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BBC Scotland … Still protecting Labour – Towards Indyref2…

BBC Scotland … Still protecting Labour

reporting_scotlandA vote took place in Holyrood on Tuesday.  MSPs were debating a motion lodged by Scottish Government minister Keith Brown who was seeking support across the chamber in order to strengthen the argument for Scotland to remain a member of the EU Single Market following Brexit.

The motion can be read below.

That the Parliament recognises the overwhelming vote of the people of Scotland to remain in the EU; supports calls for clarity from the UK Government on its proposals to leave the EU, including whether it will seek continued membership of the single market; notes the reports of the Fraser of Allander Institute and the National Institute of Social and Economic Research regarding the negative impact that leaving the single market would have on the UK and Scottish economies; recognises the opportunities for business and citizens that come from a Europe-wide approach to trade, regulation and free movement and the importance of ensuring that the benefits of this are shared fairly across society; supports the Scottish Government’s efforts to assist businesses in Scotland to secure new international opportunities; believes that the UK Government should seek to maintain Scotland’s place in the single market, and, in the event that the UK Government cannot or will not secure that option, calls for Scotland’s place in the single market to be fully protected.

There’s not much to disagree with here, unless you’re a Conservative MSP in which case calling for clarity from a Tory government at Westminster might be a tad awkward.  The motion makes no reference to independence or any veiled threat of a second independence referendum.  It’s a pretty generic pro-European statement which marries social equality, business interests and European integration sentiments.

Not one of Holyrood’s Unionist parties backed the motion.  The Tories voted against as did the Lib Dems.  Scottish Labour refused to even take part in the vote.

The vote made it onto that evening’s Reporting Scotland.  It was the number one item as you can see below.

Let’s take a look at this news item in detail.

Opposition Parties
The first thing to note is the introduction by Jackie Bird who tells viewers that “opposition parties” have refused to back the Scottish Government.  This isn’t accurate.  The actuality is that only some opposition parties refused to back the motion.  Those parties were of course the three Unionist parties.  The Scottish Greens backed the motion.  What BBC Scotland has done is to hide the fact that the Unionist bloc that has refused to back calls for Scotland’s Single Market status to be protected.

By using the phrase ‘opposition parties’ instead of the more precise ‘Unionist parties’ BBC Scotland is inviting the viewer to infer that all opposition parties are united against the Scottish Government.   The reality of the vote, that the Scottish Greens backed the motion, is not made clear until right at the end of the clip, by which time many people may have already have been misled.

It isn’t immediately clear that the Scottish Government has actually won the vote.  Jackie Bird introduces the news item merely describing the vote as ‘division’ and a ‘row’.  Like the refusal to inform viewers that the Scottish Greens backed the motion, the fact that the SNP motion was successful is not mentioned until right at the end.

snp-defeatedThis is inconsistent as recent BBC Scotland coverage of key Holyrood votes makes clear.

In September when a Labour motion on the Scottish NHS attracted majority support in the Holyrood chamber, it was headlined across BBC Scotland media as a defeat for the SNP Government.  The ‘SNP defeat’ was the central thrust of news reports.

It was a major news item on that evening’s Reporting Scotland, as the video clip below shows.

obfa-storyThere was similar coverage of the recent OBFA vote where the defeat for the Scottish Government became the focal point of the BBC’s coverage.  OBFA was featured on the Radio Scotland morning phone-in programme.

Even prior to the vote the potential defeat of the ‘minority SNP Government’ was pushed relentlessly on TV and radio.


Perhaps the most relevant Holyrood vote to be covered by the BBC was the ‘fracking ban’ vote which again saw the defeat of the SNP become the central theme of the broadcaster’s coverage.  Why is this relevant you ask?  Well before I explain its relevance, let’s return to the Single Market vote that took place on Tuesday.

Reporting Scotland’s coverage, as well as playing down the win for the Scottish Government, also played down the behaviour of the Unionist parties.  In particular the Scottish Labour party.  Indeed much of the item didn’t deal with the vote at all, but skewed off into another area.

If you had relied on Reporting Scotland to inform you of the details of the vote you would be none the wiser as to how Labour MSPs voted.  That’s a significant number of the population.  Nobody who tuned into Reporting Scotland would have learned that Scottish Labour refused to take part in the vote.  Kezia Dugdale’s party abstained.

dugdale-single-marketWhat ought to have been a key element of the news coverage was simply airbrushed out.

Viewers were denied the opportunity of contrasting Dugdale’s previous support for Scotland remaining in the single market with her refusal to formally confirm that support in a parliamentary vote.

But is the abstention of a party in a key Holyrood vote really something Reporting Scotland would normally highlight?  This is where the ‘Fracking Ban’ vote become relevant.  The reason the June vote is particularly relevant is because it saw the SNP abstain.  And look how this vote was covered on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.

Not only did the programme highlight the vote result at the outset, it also gave prominent coverage to the fact that the SNP had abstained.  This is as clear an example of an editorial double-standard as you’ll get.

The decision by the SNP to abstain wasn’t just reported in isolation, it was carefully analysed by Brian Taylor.  This is of course in contrast to the approach taken by the presenter when confronted with Scottish Labour’s behaviour on Tuesday.

Reporting Scotland and Brian Taylor had a clear duty to highlight the behaviour of Labour in refusing to back Keith Brown’s motion.  Reporting Scotland was required to show consistency in its coverage of Scottish politics and not to behave in a manner that suggests there still exists a protective favouritism towards the Labour party in Scotland.  Viewers who pay their TV licence deserved to be informed of the petty politicking of a party that makes much of its pro-EU credentials.  BBC Scotland, as is becoming the norm these days, let the public down.

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14 thoughts on “BBC Scotland … Still protecting Labour

  1. George Clark

    “believes that the UK Government should seek to maintain Scotland’s place in the single market, and, in the event that the UK Government cannot or will not secure that option, calls for Scotland’s place in the single market to be fully protected.”

    “The motion makes no reference to independence or any veiled threat of a second independence referendum.”

    Maybe just a little disingenuous there; how would you interpret the call for Scotland’s place in the single market to be fully protected?

    1. GA Ponsonby

      Hello George

      I would interpret it as seeking backing for the Scottish Government to negotiate directly with the EU in order to protect our Single Market place. If Indyref2 was implicit in the wording then it would be Scotland’s EU membership and not our Single Market place that would have been referred to.

      Feel free to comment on the thrust of the article which is about the BBC’s failure to highlight Scottish Labour’s stance, and the BBC’s inconsistency when compared to coverage of recent Holyrood votes.

  2. Clydebuilt

    I noticed the same mis-reporting on Radio Scotland’s 6pm news bulletin. Whilst STV reported events accurately minutes later…….

  3. Bibbit

    simply don’t watch BBC Reporting Scotland anymore. It is so blatantly obviously a 24/7 Yoonfest.

    Scots now know how Russians, N Koreans, Albanians etc. have to sift & interpret the UK state ‘news’ in order to get to the truth.

    I simply switch off and tune in to the alternative media for the truth. No wonder ‘old news’ outlets are dying.

  4. Pingback: The Appointment in Achnamara | A Wilderness of Peace

  5. Dobbs

    Good, detailed analysis.

    Just as privately owned media and news agencies have institutionalised bias — with a desire to avoid offending potential advertisers being a priority — all BBC institutions can be expected to pander to agencies and actors that they depend upon for survival — of course, here that means The British State. That’s all as to be expected.

    There’s no obvious solution to all this. If we had a Scottish BBC that was independent of Westminster and London, it would be accused — probably rightly — of pandering to the Scottish government who funded and ultimately managed it. This would not necessarily be beneficial to the Independence movement as the opposition would be as sceptical towards it as we are now towards the current arrangement.

    It might even be the case that the current situation suits the independence movement better. It’s hard to call. As it stands, the independence movement is more or less forced to look for information elsewhere which I think is healthy. If BBC Scotland was on the SNP’s side, independence supporters would be less well informed and more complacent.

    I’m aware that the BBC played a huge role in thwarting Yes in 2014. But just about every other news agency played a part too, as did many other institutions and actors that the independence movement could never hope to control or influence. A pro-indy Scottish BBC would probably have been shot down in flames along with Yes and Salmond in 2014, and it probably wouldn’t have helped or significantly changed the result.

    I think you need to take the long view. Independence supporters learned a lot from the 2014 experience and will be much more formidable, better prepared, and informed next time.

    If that which doesn’t kill people makes them stronger, then it probably makes political movements stronger too. And the independence movement isn’t dead, BBC bias certainly didn’t kill it — not by a long shot.

  6. Piotr

    We deserve better.

    These journalists are paid. We have no choice but to pay them. They claim to be professional. They probably have a mandate to report the news in a balanced way. What we see, time and time again is not balance, it is blatant bias. It may be difficult to eradicate bias in the media, which is why diversity in reporting is good, but we do deserve a higher standard of reporting from the BBC.

    1. Les Wilson

      Yes, we definitely deserve better, but we will never get it from Yoonland correspondents across the board.
      Perhaps the comment below points to a chance to go some way towards leveling
      the field. If, as I say again below, if it is not a reserved matter as far as Scotland is
      we are different you see, we must obey!

  7. Philip Maughan

    GA; noticed an article in last Saturday’s Times newspaper, ‘TV Revolution is Made to measure’. It features a commercial TV company, ‘Made Television’ which is opening local TV stations in various cities in England and Wales (Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff and now Newcastle. Apparently their viewing figures are good. Two points; does this present an opportunity to get a more pro independence platform in Scotland? and why are they concentrating on England and Wales? I know, perhaps point one answers point two, but if an independent station is practically possible then it seems like a great way to combat the BBC bias.

    1. Les Wilson

      Indeed, if possible we should grasp the chance.
      However, are we sure that this media is available to Scotland, or is it a
      ” reserved matter here!”

  8. Les Wilson

    The BBC, IS, the enemy within and head of a corrupt UK media, as far as Scotland goes. We all need to deride them at every turn, and be much more vocal. Resist their propaganda whenever it arises, aka, every day 24/7.

    In this regard I take my hat off to Mr Ponsonby, Professor John Robertson and others who stand up and expose the workings and devious actions of the so called State Broadcaster.

  9. Christine Kabashi

    Murdo never challenged as to how 55 million in the ruk market somehow beats 127 million of the EU either

  10. millie

    Re: FMQs and labour questioning on train services.

    Labour has been going after the train service for weeks, even although many of the delays etc are a result of the massive engineering upgrades that are being undertaken just now to increase capacity.

    The 38 degrees Abellio petition had 19847 signatures on 25th October
    The 38 degrees Abellio petition had 19993 @ 1pm today 17th Nov..

    The labour party seems to have picked an area to go on- to take a scalp- and transport is always the easiest because everyone uses it.

    BBC appears to be on message?- BBC Scotland scheduling prevented Scottish viewers seeing ‘at prime time’ a UK wide Panorama which focused on the extreme challenges for the rail network and rail passengers IN THE UK- mostly due to increase in passenger numbers and the ‘SCANDALOUS’ lack of investment by ‘past’ UK governments/companies since privatisation –(basically, they took the money but invested zilch). We now have to pick up the pieces of Westminster’s failure.

    The Trouble with Our Trains (BBC) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b082r7tt

    During the labour party’s tenure at Holyrood- (during a time of plenty), they did very little of note apart from lumbering us with PFI debt, but they now expect the SNP to right all of the wrongs of the previous 50 years mismanagement of railways, health, schools etc. etc…. And they will continue with this theme.

    With regard to today and the breakdown of the train– SCOTRAIL describes it as –

    “The ‘worst’ type of train failure (locked brake), in the ‘worst’ part of our network, at the ‘worst’ possible time”. And at FMQs, Nicola Sturgeon described today’s breakdown as- ‘an extraordinary event’. And it happened on the day of FMQs!

    The BBC currently has a headline : ‘Sturgeon says sorry…’.

    You could call it the ‘perfect storm’- strangely, that reminds me of December 2010 when ‘the perfect storm’ took the scalp of another Transport Minister – Stewart Stevenson.

  11. Janet

    17th Nov 2016

    Been on plenty of failed trains – at the front end – have even inadvertently blocked line ‘Y’ (to Fife) in Princes Street Gardens. Never considered such an event to be newsworthy.

    Clearly an agenda to create chaos in government and claim a scalp.

    Refurbishment and fleet expansion takes time, which the unionists know. Corner to be turned sure enough but not until 2018.

    As far as I’m concerned, many of today’s problems stem directly from Westminster’s stinky attitude to the railways, not just railways in Scotland but elsewhere too.

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