BBC Scotland’s flagship morning radio programme has come under fire after it ignored a sensational development in the ‘Russian Spy’ poisoning story.
On Wednesday, Good Morning Scotland faced a barrage of questions after its news bulletins ignored comments from Porton Down that appeared to call into question the honesty of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
News bulletins broadcast by the radio programme instead gave prominence to attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and gender pay gap statements from Tory PM Theresa May. The Porton Down development was ignored despite the ‘Spy Poisoning’ story featuring on the programme in several news bulletins.
One of those to question the flagship morning news programme’s news selection was Lesley Riddoch. In a tweet on Wednesday morning the writer and broadcaster asked why there was no coverage of the “front page news”.
Riddoch tweeted: “Boris said Porton Down ‘guy’ was certain Skripal nerve agent was fm Russia. Now Porton Down says it cant be certain. Of course Putin is still in frame. But this is front-page news b4 VIP meeting in The Hague. So why no BBC News coverage today? @BBCGaryR”
The tweet linked to an article from The Guardian newspaper which was headlined: ‘Porton Down experts unable to verify precise source of novichok‘.
Other users of social media posted similar messages with some highlighting similar criticisms of the BBC’s coverage across the UK: “Looking at my timeline today and yday, folk all over the UK now wondering about the BBC, and not just over this issue….”
Journalist Paul Snowdon tweeted: “I have been a newspaper journalist for almost 30 years. And I recognise where certain agendas are being followed. And some people might not like to hear it but the
#BBCNews is absolutely following one now. Anyone who can’t see it is either deluded or agrees with it.”
The criticism follows near wall-to-wall coverage of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal on the BBC, with accusations levelled against the Russian authorities by the UK government featuring prominently.
However comments from the Chief Executive of Porton Down, Gary Aitkenhead, that called into question claims made in public by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have failed to generate similar high-profile coverage.
Aitkenhead told Sky News: “We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify it was a military-grade nerve agent. We have not verified the precise source …”
Two weeks ago, whilst appearing on German TV, the Foreign Secretary stated he had been told by a Porton Down official that they were “absolutely categorical” Russia was the source.
On Wednesday night the story escalated when it emerged tweets posted by the UK Foreign Office had also made the same false claims as the Foreign Secretary.
The tweets, which have since been deleted, falsely claimed Porton Down had made clear the nerve agent used against the Skripals had been produced in Russia.
The Skripal issue returned to Good Morning Scotland the following day with several news bulletins covering the issue. One referenced comments from Boris Johnson himself who had reportedly “accused Moscow of trying to obscure the truth”.
Johnson’s false claims relating to Porton Down eventually featured in a high-profile interview on Good Morning Scotland on Thursday. However despite the introductory clips suggesting questions would be put to Boris Johnson or someone from the Foreign Office, listeners were instead treated to the opinions of the former BBC Moscow Correspondent Misha Glenny who was described as an “expert on crime in Russia”.
Glenny, whose book McMafia is now a BBC TV series, played down the false claims from Johnson and his office calling it “a gaffe” and instead accused the Russians of “exploiting” the Foreign Secretary’s comments. The interview is reproduced below.
The refusal of Good Morning Scotland to cover the Porton Down story follows a pattern in BBC Scotland’s coverage of politics in Scotland which has seen damaging stories involving the Scottish Conservatives played down or ignored.
Last year a short documentary produced by independent film-maker Alan Knight highlighted several examples of the broadcaster’s unwillingness to pursue Ruth Davidson on areas of difficulty for her party north of the border.
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