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Beware the subtle propaganda of the BBC – Towards Indyref2…

Beware the subtle propaganda of the BBC

Late Thursday evening an article appeared on the BBC Scotland main news page.  The article informed readers that the new Prime Minister Theresa May planned to visit Edinburgh the next day for a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The article headline included the names of both leaders.  At first glance the headline was unremarkable.  But then I glanced again.

pm mayWhoever drafted the headline gave Theresa May her formal title ‘PM May’ but omitted any formal title for Nicola Sturgeon, who was identified simply as ‘Sturgeon’.  It was blatantly disrespectful towards Ms Sturgeon.

Anyone clicking the headline would have been taken to the BBC Scotland politics page.  This suggests that the main headline was drafted by someone at Pacific Quay.  In other words, someone based at the BBC Scotland HQ in Glasgow drafted a headline that ignored the status of Scotland’s First Minister.

Why would they do this?  If the headline was drafted at speed in order to react to breaking news, then why was only one leader afforded the respect of a title?

In the headline above, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been stripped of her status.  She is portrayed as being of lesser importance, of being less significant than the UK Prime Minister.

The manipulation of words is a common propaganda tool.  The late Tony Benn once explained how trade unions would be portrayed as aggressive participants in industrial disputes by clever use of word manipulation.  Media outlets would report them as having ‘threatened’, ‘demanded’ or ‘refused’, with companies instead having ‘offered’, ‘requested’ or ‘declined’.

BBC Scotland frequently adopts curious phrases when reporting matters political.  The Scottish Government is more often than not described as the ‘SNP Government’.  News items also find Nicola Sturgeon described not as First Minister but as the ‘SNP Leader’.  The SNP can find itself described as ‘the nationalists’.

None of this is technically inaccurate, but it demonstrates how subtle manipulation of language can slant a news report and influence the news consumer.  Language, tone and even facial expression are subtle forms of propaganda that are almost impossible to prove.

Take a look at the clip below and see if you can identify how Glenn Campbell cleverly influences the viewer.

Campbell tells viewers: “Scotland voted differently, with sixty two per cent saying the UK should remain in the European Union.”

The claim that the Scottish electorate voted, not for Scotland to remain in the EU, but for the UK to remain a member, is the current argument being deployed by Conservatives north and south of the border.  It is the dominant pro-Union argument against indyref2.  That BBC Scotland’s political correspondent adopts Unionist language in a TV news report is not accidental.

Some might argue that Campbell is technically correct.  The EU referendum ballot explicitly made clear the vote was about UK membership.  However this ignores the constitutional situation that currently endures in Scotland that meant many people separated Scotland from the rest of the UK when voting [I was one].  Indeed the spectre of indyref2 hung over the EU debate north of the border for the duration of the campaign.

When you watch the BBC, you need to watch the BBC.  The most effective propaganda is the propaganda you don’t notice.


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7 thoughts on “Beware the subtle propaganda of the BBC

  1. Al Dossary

    I noticed this the other day also – where Nicola was described as “Nicola Sturgeon, MSP” rather than use her title of First Minister.

  2. Kenneth Coutts

    Aye! We are on to them.
    How many unionist propagandist are employed at Pacific Quay.
    With Independence, I expect to see them get their jotters.
    They will not be missed for sure.

  3. Mr Anderson

    As someone who has supported indy before 2014, this kind of assessment is actually a distraction from the debate and, will put off many who are new to the idea since brexit.

    The BBC’s reporting is sub standard in many area’s newsnight for one, but either incompetence or subtle bias, it is irrelevant to real issues. this harping on doesn’t help anything it is petty and won’t help the cause, we have countless other mediums to promote indyref2.

    The reporting the first go round highlighted not so much bias, but how out of touch the BBC were with what was happening on the ground in Scotland, they have their westminster bubble to blame for that.

    Why not write a complaint to the BBC and ask for an explanation, this is counterproductive.

    1. Ruthie

      Have you ever made a complaint to the bbc? I and countless others have only to receive a mediocre response/explanation if any.

    2. Phil

      Good point.bu this “sutle bias” does influence many people,especially when it is repeated incessantly.Worse of all we actually pay £140.00+ every year to listen to this drivel.The BBC is way beyond it,s sell by date.It ceased being unbiased or even a reliable source of current affairs information a long long time ago.Nowadays it,s just a dinosaur that has failed to keep up with modern times.It would be much better if it was cut down to size and the licence fee reduced accordingly.As it is, we,re now obliged to pay for a bloated underperforming organisation which employs a great many people of limited ability on disgustingly huge salaries.

  4. george mcdade

    sixty two percent of scots did say the UK should remain in the European Union. the question in the referendum was should the united kingdom remain or leave the eu. not should Scotland remain or leave the eu. and before anyone jumps down my throat i want independence. the fact is what he said is true we where voting for the uk to remain or leave

  5. Col

    The Scottish government should demand that information regarding those refusing to pay the license fee in Scotland is made public in the current constitutional climate and that any refusal to do so is an affront to democracy given the BBC’s blanket and overarching presence over our democratic process. Their obvious leanings towards a media which is hostile to the majority governing party has to be met with some balance immediately or they need to stop broadcasting and a truly impartial broadcaster set up using Scottish licence fees funded organisation set up.
    With a Broadcasting corporation reliant on its funding and structural make up dependant on an increasingly right wing tory government what hope does Scotland have of seeing a true reflection of itself on TV?
    We’ve suffered pee poor coverage for too long!

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