I stopped watching Reporting Scotland live some time ago. Instead I wait until it appears on iPlayer and then skim through the programme to see what was reported.
That way I don’t have to waste a full half an hour watching the god-awful programme, but I can still observe the political manipulation that takes place.
I have nothing but contempt for the production team that produce this colonial pip-squeak show. A diet of death & football, garnished with exaggerated parochial bullshit is as far from a national news programme as it is possible to get.
Have you ever seen Scotland portrayed in a good light when watching this programme? Think about it. What image of this great nation does Reporting Scotland project?
Two weeks ago I watched in dismay as a world first in renewable technology was relegated to the arse-end of the programme. Shetland was the location for the first offshore tidal array in the world to deliver electricity to the grid. The feel-good story had everything; technological innovation, Scottish engineering, world first in Green Energy and the possibility of thousands of jobs.
Renewable energy is a fledgling sector in Scotland. Our potential in this sector is absolutely mind-bogglingly massive. Yet the story was kicked into the Reporting Scotland dead-zone behind a twenty year old murder, a bizarre report from Serbia about refugees, another murder, Curriculum for Excellence, drunk airline pilots and the Edinburgh Festival.
When it aired at last, this technological success story ran for a mere thirty eight seconds. Below is the full item.
The story was buried. That it was even squeezed out by two inebriated airline pilots summed up the mindset of those who produce this nightly reminder of a pre-devolution Scotland.
Reporting Scotland isn’t a window into modern Scotland. It’s a distorted mirror framed by a once hidden, but now exposed, anachronistic pro-Union template. The Scotland we are presented with each evening is a Scotland that oozes violence, whose institutions are falling apart, whose government is dictatorial and whose ambition must be thwarted. It screams ‘know your place’.
The tidal turbines are a metaphor for the emerging Scotland. They are a success story. They also draw attention to the vast renewable energy that is waiting to be tapped once Scotland gains full control over its resources.
It’s everything that BBC Scotland isn’t. The only way the turbines would ever have received high-profile coverage is if something went wrong.
Tidal turbines had a second chance to make it as a major news item this week when the First Minister herself attended the official unveiling of the MeyGen project that will see the first turbines to be installed in the Pentland Firth. This project is absolutely massive with plans for 269 huge turbines, each 15m tall and weighing 200 tons, generating enough electricity to power 175,000 homes.
So where in the list of priority was this story placed? First, second, third, fourth, fifth? … in fact the story was relegated to fifteenth place in order of priority. That’s right, there were fourteen stories covered before we got to the tidal turbines. The clip below contains the introduction of each story in the order each appeared.
When it finally aired the turbines story was allotted 1 minute 45 seconds. Viewers did get to hear the First Minister speak and there were impressive graphics of the turbines [courtesy of the manufacturer] but again a major good news story of national significance was relegated below other items of dubious newsworthiness.
It was the same the following evening when the programme again prioritised its news stories in a highly questionable manner. The two biggest stories to break that day were based on newly published reports. The first showed Scotland to be ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of climate change targets. The second was from the Fraser of Allander Institute that showed Scotland’s real terms grant from Westminster had been cut by five per cent since 2010 with a projected cut to the Scottish budget that could reach £1.6 billion by 2021.
So a news story favourable to the Scottish government and one unfavourable to the UK government, and by extension bad news for Unionists. So where did these two stories feature?
The top three stories on Reporting Scotland were Schools, a murder trial and Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey. So neither story was considered important enough to be included in the top three items.
The climate change story was relegated to fourth spot. The item focused not on the good news aspects of the report but on the negatives, such as transport. There then followed another murder story and another item on the tragic death of the five year old boy from Shettleston the previous day.
The cut to the Scottish budget was the seventh item on Reporting Scotland. Now I ask you to pause for a moment to think about that. Here is a key element in the debate over Scotland’s constitutional future. The relative well-being of Scotland within the Union currently dominates that debate, yet a projected cut to Scotland’s budget is relegated to seventh place on BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme.
Contrast this with the coverage afforded the GERS report when it was published weeks ago. It was the lead item on Reporting Scotland and dominated that day’s news. GERS of course presented figures that, on the surface at least, appeared challenging to the independence movement.
A considerable cut to the Holyrood budget within the Union presents a challenge to those Unionists who argued we were ‘Better Together’. But there were no questions for people like David Mundell or indeed any of the Better Together pack who sold us the ‘Better Together’ line.
But that wasn’t all. Take a look at the presentation of this news by Reporting Scotland.
Rather than paint the cut to the Scottish budget as bad news for Unionism, it is instead manipulated into a council election issue. Sally McNair introduces the item with the following statement.
“The squeeze on Holyrood’s budget is likely to dominate the council elections next May as the amount councillors have to spend could be cut by as much as a billion pounds over the next four years.”
What is happening here is that the viewer is being led away from the idea that London is to blame for cuts to services. The blame will instead fall on the shoulders of the Scottish government – in short the SNP. Note the reference to the council tax freeze by Douglas Fraser and the continual reference to the SNP. The Scottish Labour party has been pushing this line for years. They’ll be fighting next year’s council elections using it – it looks like BBC Scotland is preparing the ground.
At the end of the clip you’ll have seen Gary Robertson plugging Scotland 2016, a programme that was resurrected Lazarus like by BBC Scotland after the shock of Brexit. I had a quick look on iPlayer when drafting this article and can sadly report nothing has changed. There were two Unionists pitched against the solitary SNP guest in a studio debate. Unionism is still over-represented.
Below is how Gary Robertson introduced the programme and the subsequent imbalanced debate which favoured Unionist parties by two-to-one [remember that pro-indy parties have a small majority at Holyrood].
Of course it isn’t just the prioritising of news stories that has earned BBC Scotland’s flagship evening news programme the derogatory nickname ‘Distorting Scotland’. The programme is also famed for its failure to report political stories.
Last Thursday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to apologise after the Tory MSP’s party had issued what was described by critics as a xenophobic attack on a French born former SNP MSP Christian Allard. Allard had reported Tory MSP Alexander Burnett to the Standards Commissioner for failing to disclose business interests when raising objections against a rival businessman in the Scottish Parliament.
The Tory press office responded with a statement which said: “Some people may find it bizarre that an EU citizen has an interest in a planning application in Banchory. However, it is easily explained when people understand that the planning consultant in question is an SNP appointee to the Scottish Government housing committee and Christian Allard was a former SNP MSP.”
Despite the First Minister publicly calling on Davidson to apologise during First Minister’s Questions, the story was ignored by Reporting Scotland. Indeed I can find no evidence that BBC Scotland reported the issue anywhere on its media platform.
This weekend Nicola Sturgeon sent a letter to Davidson reiterating her demands for an apology. BBC Scotland ignored the issue again.
On Tuesday the issue escalated when the Consular Councillor for French Nationals intervened and sent his own letter to the Scottish Conservative leader demanding an apology. Again there was nothing on BBC Scotland’s flagship evening news programme.
I haven’t had time to observe all news output on BBC Scotland. However it does appear that Ruth Davidson’s refusal to apologise for a rather unfortunate choice of words issued on behalf of her party has been ignored by BBC Scotland.
Is it news? Well yes if you believe STV and a host of other media outlets including the Daily Record which have carried the story.
The intervention by the Consular Councillor for French Nationals should have merited considerable coverage by Reporting Scotland. How so? Well cast your mind back to the referendum campaign and an interview given by Alex Salmond to a London based magazine. Comments from the then First Minister about Vladimir Putin were manipulated by a corrupt media and resulted in demands for an apology from opposition leaders.
On April 29th 2014 a spokesman for Ukrainians in Scotland sent a letter to the First Minister demanding an apology. The letter was the top story on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.
The story ran for weeks, from April and into June. Salmond was relentlessly pursued by the BBC over an innocuous remark.
There’s been no such pursuit of Ruth Davidson over an alleged xenophobic statement issued by her party. At a time when foreign nationals in the UK are concerned about an increase in racist attacks due to Brexit, the story is very highly topical. Ironically a nurse [Pauline Cafferkey] who put her own life in peril when she volunteered to go to Sierra Leone to help Ebola victims has endured more critical coverage courtesy of BBC Scotland than Ruth Davidson.
This article is a mere snapshot of what passes for news on Reporting Scotland and what doesn’t. The questionable prioritisation and effective blackouts has been going for years. Like many people I’ve lost all faith in the people who are producing this stuff.
I still support a Scottish Six in principle and the full devolution of broadcasting to Scotland whilst we remain part of the Union. However there’s no doubt in my mind that whether in or out of this Union, we need a complete clearout of management within the News and Current Affairs department at Pacific Quay. It’s rotten.
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