Ddescribing the Scottish government as the ‘SNP government’ on controversial news stories is not politically biased, the BBC’s own watchdog has ruled.
The ruling follows a complaint by a licence payer who believed the SNP administration was being singled out unfairly by the corporation with a reporter’s use of the term ‘SNP government’ to describe the Scottish government.
The broadcast on the Good Morning Scotland radio programme heard the UK and Welsh government’s described as such with no reference to the party in power.
The listener felt there was a clear lack of consistency and said: “Conservative and Labour run administrations are not identified along party lines, only the SNP led administration is.”
In his ruling the ECU official said: “I am afraid I can see no grounds for accepting the use of the phrase “SNP Government” amounts to a serious breach of editorial standards.
“It accurately and impartially represents the nature of the administration in charge at Holyrood and I do not think audiences are likely to view the term as having a pejorative meaning nor that it casts the Scottish Government in an unfavourable light compared with its counterparts at Westminster or elsewhere.”
The practice of using the descriptor ‘SNP government’ was recently discussed at a meeting at the BBC’s Glasgow HQ when BBC official Ian Small met with two independence activists. In the clip below Small is heard defending the practice whilst conceding that “… there is an issue where there is a differential within the same context.”
Repsonding to the ECU response, the complainant said: “The response from the ECU once again demonstrates that even when alerted to practices that are clearly inappropriate, the BBC’s own watchdog looks to defend it rather than address it.
“This complaint highlights the very ‘differential within the same context’ that Ian Small himself conceded was an issue, yet the ECU has described it as accurate and impartial.
“There is no doubt that BBC Scotland reporters use the ‘SNP descriptor’ only on controversial issues, it is never used to describe Nicola Sturgeon’s administration in a good news story.
“I have also never heard Theresa May’s government described as the ‘Tory government’ by any BBC Scotland reporter.”
The habit amongst BBC reporters and presenters of using the term ‘SNP Ministers’ or ‘SNP Government’ on issues deemed controversial is one that is pervasive on BBC Scotland. It has been adopted in stories related to Police Scotland, Income tax changes and the OBFA.
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