‘Dog bites man’ isn’t news but ‘man bites dog is. News is something that’s unexpected. Rain in Scotland isn’t news. Rain in Death Valley, California would be.
Similarly, if we were to ask Ruth Davidson if she backed a second independence referendum then confirmation that she still opposed a second ballot wouldn’t be news.
It’s the same with leaders of any of the British Nationalist parties. Theresa May is opposed to a second independence referendum, Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to Indyref2 and so is Vince Cable.
For those who don’t know who Vince Cable is, he’s the leader of a minority UK political party. The Lib Dems are the fourth biggest party at Westminster and the fifth biggest at Holyrood. They are also a pro-Union party.
So when Vince Cable was asked on Thursday whether he still opposed a second independence referendum, and he replied that he did, it wasn’t news. Well not headline news in the sense that the comments would lead news bulletins.
But that’s where BBC Scotland comes in. Take a look at the following clip that was broadcast the morning after Vince Cable was interviewed.
If Vince Cable opposing a second independence referendum is news then so is the fact that Elvis Presley is still dead. It wasn’t just television that led with this non-news. Below is a news bulletin that was broadcast on Good Morning Scotland that same morning.
Note the near identical wording to that used by the Reporting Scotland presenter. The fact that the wording is near identical isn’t the real issue though, it’s the emphasis placed on Cable’s apparent ‘firm’ opposition to a second independence referendum. In both news bulletins it is this, rather than any comments on Brexit, that lead the item. But was independence and a second referendum really the focus of the Lib Dem leader’s interview?
Vince Cable was being interviewed on the eve of his party conference in Bournemouth. That conference is going to be dominated by Brexit. Brexit is the number one political issue across the UK.
Vince Cable’s interview for BBC Scotland was a means of ensuring his message on Brexit was relevant to a Scottish audience. That’s why he highlighted the dangers to devolution posed by the Brexit path being taken by Theresa May’s government. Cable only commented on a second independence referendum when asked a supplementary question by the BBC interviewer. Had he not been asked, he most likely would have said nothing about Indyref2.
The supplementary question allowed someone at BBC Scotland to turn the interview narrative on its head. Instead of leading news bulletins with Cable’s warning that Brexit risked undermining devolution, Good Morning Scotland and Reporting Scotland both majored on Cable’s apparent “firm” opposition to a second referendum on independence.
Cable’s Brexit warning echoes similar warnings coming from the Scottish Government. The SNP has made no secret of its belief that the Tory government will use Brexit as a power grab. Powers that are currently devolved will, according to the SNP, find their way into the hands of the Westminster government.
Thus, by asking Vince Cable a wholly meaningless question to which the answer was already known, David Porter allowed the Brexit warning to be marginalised. It’s telling that Cable was not asked whether the Section 30 vote, passed by the Scottish parliament in March, should be respected.
News bulletins broadcast by BBC Scotland on Friday morning majored on Vince Cable’s “firm opposition” to a second independence referendum. Where the word ‘firm’ came from is anybody’s guess. Cable himself never utters the word nor does his comments on a second independence referendum lend themselves to such a description. Indeed his manner when asked about a second independence referendum, as can be seen from the clip above, is rather relaxed and matter of fact.
The story was missing completely from the 13:30 edition of Reporting Scotland. It was though included in the tea-time edition of Reporting Scotland, where the priority had been corrected and the Brexit warning led the item.
The item though had been relegated to seventh in the order of priority.
- Vince Cable gives an interview to BBC Scotland with the intention of tailoring his Brexit message to a Scottish audience. He warns of the dangers to devolution of Brexit.
- The interviewer asks the leader of a pro-Union party [Already known to oppose a second indyref] whether he backs a second indyref.
- Cable, with no histrionics, confirms his party’s long held stance of opposing indyref2.
- BBC Scotland leads news items of this interview with the ‘revelation’ that Cable has “come out” [as though a hitherto unknown stance] “firmly” [Why firmly?] against a second independence referendum.
- Cable’s warning about Brexit with respect to devolution is marginalised.
- The item is missing from BBC Scotland’s afternoon programme.
- It is reinstated for the evening programme, the thrust of Cable’s interview is corrected but the item is relegated to seventh place.
Something untoward appears to have gone on. The story was initially turned on its head in order to bolster an anti-indyref2 narrative. TV and radio bulletins pushed the false anti-indyref2 narrative using near identical rhetoric. The story goes missing only to re-appear with the correct thrust, but relegated.
Need I say more?
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