BBC Scotland has been accused of “bias by omission” in its news coverage of an Audit Scotland report on the Scottish Fire service.
The accusation, from a former Professor of Media Politics, follows news bulletins highlighting an apparent £389m shortfall in maintenance funding for the organisation.
On the early morning edition of Reporting Scotland, viewers were told: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue service has a backlog of almost four hundred million pounds in vehicle and property maintenance.
“That’s one of the findings in a report from the Auditor General, she said the funding gap was insurmountable without further transformation and investment.
“The service was formed five years ago when the eight regional units were merged.
“The report warned the risk of asset failure, such as vehicle breakdowns, would increase significantly unless spending is increased.”
A similar report appeared on the lunchtime edition of the programme with the four hundred million pounds figure again dominating.
However the presentation of the Audit Scotland report by BBC Scotland was criticised by academic John Robertson. The former Professor accused the BBC of exclusively highlighting the most negative aspect of the Audit Scotland findings.
On his blog, the academic wrote: “Missing from the BBC broadcast was any reference to statements 1 to 4 or the opening to statement 5,”
Robertson then listed the missing statements, which are shown below:
- The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) continues to deliver emergency and prevention services while progressing a complex and ambitious programme of reform.
- The board continues to work well, with real strengths in the quality of discussion and scrutiny and challenge of management. The board and management display mutual respect, a constructive tone and genuine shared ownership of the issues facing the SFRS.
- The SFRS has an ambitious vision that involves significant changes to make it a more flexible, modern service. Progress with developing and implementing the plans for transformation has been steady but slow, due to a range of contributing factors.
- The SFRS has continued to make progress with integrating different ways of working but has not yet achieved full integration. Harmonised pay and conditions for firefighters were agreed in April 2018, placing the SFRS in a good position to complete integration of the service.
- The SFRS has strong financial management and has developed a good approach to long-term financial planning. It is now in a position to progress with transformation.
Ending his blog, the former professor of Media Politics said: “This is a classic scare story, based on bias by omission, which was likely to be all the more scary given the time of broadcast and the repetition of one negative aspect, from a more complex and balanced document.”
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