Good Morning Scotland’s newspaper ‘review’ is bias by proxy

Those of you who read my articles will know that I have long argued that the practice of ‘reviewing’ the front pages of newspapers on the BBC is one I oppose.

My argument is simple.  Newspapers are not politically neutral and more often than not will place politically motivated stories on their front page.

By reading out and summarising such headlines, the BBC is pushing a politically partisan line by proxy.  This was brought into sharp focus during the 2014 independence referendum when newspaper headlines frequently attacked the idea of Scottish independence.

The clips below give a flavour of how the flagship morning news programme Good Morning Scotland covered the issue of independence via the front pages of some newspapers in the run-up to September 2014.

 

 

This week I had cause to take issue once again with this BBC Scotland habit of promoting politically partisan newspaper stories.  On Friday April 21st the Good Morning Scotland team went through their ritual of reading out the stories from a selection of newspapers.

Newspapers selected for review included The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Herald, The ‘i’, The Guardian, The Scotsman and regional newspaper The P & J.  Missing from the list was Scotland’s only pro-independence newspaper The National.

So what you ask?  Well listen to the clip below and pay attention to the review of the Scotsman front page.

 

The Scotsman is a pro-Union publication.  Its front page was taken up with a story that attacked independence.  Good Morning Scotland presenter Hayley Millar gives quite a lengthy summary of the story.

The story – covered by the BBC the day before – was based on a report from the Fraser of Allander Institute.

What listeners aren’t told is that the research was commissioned by the UK Government.

The story was a piece of quite blatant electoral propaganda.

So a story based on research commissioned by the Tory Government was included in the newspaper review by the Good Morning Scotland team.  The other front pages read out by the GMS team were nowhere near as politically loaded.  The Scotsman story stood out.

That same morning another story had been headlined by another newspaper.  This story was based on an issue that has been running for weeks in Scotland but had been rather played down by the BBC.  The issue was that of the so-called rape clause.

The issue had featured in the previous day’s First Minister’s Question’s at Holyrood.  Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson had come under fire from every other political leader in the Scottish Parliament after she refused to condemn the controversial policy.

The ‘rape clause’ story was front paged by The National.  The National is a pro-independence newspaper.  As I mentioned earlier, the newspaper was missing from the Good Morning Scotland review.

A pro-Union newspaper with a story based on research sponsored by the Tory Govt that attacked independence was included for review.  A story from a pro-independence newspaper that attacked the Tories in Scotland was ignored.

I questioned this imbalance on social media.

Others picked up my concerns and posed the question directly to GMS presenter Gary Robertson who insisted the decision not to include The National was down to nothing more sinister than time constraints.

The excuse might have carried weight had it been a one off.  But it wasn’t.  Exactly nine days ago the same thing had happened.

Below are the front pages as published by The Scotsman and The National on April 12th.

The pro-Union newspaper is carrying a story that is very clearly aimed at undermining the SNP, and by extension, independence.  The National front page is very clearly highlighting Ruth Davidson’s backing for the rape clause.

Only one newspaper front page was covered by GMS in its ‘review’ as you can hear below.

 

If this is mere coincidence it’s quite an extraordinary one.  The same newspapers are involved as are almost identical stories.  On both occasions The Scotsman’s pro-Union story is promoted but The National’s ‘rape clause’ story is ignored.

Newspapers aren’t just promoted on BBC Radio Scotland.  The broadcaster also punts these politically partisan outlets using its online news page.

Adverts, for that is what they are, appear every day in a very prominent position disguised as news items.

The nature of the press in Scotland, with its overwhelming pro-Union leaning, means that pro-Union narratives will dominate.

This in turn means that BBC Scotland, in terms of newspaper coverage, will indirectly promote a pro-Union line.  It is bias by proxy.

BBC Scotland has an obligation to maintain neutrality.  It can move some way to achieving this by ditching these newspaper reviews.

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11 thoughts on “Good Morning Scotland’s newspaper ‘review’ is bias by proxy

  1. Alasdair Macdonald

    Thanks again to GAP for this well researched piece, which is simply the latest in a long line of similar.

    Perhaps it is because it had become so routine I had, until now, never really questioned the idea of programmes like GMS having a section which focussed on the items in the press. Indeed, I have on many occasions, enjoyed such sections! I now question my previous uninformed position.

    Are there any data relating to the frequency of exposure of the various titles over the course of, say, a month?

  2. michael b

    The policy can’t even be based on sales figures the National is on par with the Daily Telegraph and outsells the Guardian…

    The only good thing is no one listens to GMS anyway.

  3. commonoldworkinchap

    Working in England at the moment. Rape clause ??? What rape clause!!!! Absolutely no
    mention of it . Plenty of stories about those pesky Scots, mind. Oh and how Marine Le
    Pen has a point. ???? The National ,to compete, must give Joe public what they want from
    a newspaper, you know salacious gossip about celebrities, a good footy/racing section
    and of course news about wee neds ( Glasgow gangsters ). A format like this delivering
    political and social facts maybe provide some opposition to the shite the billionaires churn
    out. I mean, who wants to eat their pieces at work, reading the National in its present format??

    It is not rocket science. The National is in the unenviable position of trying to redress all
    the other papers propaganda, and IMO it is doing a not too bad job. It needs to appeal
    to a wider audience. I mean ,how many people buy a certain paper for the fitba or the
    horses, and after put on their bets on or read about their team, go on to read the rest of
    the right wing crap.

    Add a bit of fun. Life is tough for a lot of folk, so a good laugh or a bit of harmless
    gossip can be some light relief. And I don’t mean a political cartoon. Fight the big
    beasts using their formats, but with unbias checkable facts. Can’t fail.

    1. Angus k

      I Agree with that. The National is a good counter-balance to the mainstream media opinions. But I do find it a bit ‘dry’. No harm in including more general UK & World popular culture items. Yes make it a bit more entertaining as well as informative.

      1. John Thomson

        Although it is not the only means of countering bias within main stream media it is by far the best. With out countering this obvious bias we will not win.

  4. Colin

    As long as they are so blatantly biased we have at least an opportunity to highlight it on social media. It is clearly their purpose to keep those not on social media onside as it were. The BBC knows fine well that they need to target certain sections of our populace to stop the indy wave from breaking down hard and washing their precious union away into history.

  5. Bibbit

    Isn’t the BBC not allowed to advertise private, profit making products? The papers are private, profit making products. Are they not breaching their code of conduct by advertising these products? Should they not, at the very least, be hiding the papers’ front page titles or newspapers names? These are commercial brands, after all.

    Critics say, ‘Oh but we need a free press’. But it is not free. The editors must toe the off-shore, tax evading owners’ lines.

    SEcondly we have no public authority to regulate the press. It is a paper tiger.

    Thirdly, Treeza has had several private dinners with the Mail owner in Downing Street. Cameron did likewise.

    These clandestine meetings should be made illegal or at least recorded verbatim so that the public can judge what the Establishment and Power with a capital P is cooking up to hoodwink us with next.

  6. Geejay

    Penetrating analysis again GAP.

    Well put Bibbit. To call the UK press “free” is an abuse of language. Free to lie, slander, character assassinate, denigrate, insult, demonise etc etc. Our press is controlled by billionaires with their own hard-right agendas totally uninterested in fair reportage. Of course, this suits the hard-right Tories and hence we have no effective oversight of the press.

  7. James Bradley

    The National sells way less than any other the other papers, including the Guardian. even the List sells more copies. Secondly, it rarely produces hard news exclusives. Comapre and contrast with the Sunday Herald an Indy paper with good scoops – and it gets a shitload of coverage on the paper reviews.
    You also forget all the namecheck for Kevin McKenna and Iain McWhirter’s columns.

  8. TheStrach

    The BBC will never change. They’ll pump out unionist propaganda until we can get rid of them. I never listen to or watch the BBC propaganda or that produced by the offshore billionaires as it’s not good for my health.

    I like the idea of a tabloid Indy supporting paper but we also need an outlet on TV and radio. I don’t know how we can get that given the current arrangements.

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