Fake news from a fake national broadcaster

bbc_north_britainLast week witnessed the latest in what Pacific Quay euphemistically calls ‘A BBC Scotland Investigation’ when a Freedom of Information request revealed figures relating to call handling by Police Scotland.

The figures appeared impressive, showing only 82 so-called ‘near misses’ in just under two million calls.  It was an average of only one ‘near miss’ in 22,500.

But that wasn’t how BBC Scotland chose to present the figures.

Below is the first sentence of the BBC Scotland online article published on Friday morning.

A BBC investigation has revealed a catalogue of errors in emergency call handling by Police Scotland.

original-emergency-headlineLeaving aside the description of Freedom of Information requests as ‘an investigation’, the phrase that jumps out is ‘catalogue of errors’.

The other thing that jumps out is the word ‘emergency’.

Indeed the article headline made clear that the story was all about emergency calls.

The BBC was inviting the public to infer that emergency call handling at Police Scotland is chaotic, out of control, perhaps ominously unreliable.  It was as subtle as a sledgehammer.

But there was another angle BBC Scotland was trying to work in.  Below is another sentence from the online article.

The logging of “near misses” follows Police Scotland’s failure to act on a 999 call about a crash on the M9 last year which resulted in the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.

Not content with painting emergency call handling as out of control with calls being ‘mishandled’,  someone at Pacific Quay was desperate to embellish the story by conflating it with another – the M9 tragedy.

Indeed the M9 tragedy soon became the focal point of the BBC’s reporting.  Below is the first mention of the ‘emergency call investigation’ on Radio Scotland’s flagship morning news programme Good Morning Scotland.

 

Good Morning Scotland presenter Hayley Millar tells listeners that the M9 tragedy followed an emergency 999 call to Police Scotland.  Her claim is followed by a lengthy piece by colleague Peter Strachan delivered in typical melodramatic fashion.

 

The 999 claim was repeated by reporter Lucy Adams who was responsible for sending the Freedom of Information requests on which the carefully manipulated ‘news’ story was built.

 

It’s clear that a great deal of planning and resource had gone into the presentation of the emergency call ‘investigation’.  Someone had very clearly saw an opportunity to link it to the M9 tragedy, thus spicing up a mundane ‘numbers’ story with a human tragedy angle.  It was simple embellishment.

There was one flaw in the carefully planned ruse.  There was never any 999 call made in the M9 tragedy.

A call had indeed been made to the police three days before officers discovered the car on the M9.  But it wasn’t an emergency 999 call.  A 101 call by a passer-by had reported that a car had left the road.  The non-emergency call was fielded by an officer who had omitted to record it in the police system.

Last Friday morning myself and others on social media began tweeting corrections to BBC Scotland’s claims.

What was BBC Scotland to do?  It was already off and running and was linking the M9 tragedy to its ’emergency call investigation’ in news bulletins.  Its online article, which was the number one story, contained the same erroneous claim.  According to others on twitter, the false 999 claim was being repeated on the breakfast editions of Reporting Scotland.  It was everywhere.

As anger built on social media, BBC Scotland simply altered the thrust of its coverage of the ‘investigation’.  The word ‘Emergency’ was dropped from the online article headline and replaced with the word ‘Police’.

headline-change

The article itself was edited to remove the word ’emergency’ from the opening sentence and to correct the claim that the M9 tragedy had followed a 999 call.  Now included in the ‘investigation’ was 101 calls.  You can see the alterations in the image below.

online-article-changes

Good Morning Scotland began changing its bulletins.  Gone was any mention of 999 calls when referring to the M9 tragedy.  The story now included non-emergency included 101 calls.

 

The broadcaster was now reporting correctly that it was in fact a 101 call that had been received in the M9 tragedy.  By the time Reporting Scotland aired that evening the story had been repackaged to include 101 calls.  It was no longer exclusively about emergency calls.  It had to include non-emergency calls, else the M9 tragedy, which was already a major part of the BBC’s presentation, could not be included.

BBC Scotland’s top news story that day was being systematically manipulated before our eyes in order to suit a pre-conceived agenda.  It was quite incredible to witness.

So what happened here?  My guess is that Lucy Adams was simply doing as instructed by a superior.  Adams is genuine journalist.  She has never given the appearance of someone who would push an agenda.

She was probably ordered to fire off Freedom of Information requests in the hope that something would turn up.  When the results were received it was decided to use them in order to resurrect a tragedy that had witnessed considerable pressure being exerted onto Police Scotland.  That pressure had ended with the resignation of Stephen House, which in turn was used to undermine the competence of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership which was in its infancy back in August 2015.

Indeed I wrote this at the time:

I suspect what we are witnessing is the creation of what will be presented to the public as Nicola Sturgeon’s first crisis.  The First Minister has had a phenomenal first few months as leader of her party and head of the Scottish Government.  She survived the memogate smear which was intended to derail the SNP’s general election campaign.  A bid by Buckingham Palace to undermine her also failed.  Unionists have struggled to find a weakness in Alex Salmond’s successor.
The Holyrood recess ends on August 30th.  The next First Minister’s Questions is scheduled for September 3rd.  Do not be surprised to see Police Scotland wielded by Scottish Labour and its Unionist allies as they try to dent Sturgeon’s popularity.

The idiot[s] who dreamt up the idea of conflating the M9 tragedy with a story about emergency call handling hadn’t realised that there was no emergency call involved in the M9 tragedy.  But it isn’t surprising if they actually believed there had been.  The BBC has repeatedly sought to imply that the M9 crash was reported to police via an emergency 999 call.

Back in August 2015, Reporting Scotland ran the following new item.

The reason for the item back in August was apparently comments from M9 victim Lamara Bell’s brother who was responding to the allegations from a “whistleblower” that 999 calls weren’t being addressed.

We can’t know whether the gentleman whose sister went through an appalling experience before losing her fight for life gave his comment after being prompted to do so by the BBC, or whether he volunteered his response independent of the BBC.  What we do know is that BBC Scotland managed to headline unconfirmed allegations from an unnamed individual over an emergency call system that had nothing to do with the M9 tragedy.

So successful was the BBC’s misleading coverage of the M9 tragedy, that professional journalists were to repeat the 999 lie when appearing on the BBC.  Below is a short clip of regular BBC pundit Kevin McKenna speaking on Radio Scotland last year.

 

Now over a year later the misinformation appears to have duped BBC Scotland itself.  It has unwittingly become a victim of its own political propaganda.  The sad thing is that very many more members of the public will also have been duped.

Last week began with BBC Scotland failing to provide any coverage of Nicola Sturgeon’s historic trip to Ireland on the first day of the visit.  The excuse given by the bad joke of a station was technical problems.

The week ended with the broadcaster making yet more false claims in news bulletins.  Claims that can only have been intended to paint a Scottish institution in a bad light.

BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs department is dysfunctional.  Pacific Quay answers to nobody in Scotland. Justifiable criticisms are either ignored or arrogantly dismissed.  It acts with complete impunity.

Only this weekend I learned that the broadcaster has refused to issue a correction or apology after erroneous claims were made in several news bulletins relating to pre-indyref shipbuilding pledges made by the UK government.

 

Management at Pacific Quay know full well they can do as they please.  Nobody in Scotland can call them to account.

This is a licence to create fake news.  To manipulate the answers to Freedom of Information [FoI] requests.  To present those FoI requests as ‘investigations’ when they are little more than fishing expeditions.

How much it costs the public purse to address these demands for information is anyone’s guess.

The irony is that asking the BBC how many such requests it submits will be met with a refusal.  The one institution in Scotland that requires investigation is the one that we aren’t allowed to investigate.

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22 thoughts on “Fake news from a fake national broadcaster

  1. Jomry

    I had the misfortune to listen to Friday lunchtime BBC Scotland “investigation” into Police Scotland “catalogue of errors” piece. The phrase “near misses” was repeated constantly, but the programme failed completely to explain what a “near miss” actually was in this context, nor was there any evaluation of real or potential consequences of the incidents recorded. The phrase “near miss” is most often used in aviation where collision of two planes would have dramatic catastrophic consequences so I suppose this is what the vocabulary was intended to conjure up.

    The selection of a piece for “investigation”, its pursuit and the slant of the final presentation of the piece do not happen by accident. When you get such politically slanted reportage as this, it is often tempting to blame those reporting it, since they are the visible face of the organisation. Most of us are aware that there is a whole team of people involved in this process. However, we are perhaps unaware of the detailed interactions of such a team.

    I think it would certainly help my understanding, and perhaps be illuminating for others, if someone with the knowledge could provide an informative piece on the structures, personnel and processes involved and n the production of a “news” piece like the above.

    For example, who is involved in the decision to investigate a particular topic? The head of news? The “journalists”? An editorial team – and if so, who are they? Who researches the topic, researchers or journalists, or are they the same thing.? Who decides on whether and when an item is covered in the output? Who decides what is excluded from coverage? How far are the individual journalists, presenters, involved in how the topic is presented? Who writes/edits the web pages?

    Perhaps this is a tall ask, but an informative guide to the precise internal workings of PQ might help us to understand exactly who it is pulling the strings and manipulating the stories we are fed.

    1. Alex Beveridge

      Maybe Derek Bateman could help Jomry. After all, he worked there for a number of years. But as Bringiton says they are the state broadcaster, Westminster that is, and they will always do their masters bidding. In this case, as in the run-up to 2014, it is to present the Scottish Government in the worst possible light, and when Indyref2 comes along, to try to persuade the electorate to once again vote No to independence.
      Unfortunately, even amongst Yes voters, as I have discovered in the last week talking to them on their doorsteps, a proportion of them are still being taken in by the B.B.C propaganda. So that is the task ahead for all of us who want an independent Scotland, to convince the undecided, and that aint going to be easy. Not when you have our greatest enemy, the combined M.S.M, ranged against us. Hopefully, the council elections next year will give us an indication of how we are progessing. In the right direction I hope.

  2. seanair

    BBC should not be doing “investigations”. Full stop. I am fortunate that I don’t have to pay the licence fee any more, but no one should have to pay for BBC salaries dealing with political backgrounds.
    Suspect any changes to BBC in Scotland will be minor and not wholesale (as is needed).

  3. winifred McCartney

    I find it indescribable the behaviour of bbc scotland- it is very obvious they don’t care about truth and honesty in reporting. They mislead, distort and almost make up a story.
    The FM is in Ireland and the main national news does not cover it – but later in the same week covers a new teacher on a scottish island with film crew – the whole works – and then funnily enough ‘technical difficulties’ stops a report from Ireland on Reporting Scotland. They really believe we are falling for their nonsense, even after being disgraced about indy1 they still continue their bias and distortion. London really is calling the shots and truth will never get in the way of an snp baaad made up slur.

    1. Clydebuilt

      Winifred…..“The truth will never get in the way of an SNPbaad”….. Aye it will……. There’s an Indiegogo fundraiser to fund 50,000 copies of the documentary “London Calling” every view of that dvd will immunise the viewers from BBC propaganda …… Then passed on that 50,000 will grow…….

      Then there’s the Inform Scotland billboards ……. You can make copies of it and put on car windows etc……. We can all do our part…… Like all contributors on tgis site are doing

    2. Socrates MacSporran

      Winifred, to be precise, BBC Scotland – whether or not you believe the “technical difficulties” bullshit, DID cover the FM’s Irish visit. We might quibble about the quality of the report, but, cover it they did.

      It was BBC London which didn’t cover the Irish visit, there was no mention of what was a pretty historic visit on the National News. However, BBC London DID cover the “new teacher on the island” story, even if only for the “Dead Donkey” slot at the end of the bulletin.

  4. Scott H

    And it’s not just BBC Scotland. Earlier in the year, Colin Mackay of STV News stated it was a 999 call too. I tweeted him to put him right as well as tweeting presenter John Mackay. John Mackay replied, said it was a genuine error and would be corrected. It wasn’t corrected. And then about a week later, Colin Mackay repeated the lie in another report. So are they just shoddy journalists, Adams, McKenna, Mackay et al or a bunch of liars with an agenda?

  5. Brian

    Oh the delicious irony of the BBC having a statue of George Orwell, the man who introduced the term NEWSPEAK in Animal Farm !Can we please have a similar monument for Pacific Quay , but make it bigger ?

  6. johnny rudkin

    I used to listen to good morning scotland but now i cant bare to listen to their biased reporting their blatant non reporting of good scottish news items like the new forth road crossing the great welcome scotlands first minister received in ireland etc etc etc as soon as they start running scotland down with negitive reporting i switch over to radio five at least they dont run scotland down at every oppertunity

  7. RevAnonScot

    A few associates would love to go for the BBC , we are activists & admittedly not a team of barristers …If someone can show us exactly where in there charter they are required to report on all events accurately. All we found was a requirement to broadcast in the public interest … which is obviously open to interpretation.

    Would be over the moon to be made aware of a section or revision we missed …

    Thanks , your friendly neighborhood non public disturbance causing anon info sec intel relay ..

    Cheers dudes , contact website preferably

  8. Dan Huil

    The bbc in Scotland is now the official opposition in Scotland. Don’t pay the bbc tax. Let britnats pay for britnat propaganda.

  9. Jockanese Wind Talker

    Surely freedom from a foreign governments propaganda broadcasts and the freedom from media lies and manipulation are covered under The Universal Declaration of Human Rights??

    BBC have to be in breach.

  10. Fairliered

    I don’t believe anything the BBC tells me. For the same reasons as my parents didn’t believe Lord Haw Haw’s broadcasts during the Second World War.

  11. millie

    This article is jaw dropping – and the irony is not lost.

    From the BBC-

    ‘Fake news detector plug-in developed’

    ‘The pressure mounts on firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to tackle fake news …’ …….

    ………..‘The Trust Project, in partnership with BBC News Labs, recently hosted a hackathon in London, aimed at getting legitimate news outlets thinking about ways to increase trust among readers’.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38181158

    The second last bullet point in the above BBC article is remarkable, since the ‘police’ article did contain ‘links’- but it was misreported in the body of the article.

    You get the impression they don’t want people to have information, unless it’s supplied by them. They want us to ‘trust’ them!

  12. Connor McEwen

    How dis PC MURDOCH feel aboot aw this. Jings crivens help ma boab. Surely nurses doctors and the Polis will flock to INDEPENDENCE, Mibbees even some tax workers and YES MINISTER devotees

  13. Socrates MacSporran

    I have no wish to downplay or under-estimate the pain and anguish the M9 crash cause to the respective families. Also, we cannot overlook the fact – somebody boobed and, just maybe, if the call had been properly logged and speedily investigated, one or both people’s lives might have been saved.

    However, what is always kicked into the long grass when discussing this one is – the driver of the car was an unsupervised learner, driving on a motorway, which is against the law.

    If he hadn’t been on the motorway, when he wasn’t qualified to be there driving a car, the accident would never have happened. Perhaps, furthermore, if he had been properly qualified to drive the car on the motorway, it would never have happened.

    To blame the police for the deaths, in which, due to the lack of driving experience/law-breaking of one of the victims, there was an element of self-destructiveness, if a bit much, even for the BBC.

    But, we cannot expect that organisation to let the facts get in the way of a chance to bash the Scottish Government.

  14. Vonnie Moyesnudepix

    This is hilarious:a bubble of thought, based on the guesswork of GA Ponsonby a man so brave he uses a pseudonym and a man so ill-informed that he has been upbraided by knowledgeable indy-supporters in broadcasting about his many errors.
    Ponsonby continues to take your money for ignorant speculation that shows he has no clue how the chain of command works in broadcasting.
    By the way Ponsonby; the laws of defamation and libel are coming your way, and cowering behind a false name won’t help

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