BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme Reporting Scotland has been found guilty of broadcasting a misleading claim relating to Scotland’s finances.
The corporation’s Editorial Complaints Unit [ECU] has upheld a complaint relating to an item that aired on August 24th 2016.
The item related to the GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] report which purports to show the financial status of Scotland.
According to the complainant, Reporting Scotland anchor Jackie Bird misled viewers when she read out the introduction to the item. Viewers heard the presenter say: “The Scottish Government is spending nearly fifteen billion pounds more than it’s bringing in in tax.”
The statement, according to the complainant, was misleading as it implied ‘Expenditure’ in GERS is by the Scottish Government, and that the Scottish Government brings in all the ‘Revenue’ in GERS. Official documents showed that £40,536M of ‘Expenditure’ was by the Scottish Government and £28,045M was by the UK Government.
The complainant also argued that the use of the word ‘tax’ by Ms Bird was also inaccurate. The ‘Revenue’ – actually ‘Public Sector Revenues’ – in GERS is defined as mostly taxes, but also non-tax items. Moreover, GERS states that ‘the majority of public sector revenue payable by Scottish residents and enterprises is collected at the UK level.’
In its ruling the ECU said of Jackie Bird’s introduction: “The sentence complained of gave the impression that the report which followed was about revenue raised and spending incurred by the Scottish Government, whereas it about combined figures for the Scottish and UK governments. Though the report itself was duly accurate, it did not offset this misleading impression.”
Despite a request from the complainant that a correction be broadcast that “reaches the same audience that heard the inaccurate statement”, there has been no correction broadcast from the BBC.
The refusal to broadcast any correction follows a similar refusal in March when the corporation refused to broadcast an apology or a correction after false claims over indyref frigate promises were broadcast on Good Morning Scotland.
The bulletins coincided with an announcement by the UK government of its intention to build eight frigates at the Clydeside yards.
The bulletins prompted a complaint by a listener who pointed out that the pledge made during the referendum campaign was for thirteen Type 26 frigates and not eight as the BBC had claimed. The complaint also alleged that listeners would have been misled into believing a UK government indyref pledge was soon to be honoured when in fact the reality was that it had been broken.
The complaint resulted in the programme producer issuing a private apology. Despite the apology, the BBC refused to broadcast any correction and also refused to accept the pledge was for thirteen frigates.Views: 92026