The ruling that exposes the depth of corruption at the BBC

fraser_article2On Friday February 5th this year a story appeared across the news platforms of BBC Scotland.  A ‘think tank’ had, we were told, carried out ‘independent analysis’ of Scottish Labour’s election proposal of an income tax rise of one pence for every taxpayer in Scotland.

The news reports were a godsend to the Scottish Labour party.  According to BBC Scotland, Kezia Dugdale’s proposals could variously “reduce the impact of spending cuts”, “weigh most heavily on higher earners” and “boost the income” of the poorest.

The bulletins and headlines mirrored the campaign rhetoric of the Labour party itself.  Below is a snippet of the kind of news bulletins that appeared on Good Morning Scotland.

 

The so-called ‘independent analysis’ was also covered online by Douglas Fraser in an article headlined Tax rise plan ‘could reduce cuts impact by a third‘ [see image above].  The original headline of the online article was ‘Think tank supports income tax rise in Scotland‘.

Fraser appeared on Good Morning Scotland explaining the findings of the ‘independent analysis’ to listeners.

 

It was already clear that BBC Scotland had decided to invest significant resource in order to promote the findings of this report.  But where was the report?

I searched the website of the Resolution Foundation and found nothing had been published for that day.  Indeed there were no published reports which analysed Scottish Labour’s income tax proposal.  I could find no evidence of an actual report anywhere.

In desperation I turned to the think tank’s twitter feed.  I discovered a link to a blog from someone called Torsten Bell.  Torsten Bell is the current Director of the Resolution Foundation.  Mr Bell had published a personal blog which contained his own anallysis of the Scottish Labour proposal.

Was this the so-called independent report BBC Scotland was referring to?  My thoughts were confirmed when Torsten Bell appeared on Good Morning Scotland.  Below is his interview with Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson.

 

BBC Scotland was passing off a personal blog as an ‘independent report’.  As if that wasn’t bad enough what I then discovered was even worse.  Torsten Bell had been, until very recently, a senior figure in the Labour party.

Until the 2010 General Election Torsten Bell worked for Alistair Darling as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in HM Treasury.  He later became Ed Miliband’s policy director and played a significant role on Labour’s 2015 general election campaign.  The former advisor to senior Labour party figures was appointed Director of the Resolution Foundation in September 2015.

It was incredible.  A blog written by the former head of policy for Ed Miliband was being presented as ‘independent analysis’ by BBC Scotland.  Despite the obvious conflict of interest, BBC Scotland had omitted to mention Mr Bell’s connections to the Labour party.

BBC Scotland persisted with the coverage throughout the day and into the evening.  The so-called ‘independent report’ was dominating the news output.  The choreographed charade fuelled a full day of pro-Labour news bulletins on BBC Scotland TV, Radio and online.

By the end of the day hundreds of thousands of ordinary people had been duped by BBC Scotland into believing a blog written by a former Labour party advisor was an independent report published by the think tank he headed.   The conclusions of the mythical report supported claims being made by the Scottish Labour party.

Within days of the bulletins airing, a complaint was submitted to the BBC Trust.  Given complaints submitted to the Trust can only relate to a single programme the complaint centred on Reporting Scotland.  The original complaint is reproduced below.

The programme contained an item about an “independent report” which had been published by a think tank called the Resolution Foundation. There was never any report published by the think tank. What Reporting Scotland described as a ‘report’ was actually a personal blog written by the Director of the Resolution Foundation.

The independence of the blog writer is also in doubt. Viewers were not told that the author – Torsten Bell – was the former policy advisor to Ed Miliband when the latter was leader of the Labour party. Given that the blog was supportive of claims made by the Labour party in Scotland, this was a quite outrageous omission.

In summary, describing a personal blog written by a former Labour party policy chief [and which is supportive of Labour party claims] as an “independent report” whilst omitting mention of his links to the Labour party, is both misleading and highly inaccurate.

The response from the editor of Reporting Scotland is seen below in full.

You refer to the item about a report from the Resolution Foundation. We were not alone in calling it a report – a quick check establishes that the Edinburgh Evening News, the Daily Record, The Herald and the Press Association (a major news agency) referred to “report”.  Many reports are now published in a different fashion from the standard methods of the past; and a ‘blog’ can be just as comprehensive and authoritative as a traditional, multi-copy collection of paper pages within a glossy wrapper. Our decision to publish is not dictated by the format of publication but is influenced by, amongst other factors, the quality of the argument deployed.

The four top staff of the Resolution Foundation are ‘Executive Chair’, a former Conservative government minister; ‘Director’, a former Treasury civil servant, special adviser and policy director for Labour; ‘Director of Communications’, formerly of the Trades Union Congress; and ‘Chief Economist’, a former statistical and economic specialist in the House of Commons, providing advice to individual MPs and to a number of select committees.

Both the headline and the intro made clear that there was more than one interpretation of what the Resolution Foundation said; and the report included clips of David Finch of the Resolution Foundation; Kezia Dugdale MSP (Lab); and Kenneth Gibson MSP (SNP), Convenor, Finance Committee, in which they all set out their respective stalls. This format helps to ensure that, in a welter of arguments and counter-arguments, the viewer is aware that there may be different views expressed about any one document or proposal.

I therefore cannot accept your suggestion that the report was “both misleading and highly inaccurate”.

I’m not going to list in full all of the BBC replies, for to do so would make this article unreadable.  But this first reply from the editor of Reporting Scotland is key for it allows me to demonstrate just how flawed the defensive logic is at BBC Scotland.

The reply begins by listing several media sources that also described Torsten Bell’s blog as a ‘report’.  Listed are the Edinburgh Evening News, the Daily Record, The Herald and the Press Association (The latter is described as a major news agency).

And it’s true.  All of the media outlets listed did indeed describe the blog as a ‘report’.  But newspapers and independent radio stations didn’t ape the BBC in its entirety.  The following sentence was how the Press Association introduced the ‘report’ in its news release.

‘A new report by the Resolution Foundation, written by former Labour policy director and Treasury adviser Torsten Bell, said the overall impact of the 1% rise is progressive.’

All of the news outlets cited by the editor of Reporting Scotland informed their readers of the political background of the blog author.  In citing these outlets in defence of his programme’s description of the blog as a ‘report’, the editor of Reporting Scotland had inadvertently conceded that part of the complaint against the BBC which was its refusal to highlight Torsten Bell’s links to the Labour party.

The editor of Reporting Scotland also sought to argue that there is in fact little difference between the blog in question and traditional, well-researched and academically rigorous reports which he rather glibly described as a “multi-copy collection of paper pages within a glossy wrapper”.  In this moment we see the depths to which senior editors at BBC Scotland will stoop in order to defend their own misleading journalism.  To even attempt to equate a blog by a former Labour party advisor with serious academic research is an insult to academics and an indication of the scale of the erosion of standards that plagues BBC Scotland.

Pursued

Unhappy with the initial response, the complaint was pursued with the complainant pointing out that erroneous reporting from other news agencies was no justification for the BBC’s own erroneous coverage.  On March 30th a second response was received, this time from the Depute Editor of News and Current Affairs in Scotland, part of which is reproduced below.

In citing other references to a ‘report’, the Editor of Reporting Scotland was not making an excuse for sharing an inaccuracy with other media outlets; he was making the point that his reference was also made by others, including a leading news agency.  Your view that this is an “inaccuracy” is clearly not shared by them.

The Editor then explained why the boundaries between reports and blogs have been blurred as methods of delivering information change. You and we will have to agree to disagree on definitions in this field.

You argue that Mr Bell’s comments are “supportive of similar income tax policies proposed by the Labour party in Scotland”. They certainly outline them – but he also outlines other points of view, including that of supporters of the Scottish government.

We now see a new argument being introduced by BBC Scotland management.  The claim that Torsten Bell’s blog contained arguments put forward by supporters of the Scottish government is though a red herring.  The blog may or may not have included such arguments.  These arguments though did not form the basis of headlines on BBC Scotland.  The conclusions BBC Scotland promoted that day were exclusively those that backed Scottish Labour’s tax proposal.

Let’s stop there for a moment and try to make sense of what is going on.  BBC Scotland has been caught passing off, as an ‘independent report published by a respected think tank’, a blog written by a former advisor to Ed Miliband.  BBC Scotland has deliberately omitted to mention the party political affiliations of the blog author.  The party in question [Labour] benefited enormously from the selective promotion by BBC Scotland of the blog’s conclusions.  This happens during an election campaign.

The corporation, confronted with these indisputable facts, refuses to admit it did anything wrong or that it misled the public in any way.

Next stage

Faced with a defiant intransigence from BBC Scotland management, the complainant moved the complaint on to the next level which was the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit [ECU].

I’m not going to dwell much on the exchanges between the ECU and the complainant, save to say that the arguments essentially remained the same.  The blog, it was argued by the BBC, was a de-facto well-researched piece of analysis.  Torsten Bell’s links to the Labour party were not relevant, and thus there was no requirement to inform the public that he was a former Labour party senior advisor.

An additional defence was introduced by the ECU.  Because the blog appeared on the Resolution Foundation’s website, the BBC now argued that this meant it had the official endorsement of the think-tank.  Below is a short segment from the ECU.

I would also suggest that anything published on the Foundation’s website can reasonably be taken as something which the organisation is prepared to endorse or with which it is prepared to be associated, regardless of the particular author or their previous employment background.

The fact the Reporting Scotland report included a contribution from David Finch, the Foundation’s Senior Economic Analyst, would appear to support my understanding the Resolution Foundation was prepared to endorse Mr Bell’s “blog” and it should be considered as rather more than a personal opinion.

I have explained why I believe the Resolution Foundation can reasonably be described as politically independent and why I think the content of the article can reasonably be regarded as the published view of the organisation. In that context, the use of the word “report” as opposed to “blog”, “article” or “view” (or some other similar description) was unlikely to have any significant effect on the audience’s understanding of its status or the weight that should be afforded to it.

Having conveniently redefined the meaning of ‘blog’, ‘report’ and ‘independent’ in order to suit a preconceived agenda, the ECU official concluded that the blog could be described as an independent report published by the Resolution Foundation.

Complaining to the BBC, as can be seen, is a torturous affair.  The complaints process is designed not to hold the BBC to account but to thwart the holding of the BBC to account.  The responses and excuses are at times even more misleading and contrived than the broadcasts which initially prompted the complaint.

Editorial Standards Committee

The ECU eventually decided not to pass the complaint on to the BBC Trust.  The decision not to progress the complaint was appealed by the complainant on July 20th.

It is worthwhile noting that only those complaints that are deemed to have a reasonable prospect of succeeding are passed on to the Trust.  The very act of passing them on is often seen as an acknowledgement of their seriousness.

In September the complainant finally won the right to have the complaint heard by the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.  The case was heard on November 3rd 2016, almost nine months to the day since the broadcasts which prompted the complaint.

On receipt of the news that the complaint would be heard by the Editorial Standards Committee, a question was posed by the complainant to the Resolution Foundation.  The think tank was asked how blogs, such as the one written by Torsten Bell, should be described in news reports and articles.  The question posed and the official reply from the Resolution Foundation are shown below.

Question posed:

Your website contains separate sections for ‘Blogs’ and ‘Publications’.  Are ‘Blogs’ simply the personal views of the individual under whose name they appear or are they considered equally representative of the organisation as that which appears within the ‘Publications’ section?

For example, if I were writing an article which referenced a Blog Post, would it be accurate to describe the Blog Post as being ‘a report published by the Resolution Foundation’?

Reply:

An accurate citation would be ‘a blog by x of the Resolution Foundation’ you could also add ‘published on their website’ and provide a link to the blog for clarity.

The reply destroyed a key argument by the BBC that its description of the blog as being an ‘independent report published by the Resolution Foundation’ was accurate.  That the think tank itself had insisted the blog be described as ‘a blog by x of the Resolution Foundation’ effectively meant the Editorial Standards Committee had to uphold that part of the complaint which argued that the blog had been wrongly described as an ‘independent report’.

The Ruling

On December 14th the Editorial Standards Committee relayed its final ruling to the complainant.  The complaint had failed in its entirety.

BBC Scotland was found not to have contravened any guidelines by presenting a blog as an independent report.

Trustees observed that the manner in which people and organisations communicated online was evolving and that there were no clearly defined boundaries over what would appear in a blog or report.
In this case, Trustees agreed that the post was a statistically based examination of the issue rather than one based on personal opinion.

As a result, while acknowledging that it might have been better if the programme had described the Resolution Foundation item as a blog rather than a report, the Committee agreed that describing it as a report was duly accurate and that the audience would not have been materially misled.

BBC Scotland was found not to have contravened any guidelines by hiding the political affiliations of the blog author.

The Committee noted that the Resolution Foundation describes itself as “non-partisan” and that its senior staff included a former Conservative minister as Executive Chair as well as Mr Bell. It further noted that the Foundation is primarily funded by the Resolution Trust and that there is no evidence on its part of any particular political allegiance.
The Committee observed that the post was analytical in tone and had been linked to other Resolution Foundation material on its website. It did not advocate the policy and the article took steps to avoid partisanship.

The Committee concluded that as the blog was on the Resolution Foundation website and was linked to other material by the Foundation and as an interviewee from the Foundation had appeared on the programme, the post was endorsed by the organisation. Given that the Foundation was established as non-partisan, the Committee agreed that the programme had been duly accurate to describe the post as independent.
As a result, the Committee considered that there had not been a breach of the accuracy guidelines.

The ruling added:

Trustees had concluded that it was duly accurate to describe it as independent. Trustees also noted that the blog had not advocated a particular party’s policy and had pointed out possible shortcomings with the policy.
Trustees agreed that in these circumstances there was no requirement to set out Mr Bell’s previous posts at the Treasury and with the Labour Party in order to achieve due impartiality.

bbc complaintCorruption and conspiracy

The complaints process, in this instance, has not served the licence payer.  It’s hard to imagine a more blatant attempt to influence an election campaign than the shoehorning of a blog written by a former senior Labour official into BBC Scotland news output.

That this is deemed acceptable by the body [soon to be dissolved] specifically tasked with ensuring the BBC’s charter is honoured, is very worrying.

Few people will be aware, but Torsten Bell was a member of the official Better Together campaign during the independence referendum. This was pointed out to the BBC Trust.  It was also brought to the Trust’s attention that a key issue of the Holyrood election campaign, which was underway when Bell published his blog, was the prospect of a second independence referendum.

The prevention of another SNP majority at Holyrood was the number one target of Unionist parties.  Anything that could undermine the SNP campaign and/or strengthen that of the main Unionist rival party [then Labour] was likely to help in that endeavour.

BBC Scotland actually conceded the main points of the complaint.  That there never was any independent report published by the Resolution Foundation was never denied.  That the BBC instead had passed of a blog as an ‘independent report’ was admitted.  That they knew the links to the Labour party of the blog author was also never denied.  That the BBC deliberately omitted to mention these links was acknowledged.

Topsy-turvy

The ruling by the Editorial Standards Committee defies logic.  It is so topsy-turvy that the only conclusion to be reached is that the decision, like the original news coverage of the blog, was politically motivated.  To have found Reporting Scotland guilty of breaking Charter guidelines during an election campaign would have piled significant pressure onto an already beleaguered organisation.

That the whole thing stinks is pretty obvious.  But it begs a question.  Just how did the original blog come to be presented in the manner it was by a host of BBC Scotland presenters and reporters?

Douglas Fraser, Gary Robertson, Hayley Millar, Sally Magnusson and David Henderson all covered the blog that day.  It featured online, on radio and on television.  They all apparently failed to notice the serious flaws in the story they were reporting.

How did this obscure blog come to the attention of BBC Scotland?  Alerted to the blog, who then decided to misleadingly describe it as an independently published report, thus bestowing it with a gravitas that wasn’t deserved?  Who decided to remove any mention of the blog author’s political background?  Why did reporters and presenters go along with the scam when they would surely have known the facts of the story?

I have never claimed conspiracy in my criticisms of BBC Scotland’s political reporting.  To do so would divert from the evidence that clearly demonstrates a corruption has taken hold of the organisation and is eating at it.

However this episode is so rotten that it’s hard not to conclude that several people must have deliberately conspired in the promotion of what was effectively election propaganda.  Someone somewhere took a decision to run this story as BBC Scotland did.  Others went along with this decision.  We’ll never find out who was ultimately responsible for this because BBC Scotland answers to nobody in Scotland.

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25 thoughts on “The ruling that exposes the depth of corruption at the BBC

  1. Peter A Bell

    “The corporation, confronted with these indisputable facts, refuses to admit it did anything wrong or that it misled the public in any way.”

    That’s because, by its own terms of reference, the BBC hadn’t done anything wrong. There is no internal conspiracy. It isn’t necessary. BBC Scotland is inherently structured to promote and defend British Labour in Scotland just as the BBC as whole systemically favours the British state. The corporation cannot be other than what it has been allowed to become by incompetent managers.

    1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

      Peter, is your last sentence not arguably at odds with the previous sentence? If an inherently pro-Labour structure is operative within BBC Scotland, is what we are witnessing not better described as “competence” rather than “incompetence”??

      After all, the structure is thereby clearly fulfilling what it was designed to do. And, of course, excluding broadcasting from our devolved powers was far from being an “incompetent” decision by Labour (in terms of their own cynically parish-pump aims for Scotland). They evidently calculated that very well.

      I suppose you might be making a distinction between the momentum of a pre-set machine and its being impervious to the mind-sets of random operators. There is surely something in that, right enough.

      And granted, “conspiracy” is a tricky term. Journalists are rather notoriously capable of producing copy slanted to management outlook. They wouldn’t for a moment consider that as conspiracy. Just doing the job they are paid for. They might not be particularly comfortable with the odd piece, but feel essentially trapped by an adverse job-market. And, hey, every job has its teeth-gritting moments…

      Then again, journalists might well even SHARE the management’s political outlook and so feel entirely honourable and self-righteous about the validity of their material. Maybe unbeknownst to themselves they were employed for that very reason, ie that they are by default “on message”. Minimum oversight needed.

      The waters are no doubt muddied further by episodes of poor management which are no more than that, ie overall direction of institutional flow is unaffected.

      However, to revisit my first point, what GA Ponsonby has described above (and in a myriad other posts), does NOT sound like cack-handed incompetence to me, but precisely the devious opposite.

      Having stared at the beast for many years now, I do still hesitate to point fingers at individuals, however irritating at times, far less bunch them together as “conspirators”. Having said that, I think it would be extremely naive of us to discount any individual (whatsoever) having an “extra-curricular agenda”.

      What I AM convinced of is that at some key strategic level the Deep British State continues to quietly smirk. And, moreover, broadcasting is only part of its remit.

      1. jdman

        Im with Fearghas on this one Peter
        allowing them the fig leaf of “incompetence” lets them off the hook when it comes to these people being called to account post independence, they should be made to face their crimes(and that is what they are)and be charged accordingly!

      2. Neil

        Having spoken to 4 ex bbc Scotland employees over last 4 years or so, the impression I got was that those left are there by dogged determination to cling on to a job – arguably (though personally I have no idea) due to lack of confidence, ambition, or ability to get a better job. Sounds harsh but if true helps to understand the lack of higher standards you might want from an institution once held in high regard. If employees are constantly in fear of their fixed term contracts ending, the quality of work is what you’d expect.

  2. Andy McKirdy

    BBC Scotland = Media wing of British Labour in Scotland = The Union over Scottish Independence at all costs. Simples!!!!!!

  3. Corrado Mella

    Well, colour me surprised. Not.

    I don’t watch any news, current affairs or other propaganda output from the BBC.

    Have done so since early 2013.

    Never felt better.

  4. Diane

    I cancelled my TV licence and gave up watching any TV in 2014 because I refuse to give that shower of crooks at the BBC any money!

  5. David

    Most people only see/hear the headlines and later they will watch strictly or eastenders in their entirety. What most of them do know is that eastenders is, not in any shape or form, representative of a London community and that a visit to the local ballroom, if they can find one, will be nothing like what they see on front of them.

    Main thing with the BBC and Reporting Scotland is to make sure that the output is dull and boring so that by the time a soundbite, biased, headline is balanced, by a detail deep inside the story, they will be asleep or making a cup of tea.

    Please feel free to quote, as and when you want, from this comment which, I should point out, is also an independent report on the output of the BBC.

  6. Jomry

    I admire your persistence in pummelling away at the giant sponge that is the BBC. No matter how hard you hit it, the dents just flatten out and there it sits impervious to criticism.

    I do not go along with the whole scale condemnation of PQ staff some commenters occasionally voice. I believe that some of these stem from an imperfect knowledge of the structures and roles of the various personnel involved in the news an current affairs output of BBC Scotland.

    The selection of a piece for “investigation”, its pursuit and the slant of the final presentation of the piece do not happen by accident. When you get insistent and repeated politically slanted reportage it is often tempting to blame those reporting it, since they are the visible face of the organisation. Most of us are aware that there is a whole team of people involved in this process. However, we are perhaps unaware of the detailed interactions of such a team.

    I think it would certainly help my understanding, and perhaps be illuminating for others, if someone with the knowledge could provide an informative piece on the structures, personnel and processes involved in the production of a “news” piece.

    For example, who is involved in the decision to investigate a particular topic? The head of news? The “journalists”? An editorial team – and if so, who are they? Who researches the topic, researchers or journalists, or are they the same thing.? Who decides on whether and when an item is covered in the output? Who decides what is excluded from coverage? How far are the individual journalists, presenters, involved in how the topic is presented? Who writes/edits the web pages? Who decides on the personnel to be interviewed, or excluded? Who determines the particular stance taken towards interviewees? Who composes the news summaries and headlines read out in repeated broadcasts through the day?

    I have suggested to Derek Bateman that he, with his intimate knowledge of BBC Scotland might be well placed to provide such an account. Perhaps this is a tall ask, but an informative guide to the precise internal workings of PQ might help us to understand exactly who it is pulling the strings and manipulating the stories we are fed. And it might go some way to explain the defence Derek sometimes mounts on behalf of erstwhile colleagues and present staff.

  7. Philip Maughan

    What strikes me in this is that the BBC are their own arbiters of what constitutes a ‘valid complaint’ as it’s they who decide whether it should go before the BBC Trust. And then what happens? Does the complainant get to present a case to the BBC Trust or does the Trust simply look at the written evidence (plus perhaps consulting with relevant BBC personnel)? The whole process looks like a stitch-up to me..

  8. Flower of Scotland

    Thank you GA Ponsonby for all your hard work.

    I don’t watch BBC news in any form now. To me it’s completely corrupt.

    To be fair, the other “news” broadcasters in the U.K. are about as bad!

    Scotland is a country and needs its own Broadcaster. Some regions in Europe have more than one Independent Broadcaster. Of course we know why the UK will not allow Scotland to broadcast its own news. If we did, we would be Independent tomorrow!

  9. Proud Cybernat

    Let’s all break the speed limits on the roads ’cause lots of others are doing it and that makes it okay. Seems to be the BBC attitude.

    The BBC will soon be telling porkies about the weather:

    “Temperatures will be rising as a warm front from the south spreads everywhere.”

    When we complain to them that it’s been pishing cats and dogs all week they can just argue they got their report from the highly respected Penthouse Magazine.

    So there!

  10. aldo_macb

    Interesting article….the work that GA Ponsonby does is, in my opinion, some of the most important work in the entire indy movement. If only the articles were more reader friendly, then they would get huge readership. I think the article s are too lon v and not punchy enough. Obviously that’s only my opinion and I hope you can take it as positive criticism.

  11. Dan Huil

    All credit to you, GAP, for taking on the bbc in this manner. I hope you continue to do so. The bbc is now no better than the gutter press. It has a political britnat agenda and it doesn’t care to hide it any more. The bbc is the enemy of Scotland. Incompetence? Perhaps, but more likely selfishness and pure hatred of pro-indy people and parties.

  12. Lochside

    Great bit of work as usual Mr P. But it makes me despair that anyone can even question the corrupt and politically motivated actions of this corporation as anything other than deliberate. If this was the State run media in the North Korea acting in the same way would anyone doubt it was a deliberate policy?. But this is ‘Britain’ we have ‘values’ that are worth swearing oaths over rather than at.

    I stopped paying my BBC tax. This latest example by your good self would justify everyone doing thus on its own. But when are we going to start a campaign for a mass non payment similar to the poll tax era? Are we so supine that no-one is prepared to challenge the BBC’s lying corruption en masse?

  13. Pentland Firth

    Despite being told by numerous folk over many years that complaining to the BBC was a pointless exercise, on 29th November I complained to the BBC that Reporting Scotland had earlier that evening insulted the Irish Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan, by describing him in a caption as “Irish Foreign Abuse”.
    The response was as expected. On 3rd December I was told “The caption was due to a technical error and we can assure you that no offence was intended”. No explanation was offered as to how this improbable “technical error” occurred, and no apology was offered.

  14. Alasdair Macdonald

    Compliments to the author on his doggedness and thanks to several commenters for adding to the discourse.

    There is an opportunity tomorrow (Tuesday, 20, December, 2016) to see how GMS and Reporting Scotland and the website report the proposals by the Scottish Government in relation to the decision of the referendum for the UK to leave the EU.

    My experience – as an early riser, prior to my retirement – is that such reports are usually introduced by a comment from another party condemning it. In the early part of this century it would be a Conservative statement about some announcement by the then Labour UK Government or since 2007, a Conservative, Labour or LibDem statement about some announcement by the SNP Scottish Government. So, in effect, the forthcoming statement was contextualised by the critical opposition statement and subsequent discussion and interviews would be within that frame. During the course of the programme the opening announcement would often be modified to some extent.

    Nevertheless, the overall effect was to direct attention to some aspect of the report and largely to ignore the bulk of the report which either amplified/qualified the aspect subject to opposition criticism or which presented arguments which the general listening/viewing public might find more congenial.

  15. Ayemachrihanish

    Really excellent and well progressed journalisim….

    Which categorically proves that – in matters of impartiality – the BBC will only act justly when they are ‘compelled to act’.

    So is not the best and perhaps only way forward the use of Law?

    We know they act as if they were – but the BBC are not above the Law.

    But the difficult is – what is the actual principle or question you would need to ask to test in Law? For example, if properly framed and referenced, the people could ask a court to decide on;

    1. Is the convention that the the BBC should act with due impartiality, particularly in UK devolved matters, nothing more than “a self denying ordinance’ of a sovereign institution [The BBC]” and

    2. Is the complaint raise by GAP and the subsequent response by the BBC is an example of ‘a self denying ordinance’ in use by the BBC while acting in its capacity as a sovereign institution.

    The point being, no doubt being made badly, is that the ‘crowdfunded people’ are not asking a court to decide on a particular BBC complaint, they are actually asking a court to decide if the complaint is an example of the use, by the BBC , of ‘a self denying ordinance’.

    No doubt like many others I would willingly contribute to a legal fund that, like the original Britex case, framed and tested in court a ‘democratic principle’ being abused by a sovereign institution – in the Britex case Whitehall.

    The BBC has a Royal Charter and is therefore (?) a sovereign institution with its own Royal Prerogative which it seems to exercises in a completely arbitrary and undisclosed way.

    Actual ownership of the BBC is definitely wooly and unclear but we are its funders . Therefore, do the funders, specifically those paying for and receiving devolved news and current affairs from the BBC not have a right to enjoy accountable impartiality output? Or as a Sovereign Institution dose the BBC really have an uncontested right to interpret its Royal Charter as a self denying ordinance’ whenever it chooses’ in a vey arbitrary and undisclosed way?

    We are for the timebeing still EU citizens and therefore still have certain rights!

    Your work shines a very uncomfortable light on the BBC and also on a particular ‘democratic principle’ that many of us feel the BBC are abusing. And if that ‘simple’ democratic principle could be clearly and skillfully established then – we the people – could fund and ask a Court to decide if (in the chosen particular circumstances) the actions of the BBC were counter to the rights of the complainan and the Law….

  16. James Coleman

    Great thanks to GA Ponsonby and John Robertson. Keep up the excellent work of hounding the BBC. I do everything I can to help by supporting your articles and tweets and dissing the BBC at every chance I get.

    We should all do the same and keep this criticism going. BBC do not like it up ’em and every attack chips away a little bit of their bias and complacency. Middle management, which BBC Scotland is, doesn’t like to be constantly attacked because sooner or later the top brass in London will get fed up and start worrying about the BBC’s National reputation although that is now also being attacked on many fronts.

    The bubble of the BBC, ITV, Press ,and the ‘Old Establishment, are a visible sign of what’s wrong in Scotland. It’s a circle of people talking to and writing for themselves who have no f–ing idea what’s going on outside its bubble. And they still live in hope that someday the ‘old order’ with all their old comforts and contacts will return.

    1. Alex Beveridge

      Only one point on which I disagree James, and that is that the M.S.M/Westminster establishment don’t know what’s going on in the world outside of their bubble. I think they are very well aware of the feeling in Scotland, but chose either to misreport, or ignore, the very obvious signals coming from our country.
      Why? Because they, like the B.B.C employees, are scared stiff that their cosy little world is about to come crashing down about their ears.
      And Brexit, is about to become the final nail in their coffin.
      As for the B.B.C, I don’t have the strength of either G.A, or John, so I’m afraid I gave up complaining years ago. And since I don’t pay a license fee, I don’t listen or watch any of their output, so I’m grateful to all the sites that give me an insight into what unionist propaganda they are spouting on a regular basis.

  17. Tarisgal

    Just the fact that this article had to be written says it all. That truly appalling presentation of a blog as a ‘report’ is just that – appalling!! For the Editorial Standards Committee to continue to describe a blog as an ‘independent report’, is totally absurd!!

    Wiki defines ‘Written reports’ as documents which present focused, salient content, generally to a specific audience. Reports are used in government, business, education, science, and other fields, are often to display the result of an experiment, investigation, or inquiry”. A report is an informational work made with the specific intention of relaying information or recounting certain events in a widely presentable and scrutinized form.

    Whereas a blog is simply someone’s opinion of a subject, based on information he may have, but not necessarily, researched.

    There was nothing in Bell’s blog that was ‘scrutinized’ by colleagues of the Resolution Foundation or anyone else! And any comments were made by Labour people AFTER the promotion of this blog as a ‘report’. I can’t help wondering… was the SNP representative on the Foundation Committee asked if this blog WAS INDEED an official ‘Report’? Or if they CONSIDERED IT a ‘Report’? I’m willing to bet one of my Christmas pressies NOT! I believe that THAT is as unlikely as the blog being a report!! *snort!*

    I usually agree with most of Derek Bateman’s comments re the workings of the unionist parties. But not in the case of his opinion on the BBC. I believe that he is trying to convince himself that his buddies in the BBC would not do such a thing as obfuscate, prevaricate, fabricate or bend the truth – or quite frankly, lie through their teeth.

    Whether it is deliberate or not, the fact is that the BBC is mendacious in the way it handles any criticism of its output. It deliberately stalls the progress of any complaints concerning their output and deliberately discourages any viewer, any licence fee payer, of bringing the BBC to account for blatant bias and other criticisms.

    As I see it, the BBC is complicit in allowing biases and political leanings to take precedence when putting their programs together. It hardly matters whether it is deliberate or not. But I find it EXTREMELY difficult to believe that anyone with any modicom of intelligence cannot see this bias and so find it difficult to believe the BBC cannot see it. If such is the case, that they really cannot, the BBC really are filled with imbeciles and dim witted, drooling idiots. But it isn’t. So the only conclusion I can come to is that they know it, they see it – and they don’t care.

    It is all very well for some to say it is incompetence. It is all very well to say that the BBC is fine but just needs a good ‘clear out’ of staff. Nope – I don’t buy any of that. It is not incompetence, it the accepted BBC mantra of ‘we will put news items the way WE want to, slanted the way we want it slanted, irregardless of whether biased or not’. A clear out of staff won’t help. The BBC is a propaganda machine and it will ALWAYS be run by people with the same agenda as the propagandists. Nothing will change.

    And it was with all that in mind that 2 years ago I filled in my form, cancelled my TV license and I will NEVER give the BBC another chance. I don’t watch much TV, I’m not interested in dance or cake shows, I couldn’t care less about Dr Who, and I CERTAINLY DON’T WANT OR NEED their news programs. Quite frankly, I’m finished with the BBC.

    And to almost crow that the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation will just take on the mantle of the BBC once we are Indy, and we will have to pay the license anyway, means I will not watch THAT either. But I WILL be pressing my new Indy government to put it to Scotland how we develop and deliver a Television media fit for SCOTLAND.

    The BBC is a very bad indictment of how low Britain is prepared to let itself sink.

  18. Jomry

    The distortion of news by deliberate selection of items and presentation of these in prejudicial language is bad enough, but at least this is visible and you can take issue with it. More insidious is the non-reportage of items not consistent with the agenda of the corporation.

    I find it incredible, for example, that Scotland sent 56 MPs to Westminster and yet their presence there is virtually invisible in BBC Scotland reportage. Whenever I have watched debates in Parliament, it is very evident that the SNP chart very often outnumbers the rest of the MPs from all parties. In my limited viewing in the past few weeks, they have led important debates on WASPI, welfare sanctions etc which have implications for people not just in Scotland, but in the wider UK.

    There is more reportage on this in U.K. BBC output than in BBC Scotland. How can it be that there is a virtual blackout on the contribution these MP s are making to the present UK. If this is a deliberate strategy, it is more insidious than distorted reportage since it is denying everyone, in both YES and NO camps the opportunity to evaluate performance and effectiveness of politicians from Scotland. And perhaps this is the very point of the omission.

  19. K1

    They are quite frankly a shower of utter bastards, those weasly worded replies to the complainant reveal the cunningly contorted minds and utterly patronising shits that ‘arbitrate’ any complaints.

    Most impressed by your perseverance in doggedly reporting ‘reporting’ Scotland, which is of course a total lie, they don’t ‘report’ anything about Scotland and endlessly regurgitate the same tired SNP bad shite over and over again. They quite literally eat their own vomit and then wonder why people notice how sick they are.

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