The editor of Reporting Scotland has rejected a suggestion that an editorial policy is in place that results in Brexit related stories being pushed down the running order or ignored altogether by the programme.
Responding to a complaint, submitted after a major Brexit story was relegated to just fifth spot on the programme, the editor said: “I have looked again at this programme and am confident that it was fully in accord with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.”
The complaint related to the January 31st edition of the programme which was broadcast on the day an alleged leak of UK Government analysis showed any Brexit deal would harm the UK economy. Figures contained in the leaked analysis matched those published by the Scottish government only weeks earlier.
The leak, despite being the biggest story in the UK that day and hugely significant to Scotland, found itself placed only fifth on the flagship evening news programme. Stories deemed to be of greater importance included a pay increase offer to Scottish Firemen, a BBC Scotland Freedom of Information request, a Scottish Labour party suspension and calls by Unionist MSPs for Michael Matheson to resign.
In a complaint submitted to the BBC the day after the broadcast, a licence payer wrote: “The placement of the Brexit related story was not in keeping with its significance. All four of the stories deemed more newsworthy paled in comparison with the leak.
“Indeed at least one of them [Calls for Michael Matheson to resign] was a near repeat of a story that led Reporting Scotland two days earlier.
“The Brexit analysis leak should have been given a higher priority than fifth place on the programme. More so given that the First Minister issued an official statement following the revelation. It was sensational news.”
Rejecting the complaint, the Reporting Scotland editor added: “Together, Nick Eardley’s report on Reporting Scotland and John Pienaar’s on Network News provided comprehensive coverage from both a UK and a Scottish perspective; but had you watched only Nick’s report you would have seen a comprehensive explanation of the leaked document and parliamentary reactions from both Holyrood and Westminster.”
Analysis of Reporting Scotland from August through to October 20th has indicated a disturbing trend with respect to coverage of Brexit related stories. A Brexit related story led Reporting Scotland on just six occasions. Meanwhile Brexit related stories were placed fifth or more in the running order or ignored completely a total of twenty times. One of the ‘ignored’ stories was a speech given by the First Minister in Dublin on October 8th in which she focused on Brexit.
Commenting, the complainant said: “There is a very clear pattern emerging in relation to Brexit related stories. The Reporting Scotland editor completely ignored the thrust of my complaint which was to do with the placement of this very significant story. I won’t be letting this one go.”
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