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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
We left part one with the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit having failed to respond to an attempt to escalate the complaint.  After six weeks had passed and no acknowledgement was forthcoming from the ECU, the BBC Trust was approached.
 
Two days later and the BBC Trust responded:

"Thank you for your email of 19 June. We have spoken with the Editorial Complaints Unit and they have advised that they will send a reply to you by the end of this week.  If you are unhappy with their response then it is open to you to write to us again to request an appeal."

It was now June 21st, fully five months after the broadcast that had led to the complaint.  During that time an interesting hitherto unreported aspect of the January meeting in Dublin had emerged.  This, you will recall, was the event at which BBC reporter Raymond Buchanan was present.

Speaking on May 24th, Lucinda Creighton revealed that the Dublin event saw member states strongly endorse the admission of new members to the EU:

"Ireland is a supporter of enlargement.  We have made enlargement one of our Presidency priorities.  I was very much encouraged by the strong endorsement of this decision by Member States at the informal meeting of European Affairs Ministers which I chaired in Dublin in January."

It's not an earth shattering revelation, but it nevertheless challenges the claim that Lucinda Creighton would have in any way suggested the EU should have been reduced in size by expelling Scotland.

The prompting of the BBC Trust did indeed result in yet another response from the BBC.  This time the reply came as a shock.

"If your complaint had been about the Reporting Scotland report in isolation then the ECU could have looked into your complaint, but we cannot consider complaints that there has been an imbalance in the coverage of an issue across a range of output.  Responsibility for that lies with the relevant area of BBC management at stage 2 of the complaints process...

I have therefore agreed with the Head of Public Policy for Scotland that he will provide you with a further response on this issue, and he tells me he will do so at the earliest opportunity."

The ECU had sat on the complaint for six weeks, then when booted up the backside by the Trust, had refused to consider it.  The complaint was back at square one, dealing again with BBC Scotland.

The Head of Public Policy for Scotland finally replied on 31st July, it was now over six months since the original broadcast.

"At no point in any of the broadcast pieces is it claimed that the views of Lucinda Creighton and the UK Government are identical in all aspects. And Raymond Buchanan, at no point, asserts this. Nor did he claim, as you suggest, nor insinuate, that Scotland would be outside the EU. Consequently I cannot agree with you that he misled viewers in his report of the interview with Lucinda Creighton.

...

Ms Creighton has not retracted what she said; she has not complained that our reporting was inaccurate; she has not said by whom she thinks the reporting was 'misconstrued'; and BBC Scotland did not, as you suggest, impose a 'news blackout' on any subsequent remarks made by her - in fact it was discussed at length, two days after the original interview with Lucinda Creighton was broadcast, on the Sunday Politics programme (of 27 January) in a live interview, conducted by Andrew Kerr, with the Cabinet Secretary for Culture in the Scottish Government, Fiona Hyslop MSP."

At last, the BBC had at least acknowledged that complaint that there had been a news blackout of Lucinda Creighton's clarification emails.  BBC Scotland were now claiming that an interview on the Sunday afternoon Politics Show that saw their presenter defend the Reporting Scotland broadcast was ‘news coverage'.

The BBC internal process had now been exhausted and, not surprisingly, they found themselves not guilty.  An appeal was immediately lodged with the BBC Trust.

The initial response was not encouraging and a two week delay ensued before the Trust eventually acknowledged the appeal on 16th August, claiming it had been sent to the wrong department.

Two weeks later, on 29th August 2013, over seven months after the broadcast on Reporting Scotland, the Trust wrote to the complainant confirming the appeal would be heard:

"Further to my email of 16 August, I am writing to let you know that your complaint will now be considered by the Committee at its 7 November 2013 meeting. Their decision is likely to be ratified at their December meeting and you will be given the decision shortly afterwards."

On October 9th the Trust acknowledged the evidence submitted by both sides, the complainant and BBC Scotland.  The complainant was sent PDF's of the evidence.

On November 8th, the Trust confirmed a ruling had been reached:

"I wanted to confirm that the Trustees considered your appeal at yesterday's Committee meeting.  As previously indicated, the Committee's finding remains confidential until the minutes of the meeting have been ratified.  This is likely to be in early December and I will write to you then to let you know the outcome."

Note that early December is given for ratification, after which the decision is no longer confidential.  It was subsequently confirmed as December 5th.

December 5th came and went and there was no notification.  In fact the decision, taken on November 7th, wasn't revealed to the complainant until six weeks later on December 19th.

BBC GUILTY

The BBC was found to have misled viewers with their January 25th broadcast on Reporting Scotland.  The explanation given by the Trust was complex and torturous in places but it was there in black and white.

There was a softening of the blow for BBC bosses as the Trust Committee found no evidence that the inaccurate nature of the broadcast was deliberate.  Indeed this was something readily conceded by the complainant who acknowledged that Raymond Buchanan may not have intended to mislead.

Radio and online broadcasts were also deemed not to have broken any guidelines.  This was not surprising given the limited impact of audio and the static word.  However it should be noted that as of this week, the online article published by the BBC at the time of the interview still very much gives the impression that Lucinda Creighton and the Scottish Government are at odds over this issue.  Note the use of the word "but" prior to giving SNP Ministers' view.

But what of BBC Scotland's claim that no news blackout of Lucinda Creighton's follow up statements was employed and that there was nothing new in her statements?

Here the Trust came down on the side of the BBC.

The Appeal Committee appeared to bend over backwards to accommodate the BBC.  It should be recalled that BBC Scotland claimed an "extensive" interview that took place on the Sunday afternoon and featured Scottish Minister Fiona Hyslop, constituted news coverage.

The discussion between Hyslop and studio presenter Andrew Kerr actually saw the BBC host defend the broadcast that the Trust Committee ruled to be inaccurate.  How could a discussion that saw the BBC defend a broadcast that broke their own guidelines be considered balanced and informative news?

Here is what the Appeal Committee concluded:

"The Committee agreed that there was some new information in Ms Creighton's statement about what Ms Creighton understood in relation to the Scottish Government's intended timetable for negotiations."

So the committee disagreed with BBC Scotland that there was nothing new, but added:

"It noted that BBC Scotland's judgement had been that this clarified little and did not constitute a further news story in its own right."

It's worth noting how BBC Scotland decided to interpret Lucinda Creighton's clarification emails.

BBC EVIDENCE

Here is what Lucinda Creighton said in one of her emails:

"As SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson said 'Negotiations on the terms of membership would take place in the period between the referendum and the planned date of independence', and that 'The EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries'.  I think that sums up the situation quite well. I hope this clarifies my position…"

Here is how BBC Scotland interpreted this very clear endorsement of the Scottish Government's EU timetable following a Yes vote:

"We do not think that it does [clarify her position].  In the interview she clearly says that the application for membership 'can be a lengthy process, as we see even with the very advanced and well-integrated countries like Iceland' (which is not in the EU), which she says 'has a task' in 'transforming its legislation and fitting into the European requirements for (EU) membership'.

Instead of clarifying her position, she seems now to be offering two arguments that are difficult to reconcile – that the process will be lengthy, but simplified… "Consequently we do not believe that the subsequent statement by Lucinda Creighton offered clarification."

This is staggering in the extreme and indicative of an organisation in denial.  If BBC Scotland bosses are unable to discern support for the Scottish Government in Lucinda Creighton's statement then it should cause very grave concern for the remainder of the referendum coverage.

But what of the BBC's defence against the allegation it employed a news blackout.  Here is what they said of the Sunday Politics Show disagreement between the hapless Andrew Kerr and Scottish Government Minister Fiona Hyslop.

"If there were substantive elements introduced by way of the Lucinda Creighton email, the Cabinet Secretary had ample time to focus on those (within the seven minutes Politics Scotland interview). That she chose not to do so was entirely her decision."

In short, it was up to Fiona Hyslop to highlight Lucinda Creighton's statements.  In the space of seven minutes when continually interrupted and challenged by a presenter intent on defending a broadcast we now know was misleading, Fiona Hyslop was expected to do the BBC's job.  That was the only time Lucinda Creighton's emails were mentioned on BBC Scotland.

Here is the Appeal Committee's conclusion on claims that a news blackout was employed:

"In the Committee's view, a significant opportunity to set the record straight, in so far as that had been needed, was presented to the Scottish Government on the following day.

The Committee noted that the Sunday Politics Scotland programme on 27 January 2013 carried an interview with Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, whose brief included Europe. The interview, conducted by Andrew Kerr, included film of the full interview with Ms Creighton and discussion with Ms Hyslop about Ms Creighton's further statement.

In the Committee's view, Ms Hyslop had plenty of opportunity, which she employed to some extent at least, to emphasise that Ms Creighton understood the Scottish Government's timetable and that Scotland would not be ‘thrown out' of the EU."

The Appeal Committee found BBC Scotland not guilty of failing to provide adequate coverage, despite acknowledging there was new information in the emails.  Astonishingly it supported the BBC's claim that the a discussion on a Sunday afternoon when few people would have been watching was "adequate" coverage.

The misleading report had been watched by half a million people who tuned in to the flagship tea time news programme.  A political discussion broadcast early on a Sunday afternoon would have garnered a fraction of the audience.

Bizarrely, the committee also claimed that attempts by Raymond Buchanan to contact both Lucinda Creighton and the Scottish Government in order to further question them, also constituted coverage.

The Appeal Committee added:

"...the Committee decided that the further interview opportunities and invitations to comment that Mr Buchanan had offered, plus the extensive interview with Ms Hyslop the following day, meant that there had been no breach of the Accuracy or Impartiality guidelines."

This should give cause for alarm to both sides in the independence debate.  The Trust has effectively given a green light to BBC Scotland to selectively report news, based not on what is said, but on the corporation's interpretation of what the words mean.

It's worth looking at one last statement provided by the BBC in defence of the claim it had misconstrued Lucinda Creighton's initial interview.

Many people who initially complained to the BBC would have received a response from the broadcaster in which it claimed that it was not the target of Ms Creighton's claim to have been misconstrued.

In early responses to complaints, BBC Scotland wrote:

"In a subsequent message to the Deputy First Minister, Ms Creighton said she was concerned that the interview was being 'misconstrued': she does not say by whom, but I can assure you it was not the BBC – we asked a question, she gave an answer, and we broadcast her saying it."

But that's not quite what BBC Scotland chiefs told the Trust in their evidence.

Here is an image from the official appeal document prepared by the Trust:

The BBC did indeed believe that Lucinda Creighton had alluded to Scotland being out of the EU in the event of a Yes vote.  The difference between what the BBC told the Trust and what it told licence fee payers who initially complained is quite marked.

The question of course is why BBC Scotland should have said what appears to have been something completely different to the Trust.  Could it be that BBC Scotland chiefs knew the broadcast was indeed misleading but sought to give the impression that they were reflecting a belief they honestly held.

This of course allowed the Trust to rule that the corporation had not knowingly misled viewers.

Finally, BBC Scotland claimed that no-one from the corporation was able to question Lucinda Creighton on the issue after she issued her clarification emails.

Newsnet Scotland can reveal that the BBC did indeed interview Lucinda Creighton on February 13th, a mere two weeks after the EU row broke.  The Irish Minister was interviewed in a twenty five minute edition of the BBC political programme Hard Talk.  She was not asked to clarify her stance on the EU status of Scotland after a Yes vote.

It's worth noting that if this timetable is typical of complaints relating to the corporation's coverage of the independence referendum, then we have passed the point for which complaints cannot now be addressed before the referendum takes place.

A broadcaster which has been found guilty of misleading the public over one of the most crucial issues of the independence debate and whose head of news has been accused of trying to infulence the content of political programmes after being pressurised by a Scottish Labour party official can now, effectively, do as it pleases.

Comments  

 
# mealer 2013-12-24 00:13
The BBC is an integral part of the NO campaign.Its part of the London establishment.
 
 
# X_Sticks 2013-12-24 00:38
Ha ha! What a brilliant end to the year.

BBC Accused! BBC found guilty! Result.

Thanks to everyone at NNS and have a happy and peaceful break.

Looking forward to 2014. It's going to be a rollercoaster of a ride.
 
 
# Soloman 2013-12-24 00:41
Very well done to all involved in holding this organisation to account.

Absolutely incredible the length of time and amount of denial that has taken place and all this squirming and wriggling was still possible with an abundance of evidence being thrown at the whole charade.

Any high profile Yes campaigners should bring this story up in any BBC interview.
 
 
# cjmasta 2013-12-24 01:07
It isn`t just the BBC who are twisting reality in order to subvert Scotland`s democratic right to choose the future it so desires. The Scottish? Press.(Question mark in right place!) The whole lot of them are at it.
They have to be challenged and the only way to do it is to continually call them into question over their behavior every time the chance to do so arises.
Picking a fight with them isn`t gonna do us any harm because they couldn`t possibly lie, smear and fear monger any more than they already do.
Time to really get the gloves off, we can debate all we like but it`s gonna be a fight, not a debate. Lets be honest here. So many passionate folks on our side, lets see them rolled out from now until voting day.
 
 
# Caledonia 2013-12-24 01:25
Well done for all your hard work.
I wrote direct to the Trust and said I was stopping my licence fee due to political bias.
A few thousand more doing this may change things.
 
 
# BRL 2013-12-24 02:04
In this day and age, this is a remarkable piece of reporting and all credit to NNS.

The final paragraph encapsulates the whole problem. And with such an important point made it is difficult to not foresee a heavy hand coming down on the BBC. I hope the Scottish Government sees fit to so do.

As for BBC Governors - if they feel they are in control of their own Chartered responsibilitie s - they had better have another wee look at what it means and what it clearly says.
 
 
# Christian_Wright 2013-12-24 05:02
The NNS could not have handed the big beasts of the independence movement a more finely calibrated tool with which to dismantle the myth of BBC impartiality.

To reach the low information voters who will decide the outcome of this plebiscite, news of the BBC's malfeasance HAS to find its way into the traditional broadcast and print media.

The ONLY way this will happen is if the top political echelon take-up the cry.

They should present these findings as deeply troubling, and that it is in the public interest that an official inquiry be held.

It should further be argued that the electoral process, if it is to maintain the confidence of the People, requires transparency to guarantee its fairness and impartiality. The BBC is a critical player in that endeavour and if it is failing that role then the process is at risk.

(No actual inquiry need ever be held)
 
 
# UpSpake 2013-12-24 06:52
Transparency and objectivity cannot be relied upon from the existing players in the process of seeking self-determination for the nation of Scots. Senior ministers, the FM perhaps should call on international bodies to oversee the whole enterprise. With their great experience on monitioring elections and keeping everything on the straight and narrow they are impartiality personified and above petty bickering. Their media role cannot be underplayed either.
All it takes is a simple plea for help. Not rocket science nor humbling either. Simply ask FM, worst they can say is NO!.
The body concerned - the OSCE.
 
 
# Aplinal 2013-12-24 07:00
On the one hand, it is good that finally the "trust" has agreed that the BBC can "make mistakes" and that these can be particularly critical when it comes to the political arena. This is especially true in the next 9 months So, one point to the NNS and well done for having the strength of will to pursue this complaint to its logical conclusions.

But on the other hand, what will happen next? Does anyone for a moment believe that the BBC in Scotland will change its approach to the referendum over the next 9 months, and critically in the 16 week period when the debate should be "neutral"?

How do we get THIS message out - Even when the BBC is in the wrong, the tame "trust" covers their arse. Welcome to PRAVDA 2013.

On a happier note. Well done to all at NNS over the year, and all the very best of the season to readers, contributors, and the staff at NNS. Heres to a free Scotland in 2014

Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr!
 
 
# Breeks 2013-12-24 07:54
I cannot read this without a sense of deja vue. At various times in my life I have sought to pursue issues of blatant injustice backed by documentation and witness.

The system, be that Banking, Law or Government, is constructed so as to make any grievance a marathon to pursue, and where coherent and factual arguments become forfeit to contrived irrelevances.

You are left so exhausted by the process and the agonisingly slow progress that the conclusion becomes almost irrelevant.

After pursuing a complaint about Banking misconduct for over 2 years and an adjudication from the ombudsman that flew in the face of all reasonable justice, it took threats of legal action for conspiracy and deception against the 'independent' assessor of the Financial Ombudsman Service just to release the one document which proved my grievance.

It has left me with a deep rooted cynical skepticism for all ombudsmen, adjudicators and so called regulators.
 
 
# .Scot 2013-12-24 08:05
There is deep and serious constitutional crisis for the remainder of the UK in the prospect of a Scotland becoming a full, supported and negotiated member of the EU within a few months of the vote, wrangling with Whitehall over the administration of Scotland's share in Bank of England, MoD, Foreign diplomats and embassy services, Whitehall itself and even the Palaces of Westminster (also built with Scottish taxes)?

The BBC are rightly terrified at the prospect of Europe being asked to oversee Scotland's departure from the UK as an independent interlocutor using it's size and strength to gain the very fairest deal for it's new independent member state!
 
 
# theycantbeserious 2013-12-24 08:07
Merry Christmas one and all and may all your hopes and dreams come true in 2014.
 
 
# heraldnomore 2013-12-24 09:25
Ooh, Santa's been.

Thank you Newsnet, for this and everything else. More of the same in 2014, after a short rest of course.

Greetings all.
 
 
# Mac 2013-12-24 10:08
Accused, charged, found guilty; but what is the punishment?

Also BBC Scotland, nearly a year later, are still in denial over their guilt; as such their punishment should be severe.

BBC Scotland cannot be trusted to report on the referendum. Licence payers should be fully made aware of that fact.
 
 
# Henderson 2013-12-24 10:29
So its official BBC iterfering with the news on behalf of NO SCOTLAND (or Britain Together)



Magic - using this !!
 
 
# Marga B 2013-12-24 10:45
Off topic, but an on-topic Christmas greeting from Catalonia:

www.youtube.com/.../

Merry Christmas everyone!
 
 
# crisiscult 2013-12-24 10:50
I think we all know we need to be spreading the word to people not to pay their licence fees. I said on another thread that I've managed to get 3 people not to renew, and a couple are definitely thinking about it.

Seems Glasgow Media Group (Greg Philo) not interested in getting involved in the media coverage of independence by the way. Surprised?
 
 
# chicmac 2013-12-24 12:14
A big thank you to Newsnet Scotland and all the other on line news outlets who try so hard, and successfully, to correct the lies, distortions and ommisions of a shamelessly establishment compliant mainstream media.

www.youtube.com/.../

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Era.
 
 
# Independista 2013-12-24 12:43
As I said in a previous post on this topic, I think newsnet should approach BBC Newswatch, who allowed a complaint from a viewer (about a year ago) a full airing. We really need to keep the pressure up. An instance of BBC bias can also be seen here,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TZpu51A_GU where Stewart Hosie is interrupted 5 times in a four minute interview, whilst Alastair Darling is allowed the full 4 minutes to get his point across
 
 
# Edulis 2013-12-24 12:48
Thanks NNS for pursuing this. I think life for John Boothman is going to become more contorted as the debate goes on. Surely it is beyond mere coincidence that first Isobel Fraser is moved out of Sunday Politics, Raymond Buchanan resigns and leaves the BBC and then Andrew Kerr is seemingly moved into news reading duties.

Incidentally, I saw Raymond at my local garden centre after all the shenanigans, but I didn't have the bottle to confront the brother-in-law of arch unioniost Brian Wilson.
 
 
# Abulhaq 2013-12-24 16:23
Off topic but relevant to the season.
May I recommend the ebook The Silence of our Friends by Ed West concerning the potential eradication of Christianity from the Middle East. Downloadable from Amazon it makes heartrending reading.
A happy and a holy Christmas to all. Milad al-Masih mubarak!
 
 
# Macart 2013-12-24 23:01
A merry Christmas Newsnet, wishing you all the very best for the festive season. A big thanks for all the hard work.

Also a very merry Christmas to all the posters and visitors.

No long now. :)
 
 
# BRL 2013-12-24 23:34
A very merry Christmas to all on NNS – well done – a great years work!

It's shaping up to be 'interesting times' for the BBC Scotland bunch - as the Chinese proverb goes, in part, but to avoid giving up all to total censorship of the press and media, balance will be needed and the best way to achieve this is make sure regulators do their job.

For the BBC this is an easy answer – the BBC Charter, the Code of Editorial Conduct, the Board of Governors, the BBC Trust, even bloody Terry Wogan should knock some sense into it all - you'd think.

To say it's astonishing these bodies have not been heavily challenged before now is holding back - but now, since the BBC Trust's toothpaste‘s out of the tube,let's see a real and effective complaints procedure working. What's the bets on this happening?
 

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