic being presented to me as reason not to accept the complaint, I have one simple request to the ECU and that is that my original complaint – wrongly deemed to have been submitted too late – is now addressed.”
In an official response received yesterday, the ECU sided with the complainant and upheld the appeal.
An ECU official said: “Your complaint of 10 May makes reference to the earlier correspondence and indicates you had accepted, at the time, the reply you received. It then goes on to complain about the same issue using a different example. I can therefore understand why this was treated as a follow-up. Indeed this is confirmed in your email to me when you state that you gave BBC Scotland the benefit of the doubt when complaining in March. Effectively on your own admission therefore you are picking up the same complaint but citing a different broadcast.
“That said, I think two points tip the scales in favour of accepting your appeal. First, I agree that you have cited a new example of your concerns taken from a different programme. Second there has, as yet, been no substantive response to the general point you raise and I think the onus remains on BBC Scotland to provide one. I am therefore upholding your appeal and have asked BBC Scotland to respond directly to you. If you remain dissatisfied with their response you will have the opportunity to escalate your concerns to the ECU in the usual way.”
A fuller explanation of the complaint and its origins can be viewed here.
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