Balance … BBC Scotland style

What is balance in terms of political reporting?  Basically it is the presenting of both sides of an argument giving each equal time.

But there’s another type of ‘balance’ and it’s one I’ve referred to for several years.  It’s the kind of balance that ensures the Scottish media find an equalising story to balance one which shows either Unionism or the Westminster elite in a poor light.

What do I mean?  Well let’s take an example.  Cast your mind back to the Westminster expenses scandal and the seemingly never ending list of MPs who were being exposed as cheats.

A virtual conveyor belt of Labour and Conservative MPs were appearing in the media on a daily basis.  The sums of money involved were incredible reaching six figures in some cases.  Westminster’s reputation was falling like a stone.

In Scotland the story wasn’t playing out well for Unionists.  Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling was accused of ‘flipping’ his designated second home four times in as many years, earning tens of thousands of pounds in the process.  Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was similarly accused.

The SNP stood ready to capitalise until a story emerged that appeared to suck the nationalists into the sleazy vortex.  Alex Salmond had apparently claimed £800 for food.

The story was a godsend for the Unionist media in Scotland.  The SNP, and in particular Salmond, were presented as being just as bad as the others.  The damage to Unionism had been ‘balanced’.

Humanitarian Crisis

On January 7th the Red Cross created headlines across the UK when it branded the English NHS as the equivalent of a Humanitarian Crisis.  It was an unprompted remark out of the blue.

It generated headlines across the UK BBC.  These headlines crossed the border.  Scots were given a glimpse of what a real NHS crisis was.  And the English NHS is indeed in trouble as the list below shows.

The NHS in England is in serious trouble.  Waiting times performances for A&E have plummeted as the graph to the right shows.

In Scotland we have our own issues in the NHS, but nowhere near anything being experienced south of the border.

Despite the relative success of the Scottish NHS the Scottish media, especially BBC Scotland, has pursued an agenda aimed at creating the perception of a similar crisis in Scotland.

Stories based on little more than number crunching Freedom of Information requests have spawned melodramatic headlines.  Last Thursday the over-egging of a delay to four new trauma centres was the number one story for the corporation.

On Friday the top story involved an apology by a health board after five [FIVE!] expectant mothers were diverted to another nearby hospital.

The story was the number one item on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.

There is only so much you can do with attacks and press releases supplied by Unionist politicians.  Despite a heroic effort, the Scottish media has been unable to replicate an equivalent of the ‘Humanitarian Crisis’ that crystalised the very real crisis in England … until now.

Breaking Point

What do you do when you’re only source of lurid headlines about the Scottish NHS are ones handed to you by the Scottish Labour party or ones you generate yourself?

You invite a known critic onto a political programme and invite him to provide you with one.

That’s exactly what happened on Sunday.  BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Show invited the head of the BMA Scotland onto the programme to talk about the Scottish NHS.

Peter Bennie has been issuing stark warnings about the Scottish NHS for years, usually calling for more funding.  The BMA is the trade union for doctors so Bennie is only doing his job as their representative.

Last month Bennie provided the media with useful soundbites when he claimed the Scottish NHS was “struggling to cope”.  He’d issued a similar warning almost exactly a year earlier.

Bennie is the go-to-guy if you want a melodramatic headline about the Scottish NHS.  When he appeared on the Sunday Politics Show, that is exactly what he provided.

And the BBC of course ran with it.  It was the top story on BBC Scotland’s online news page.

Bizarrely the story appeared before the Scottish government had the time to provide a response to Bennie’s claim.  It did though feature a comment from Scottish Labour’s comedic MSP Anas Sarwar.

Not surprisingly, the story also made it onto Sunday’s Reporting Scotland.

The story was quickly picked up by the pro-Union Scotsman newspaper.  It was the front page headline in Monday’s pro-Union Herald.

Already we see the predictable pattern emerging.  The ‘balancer’ is the headline news all courtesy of BBC Scotland.

So we now have a ‘balancer’ for the English NHS’s ‘Humanitarian Crisis’ headline.  In fact we have two.  Reporting Scotland focused on Bennie’s ‘system breakdown’ phrase whilst BBC Scotland online went with ‘breaking point’.

Who else will run with the story?  Well the Good Morning Scotland team will certainly read out The Herald headline tomorrow on the programme’s newspaper review slot.  Whether they push the story throughout the programme remains to be seen.

This is balance, BBC Scotland style.

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9 thoughts on “Balance … BBC Scotland style

  1. Thomas Potter

    This needs to stop.
    It’s way beyond acceptable,in fact SNP need to put this on the table and attack the lies head on.
    How long can the British State be allowed to pervert statistics and headlines to smear ScotGov. and SNP?
    This is getting out of hand.

    1. Robert Graham

      I have lost count of the times i have said ” ALL” live interviews the SNP have with this government mouthpiece must be used to firstly go for the presenter and point out the organisation for what it is state sponsored Propaganda
      They are not the friends and buddies of independence so why treat them that way , they are the enemy treat them that way , it is well beyond a joke now .

    2. Alex Beveridge

      Sorry to be negative Thomas, but it won’t stop. As you correctly describe them, they, the British State, are our greatest obstacle to independence, and the B.B.C are their mouthpiece in chief.
      Along with their fellow travellers, that means most of the M.S.M, this propaganda will continue unabated, indeed in the run-up to Indyref2 will greatly increase, so we have to be prepared for this onslaught.
      What effect the shambles that is Brexit will have on our campaign when it starts I know not, but those of us who will be campaigning on the doorsteps have to have the answers at our fingertips in order to combat the headlines in the media.
      I’m under no illusions about the magnitude of the task ahead, as it’s well known that most people only see the headline, and never investigate beyond that, even if there is any truth in the article.
      So no, it will never stop, and it’s wishful thinking to believe otherwise.

  2. Dr Jim

    Unfortunately we’ve gone beyond the realms of reason in Scotland now to a situation of them and us and it has to be said that the Unionists are behind this in the shape of the BBC Ruth Davidson and tragic Dudgale

    These people don’t care about Scotland these people care about themselves and their Union no matter how detrimental to Scotland that may be

    The creation of Ulsterisation where no side can win may be almost complete and if they succeed will lead to the same misery in Scotland as has been suffered in Northern Ireland for years

    Stagnation

    So open your eyes Scotland and see Westminster for what it is divide rule and take, none of the countries who became Independent from the UK are in a queue to come back

    Why not?

  3. Col

    Can you imagine a scenario where holyrood brought about a situation where 80000 jobs would be lost? The BBC would run with it for months. Why are they ignoring the cataclysmic effects of Brexit? You know the answer.

  4. Robert Graham

    just noticed RT have taken notice of the VANS and feature it on their news site , all we need is for some European based news channels to show interest and who knows this might just grow legs lets hope so .

  5. millie

    Excellent article, GA ponsonby. – And so it continues… .

    It was noticeable on radio last week that BBC Scotland’s Newsdrive programme – (which is supposed to cover UK and international news)- did not report this news on the ‘genuine’ crisis in NHS England. Therefore anyone who only gets their news/info from Radio Scotland may not have picked up on this.

    This is one of the reasons I’m against having a Scottish Six programme before independence has been delivered. As it currently stands we are getting ‘some’ news about rUK from the UK national news – On a Scottish Six from Pacific Quay, any negative ‘UK’ news would be carefully edited or left out.

    Re BBC Scotland’s new programme on 26th January-

    ……’thought provoking stories, told through some of the country’s most passionate and informed guests’…………

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08c79q1

    Can we look forward to seeing people from the indyref2 Blog, Business for Scotland, and the Wings site etc. … etc. on the new programme?

  6. Denis Clifford

    Yeh big spike in babies being born on one day in Scotland when a maternity unit was not able to cope. HUGE news “Scotland’s NHS” not coping?????? Get a life BBC Scotland or move to England.

    P.S. Why do we have to pay a licence for this amateur reporting ?

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