Do you trust BBC Scotland? If you’re an independence supporter the answer is probably no.
If you gave it some thought though you’d qualify your reply by separating BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs department with the rest.
Mistrust of the BBC in Scotland stems from the station’s presentation of news … political news.
But even that mistrust isn’t across the board. Not everyone in the News and Current Affairs department is viewed with suspicion.
Ask a Yesser for his or her opinion of Isabel Fraser and it’s likely it will be positive. John Beattie is often cited as an example of someone who had a good referendum. James Cook didn’t provoke the same outrage as his colleague Glenn Campbell throughout the indyref1 campaign.
In short, there are good apples in amongst the bad at pacific Quay. That was no more evident last week when two of the aforementioned reporters were each designated with the task of reporting on the First Minister’s trip to the USA.
James Cook and Glenn Campbell took it in turns to report on Nicola Sturgeon’s trip. Cook, already stateside, was an obvious choice to cover the First Minister’s Californian excursion. Campbell, based in Scotland, was despatched to New York in time for her arrival in the Big Apple.
James Cook covered the first two days of the First Minister’s five day USA trip. Below, edited into one clip, are Monday and Tuesday’s items as they appeared on Reporting Scotland.
The items are informative and focus on what the First Minister will be doing or has been doing. There’s no attempt at pushing any agenda from the BBC reporter who pretty much sticks to reporting factual matters. Cook provides some background on the issue of climate change and how the Governor of California has adopted a different stance to that of Donald Trump.
There are references to Brexit and Scottish independence but both are proportional to the time and priority afforded them by the First Minister. Neither dominated to the extent that they overshadowed the key aim of the visit which was trade and investment.
The first item contains criticism of the USA trip from the First Minister’s pro-Union opponents. However Cook allows the First Minister to respond to the criticisms in his second item, although someone at BBC Scotland removed a significant segment of Nicola Sturgeon’s reply – more on that here.
James Cook’s reports are what you’d normally see from a reporter not intent on pushing an agenda but rather trying to cover a foreign visit from a leader who is doing so against a domestic backdrop which is in major constitutional flux.
Glenn Campbell covered the last three days of the First Minister’s USA trip. As with the James Cook items, all here have been packaged into one video clip.
In the first item, broadcast on Wednesday April 5th, Glenn Campbell opens by informing viewers that “the UK takes the lead on overseas aid” and that the Scottish Government has a “relatively small budget for international assistance”.
Campbell then tries to link the First Minister’s UN speech to her desire for Scottish independence. The reporter implies Nicola Sturgeon has chosen to make her speech at the UN because it symbolises statehood.
The viewer is being manipulated. Campbell first seeks to undermine the significance of Scottish Government overseas aid when compared to the UK Govt, and by extension casts doubt on the official stated reason for the First Minister’s UN speech. He introduces the issue of independence and cleverly implies the venue of the United Nations is being used as a symbolic prop by the First Minister.
Campbell also uses the UN Security Council emergency meeting, discussing the use of chemical weapons in Syria, to again draw attention to the First Minister’s lack of real influence on the world stage. Only after having conditioned the viewer does Campbell make any attempt at reporting on the facts of Nicola Sturgeon’s visit.
The change in tack is brief. Campbell immediately returns to the issue of independence and shows a brief clip of the First Minister’s talking about the issue in a speech given whilst she was in California. There then follows an apparent interview with the president of the UN General Assembly who is heard to answer a question we don’t hear. It is clear though that he has been asked his views on Scottish independence.
Campbell then says the aid being offered by the Scottish Government as “adds a little” to the aid being given to Syria by the UK Government. He ends by describing the UK as “a global power with a big budget” and highlighting Unionist attacks calling on the First Minister to concentrate on the ‘day job’.
Glenn Campbell’s item was, in my opinion, a carefully crafted piece of propagandas by an arch manipulator. The First Minister’s UN speech was sidelined and her motives implicitly misrepresented by someone who appeared to have an agenda. That agenda was to belittle the reason for the FM’s UN speech and to present Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to the UN as a clever attempt to promote Scottish independence.
The actual speech, when given, contained not one reference to Scottish independence save for answers during a QA session when the First Minister was hijacked by first a Daily Telegraph reporter and then someone called Mike Croll.
Glenn Campbell’s second item on Nicola Sturgeon’s visit was broadcast on Thursday April 6th. It was bizarre in that it made almost no significant mention whatsoever of the First Minister’s official itinerary and instead tried to manufacture controversy around Donald Trump.
From the get-go it’s clear that Glenn Campbell has no interest in the First Minister’s engagements that day. His first question is to ask whether Nicola Sturgeon has snubbed Donald Trump or vice-versa.
The whole news report is a tabloidesque attempt to manufacture a controversy rather than report facts. In order to embellish the shallow report, viewers see clips of Trump playing golf at Turnberry and of a year-old Gary Tank Commander comedy interview with the First Minister.
The dreadful item includes just one reference to the FM’s UN speech given the previous evening. The six second long video clip contains no audio. The item ends with the First Minister fielding more questions about Trump.
Glenn Campbell’s third item, broadcast on Friday April 7th, is the only one that focused entirely on one of the First Minister’s engagements, an interview as part of the Women In The World summit.
The BBC Scotland reporter was unable to resist a gentle misrepresentation of the First Minister’s response to a question on Donald Trump. There was also a tendency to highlight some of the more flippant and less than serious remarks made by the First Minister. The item ended with positive comments from some of the ladies who had been in the audience for the event.
However there was a glaring omission from the item. Nicola Sturgeon had drawn gasps of disbelief when she revealed the so-called ‘rape clause’ that had been introduced by Theresa May’s UK Government. The segment, shown below, followed comments from the First Minister who said it wasn’t enough for women to be in a position of power but that they had to do the right thing with that power.
The comments were without a doubt the most newsworthy part of her interview in New York. However the segment was missing from Glenn Campbell’s news report when it aired on Reporting Scotland.
We can’t know for sure whether the BBC reporter himself cut them from his package. His reporting of the previous two days though makes it more than likely he himself was responsible.
Although this ended Glenn Campbell’s appearances on Reporting Scotland with respect to the First Minister’s USA visit, it didn’t end his influence on those reports. On Saturday the following news item appeared on the flagship news programme.
The item is about a second independence referendum, or rather Nicola Sturgeon’s confirmation that she isn’t considering an early Holyrood election to “break the deadlock” over such a referendum.
Quite how an early election would help break ‘deadlock’ that isn’t there given Theresa May has yet to officially respond to the live Section 30 request, isn’t quite explained. However the first question is who at the BBC the FM has been speaking to – the identity of this mysterious individual is not revealed by Reporting Scotland.
The person who has effectively planted the news item is none other than Glenn Campbell. Whilst in New York the BBC reporter asked the First Minister whether she was considering an early Holyrood election. I know this because his ‘interview’ was broadcast early on Saturday morning on Radio Scotland.
If you listened to the clip above you’ll have noticed that Campbell doesn’t ask Nicola Sturgeon one solitary question about her New York engagements. Not one. He does though ensure that the issue of independence, which Nicola Sturgeon did not focus on, was included in BBC Scotland’s coverage of her visit to the Big Apple.
The inclusion of Campbell’s interview in that evening’s Reporting Scotland ensured that a very significant announcement was overshadowed by the contrived story. The collaboration between US based Trip Advisor and Visit Scotland was pushed down the news agenda by the broadcaster.
In analysing Glenn Campbell’s reports I was struck by how many questions and issues were completely unrelated to the First Minister’s trip. Most could have been covered at any given week in the calendar. I formed the view early on that he wasn’t there to cover the trip, but to detract or distract from it.
I’ve long held the view that Glenn Campbell should have been moved from political reporting after the first independence referendum. He is simply unable to resist the temptation to inject his own agenda-driven asides into news reports and jab misrepresentations into interview answers. He has a tabloid mindset that rears its pro-Union head all too often.
Readers of this site will of course have their own views on the merits of Glenn Campbell’s peculiar style of reporting. My view is that he is the least trusted of political reporters at Pacific Quay for good reason.
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