BBC Scotland has been accused of deliberately manipulating coverage of rail fare increases in order to obscure the fact they rose by much less in Scotland than south of the border.
Rail fares in England and Wales rose by an average of 3.1%. In Scotland the increase was ten per cent lass at 2.8%.
However suspicions were fuelled when several BBC Scotland reporters and presenters began describing the Scottish increase as “almost three per cent” instead of stating the actual 2.8% figure.
BBC Scotland reporter Nick Eardley tweeted: “Rail fares rise by 3.1% in England and Wales and almost 3% in Scotland.”
The “almost three per cent” line was repeated on the BBC’s UK national news. The news reader refused to quote the actual Scottish increase despite directly quoting the figure for England and Wales and a graphic which clearly showed the Scottish increase was 2.8%.
The reporting on BBC Scotland’s flagship evening news programme Reporting Scotland was exactly the same with the news reader using the phrase “almost three per cent” instead of making clear the Scottish increase was in fact 2.8%. The reporting in the subsequent item was even worse with reporter Laura Maxwell using the figure for peak travel and telling viewers the increase in Scotland was 3.2%.
The “almost three per cent” phrase was repeated the following day when Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson used it in a news bulletin. Other bulletins did though contain the 2.8% figure.
The use of the same “almost three per cent” phrase by so many BBC reporters, despite the Scottish figure being known, has fuelled speculation that they were responding to instruction to be ‘on message’.
Responding to the broadcasts, a BBC critic told Indyref2: “The Scottish increase was ten per cent less than that for England and Wales. That should have formed part of the news narrative, but it didn’t.
“By presenting the Scottish increase as ‘almost three per cent’ what the BBC was doing was inviting the public to accept the increase in Scotland was the same as south of the border.
“The use of the Scottish peak-time rail fare increase by Reporting Scotland to obtain a figure greater than that of England and Wales average was as shocking as it was selective.
“This is a clear attempt to manipulate rather than inform.”
It also emerged that the ‘rip off’ headline used by BBC Scotland online in its top story article on the rail fare increase had been based on comments from a Scottish Labour MSP.