Indyref2 commisisoned an analysis of the evening edition of Reporting Scotland broadcast on Thursday August 2nd.
The programme contained a report on the so-called ‘WingsGate’ episode that saw two pro-Independence bloggers targeted by the BBC which resulted in their Youtube accounts being shut down. Below is the results of that analysis.
Analysis of the 18:30 edition of Reporting Scotland broadcast on August 02nd 2018.
Stories that day
Before we begin our analysis of Reporting Scotland it would be prudent to list the major stories that broke earlier that day. In no particular order they were:
- Audit Scotland report into the Queesferry Crossing project
- Lib Dem Freedom of Information Request into Primary 1 pupil assessments
- The targeting of two pro-Independence bloggers by the BBC
- A huge lottery win by a Scottish couple
- Warning from Michel Barnier over protection of iconic Scottish brands such as Scotch whisky
- A call from midwives that Baby Boxes be rolled out across the UK
We will now turn to that evening’s edition of Reporting Scotland.
This analysis will begin with the pre-title introduction to the programme. The clip below lasts 49 seconds.
The introduction contains reference to five stories. They are in turn:
1. Assessments of primary 1 pupils
2. Lottery winners
3. A dispute over a child’s grave
4. Scottish Wildfires tracked by satellites
5. The Glasgow Euro Games
The introduction is a short but important part of the programme. The viewer is effectively being told which of the forthcoming stories are important. The language adopted in the top story “… leaving primary one pupils in tears …” is deliberately emotive. It will already have elicited concern from many, especially female, viewers.
We will next move to the content of the programme in its entirety. Below is a short edited clip showing the presenter introducing each story. The clip lasts 84 seconds.
The programme covered twelve stories in all. They are in turn.
1. Assessments of primary 1 pupils
2. Lottery winners
3. 13 year old girl charged in connection with a fire
4. A dispute over a child’s grave
5. Aulds bakers’ shops in liquidation
6. Scottish Wildfires tracked by satellites
7. Wings Over Scotland
9. The Glasgow Euro Games
10. Belladrum Festival
11. Edinburgh Church ceiling painting
12. Bank of England rate increase
If we refer to the list of stories that broke that day [See ‘Stories that day’ above] we notice that three of the stories are missing. Not covered on Reporting Scotland were the Audit Scotland report into the Queesferry Crossing project, the call from midwives that Baby Boxes be rolled out across the UK and – quite incredible given Brexit is the biggest issue in the UK today – the warning from Michel Barnier that Scottish brands such as Scotch whisky will be vulnerable when the UK leaves the EU.
Of the three, it is the Michel Barnier story that stands out. Here we have a new development in the Brexit issue, and one that has significant implications for Scotland. Yet BBC Scotland’s flaship evening news programme omits any mention of it.
Was BBC Scotland aware of Barier’s warnings? Yes is the answer. The story featured on that day’s Good Morning Scotland programme at around 08:45.
It also rather belatedly, and briefly, appeared as the top story on BBC Scotland online later that afternoon.
So why was it not included in that evening’s Reporting Scotland? It was certainly more worthy of coverage than a lottery win, and the item on satellite coverage of Scottish wildfires was not time critical. The Scottish government issued its own statement at 14:59 that very afternoon. There is no logical or journalistic reason for the absence of Barnier’s warning about Scottish brands from the programme.
A case can also be made for the Audit Scotland report. This report was being heavily trailed by Audit Scotland for weeks prior to its publication. The report covered the management of arguably the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Scotland.
When published, the report into the Queensferry Crossing project was quite astonishing. The report authors lavished praise on Transport Scotland and the Scottish government, as can be heard in this official Audit Scotland podcast. The extent of the positivity was so unusual that it demanded coverage.
Below is a short video from Audit Scotland
The Baby Box call from the Royal College of Midwives had a very clear Scottish angle, given the Scottish government introduced the scheme last year. It’s worth recalling the coverage afforded Baby Boxes by Reporting Scotland at the time.
If critical comments of Baby Boxes by organisations south of the border are considered worthy of coverage in 2017 then a positive call from the Royal College of Midwives is also deserving of coverage in 2018. Unless of course different criteria is being applied.
Wings Over Scotland
We turn now to the story that has dominated political discourse, at least online, since it first broke on Sunday July 29th. We refer of course to the closing down of two pro-Independence Youtube accounts after copyright complaints levelled by the BBC.
The first thing we noted was the placement of this story on Reporting Scotland. Seventh place for a story that, according to most observers, has led to a serious erosion of trust in the BBC within the pro-independence community.
This placement is illogical and jarring. In terms of breaking stories this was major. A BBC Scotland official earlier that day had confirmed the involvement of a Scottish Labour politician in the episode that led to the targeting of two pro-independence bloggers. It was also revealed, on the John Beattie Show, that the Scottish Labour politician had been involved in private discussions with the BBC prior to the corporation filing complaints with Youtube.
This story was a very clear candidate for top spot on Reporting Scotland given its magnitude. Indeed it difficult to make a case for the Lib Dem Freedom of Information request maintaining its own top spot in the face of such a politically incendiary story involving the BBC, Scottish Labour and Scotland’s most well-known pro-Independence political blogger.
We now turn our attention to the actual content of the item, or rather what it doesn’t contain.
There’s no mention of the involvement of the Scottish Labour councillor. This was the sensational development that emerged earlier that day on the John Beattie Show. The BBC admitted it had engaged a pro-Union politician in a private exchange whereupon that politician had alerted the corporation to two pro-independence youtube accounts that held BBC content. There is no journalistic reason to omit this information.
The top story
The decision to allocate top spot to what was, in effect, a politically motivated Freedom of Information request from the Scottish Lib Dems, is equally bizarre.
The item, which sought to imply serious issuess with P1 pupil assessments, lacked context and depth. A few emotive anecdotes from ‘some teachers’ were presented as ‘evidence’ with no explanation as to how the evidence was gathered. Viewers were told “children experienced distress and cried” and “a child had soiled themselves [sic]”. How many teachers and how many chidren was never fully explained. The story was weak and certainly not worth its top spot placement. There was, remarkably, no mention of the involvement of the Scottish Lib Dems in the story.
There were several questionable production decisions relating to the Reporting Scotland edition on August 2nd.
The first was the ommission of three stories of significant relevance to Scotland. Michel Barnier’s Brexit warning about whisky, the Audit Scotland report into the Queensferry Crossing and the Baby Box call from the Royal College of Midwives.
There is no justifiable reason for the exclusion of all three stories. A lottery win is a filler item of no great significance. The dispute over a child’s grave, whilst tragic and heartbreaking, is not of greater national significance than the three aforementioned stories that were ignored. Was the wildfire story really of greater national interest?
The second issue is the placement of the Wings Over Scotland item. Seventh place did not reflect the significance of this story which called into question the impartiality of the BBC with respect to Scottish independence. Indeed there are signs that the BBC may never fully recover from the fallout. There is also the question over the presentation of the item. Omitting the most politically damaging aspects of the story, the involvment of the Scottish Labour councillor, appears politically motivated.
Finally, given the number of significant stories available to the Reporting Scotland production team that day, the decision to allocate top spot to the P1 assessment story cannot be explained journalistically.
Our conclusion is that there are other influences, beyond journalistic, being brought to bear in the production of this edition of Reporting Scotland. What those influences are is not known.
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