A BBC Scotland presenter has defended the bizarre scheduling of a Brexit related interview by claiming that its early morning slot was due to the interviewee’s travel plans.
The defence by Gary Robertson followed criticisms that a warning that Brexit could be a disaster for Scottish NHS recruitment had been downplayed and marginalised by BBC Scotland.
The warning from BMA Scotland that medical recruitment could be hit by Brexit and that patient care could suffer as a result, was relegated on the morning radio programme Good Morning Scotland and later on the flagship evening news programme Reporting Scotland.
On Wednesday morning BMA Scotland issued a dire warning that the UK government’s failure to plan for Brexit could have a major impact on “already stretched” health services.
The organisation said “virtually no progress” had been made to allow medical professionals to come and work in Scotland.
Dr Peter Bennie said: “It is deeply concerning that we have seen virtually no progress on a solution that will allow medical professionals to come to Scotland to work after Brexit.”
He added: “The benefits of allowing doctors to practice freely across the EU are manifold. Not least among them is the substantial contribution European doctors make to delivering care in our NHS.
“At a time when our workforce is already stretched to its limits, it is unthinkable that we could simply stand by and lose this important supply line of doctors for our hospitals and communities.”
The warning was BBC Scotland’s headline story on early Wednesday morning. It initially featured as the top news item on BBC Scotland online and on the early morning editions of Reporting Scotland.
However, almost immediately the story began to suffer from bizarre editorial decisions which saw it shunted down the BBC Scotland news pecking order.
Despite being billed as the top story on the morning news programme Good Morning Scotland, the warning was deemed worthy of only one key interview on the three hour programme, appearing in the lowest priority slot at 06:10.
Responding to online criticism at the unusual early slot for such an important story, Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson claimed it was because the BMA Scotland Chief had to fly out to Brussels that same day.
The presenter declined to explain why the interview could not have been pre-recorded, as is normal practice, and broadcast later. Indeed Good Morning Scotland contained a pre-recorded interview about Chernobyl later in the programme.
The 06:10 interview was the only discussion on the programme. Later key slots of 06:40, 07:10, 07:40, 08:10 and 08:40 ignored the Brexit related story but included an item on Sweden fearing a war with Russia. The prime-time slot of 08:10 was filled by an item on Marks & Spencer profits.
Suspicions were further fuelled that BBC Scotland was seeking to downplay the story when the online article was removed from its top slot on the BBC Scotland main news page before 09:00 to be replaced with a story about Donald Trump playing golf in Scotland. The article placement descended rapidly, moving to eight spot by 11:00 before disappearing altogether from the main news page by 13:30.
The marginalisation continued on that evening’s Reporting Scotland. Despite the story having featured as the lead item in the early morning and lunchtime editions, it was shunted down to fifth item on the more widely viewed 18:00 edition of the flagship news programme. Stories that had been considered of lesser importance throughout the day by BBC Scotland, suddenly found themselves leapfrogging the BMA Brexit warning.
Indeed by the time the tea-time edition of Reporting Scotland aired, the warning about the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s NHS was completely missing from the banner intro of Reporting Scotland as can be seen below.
Analysis earlier this year by this website found Brexit related items were routinely being sidelined and marginalised by Reporting Scotland. The broadcaster continually denies a pro-Union bias in its coverage of Scottish politics despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
This week the SNP submitted a document to Ofcom that criticised BBC Scotland’s coverage of news on its flagship programme Reporting Scotland. The programme was described as “parochial” and outdated. The station was also accused of failing to provide proper coverage of UK government policies, including Brexit, that affect Scotland.
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