By a Newsnet reporter

The BBC has provoked anger from Holyrood's education and culture committee after snubbing a request to appear before MSPs to defend the BBC's plans to axe funding and jobs from BBC Scotland. 

MSPs of all parties united in condemning the refusal of BBC senior executives to explain the BBC's approach to Scottish broadcasting in a setting where they would be open to questioning.

The SNP's Stuart Maxwell MSP, head of the committee, said that the snub from BBC bosses demonstrated "outrageous disrespect" to the Scottish Parliament, and proved that the BBC's leadership only takes Westminster into account.

Mr Maxwell explained that unlike Westminster MPs, MSPs do not have the power to force BBC bosses to explain themselves, and said:

"I did seek guidance on whether or not we could make a stronger request or require their attendance here, but that is outwith the powers of the parliament.  I certainly could not force the BBC to attend the committee, we don't have that authority."

The non-attendance of BBC bosses is thought to be the only instance in the history of the Scottish Parliament of senior directors of a public body refusing to appear before a Holyrood committee.

MSPs had requested the attendance of senior BBC executives after hearing last month from representatives of the NUJ, representing staff in the BBC Scotland news division whose jobs are threatened with cuts.  The union representatives warned that the planned cuts to BBC Scotland's budget have caused staff morale to plummet and threaten the corporation's ability to provide proper coverage of the independence debate and the historic referendum due in 2014.  

35 jobs are due to be cut from BBC Scotland, 17 of which will be in news and current affairs.  The BBC had hoped that sufficient staff would volunteer for redundancy, but only one has accepted the offer amid claims of intimidation by BBC Scotland management.

Worryingly, the union representatives also gave evidence to the committee which suggests that BBC bosses will marginalise the Scottish debate unless they are held to account.  In a written submission to the committee, the NUJ's Scottish organiser Paul Holleran informed MSPs that BBC management had told him that the independence referendum was a "one off event" which would be "over in one night".  

Mr Holleran also told the committee that BBC Scotland management had made little effort to secure extra funding from London in order to provide coverage of the referendum and Glasgow's 2014 Commonwealth Games.  BBC management had informed Mr Holleran that they were "working on a bid" for such funding, but were unable to supply even the most basic details of the amount of the funding bid or its timescale.

Also giving evidence to the committee last month, NUJ Executive Committee member Peter Murray, himself a former BBC reporter, said:

"There is just no evidence BBC Scotland is trying to gain extra funding to cover the referendum debate in a serious way.  It's no good just one-off debates, there needs to be serious programming, such as history and investigations, because, otherwise, there will be a serious democratic deficit.

"Twelve years ago, BBC Scotland secured additional funding of the order of 50 per cent to cover the devolution debate and the creation of the Scottish Parliament, and now we have budget cuts ahead of the referendum debate.  It has to stop."

In response to the criticisms of the NUJ and others giving evidence to the Holyrood committee, the BBC has submitted a 16 page response which they claim answers the points raised.  The reply hailed Reporting Scotland as "the most watched TV news programme in Scotland".  However the BBC declined to send a representative to appear before the committee to respond to MSPs' questions.  

The committee will now write to the BBC's acting Director General Tim Davie and chairman of the BBC board of trustees Chris Patten to demand an explanation.

SNP committee member Joan McAlpine said that the refusal of bosses from Pacific Quay to explain themselves was insulting, and added: "They're rebutting trade unionists in a way that allows them to control the situation, as opposed to them being examined by the committee."

Labour committee member Neil Findlay strongly condemned the BBC decision, saying: "This is absolutely dreadful.  I cannot think of a publicly funded organisation, who, having been asked to come before the committee, would respond in such a manner.  I think it is quite frankly outrageous."

Meanwhile it has emerged that BBC bosses also snubbed another invitation to explain their policies in a public forum.

The Scottish Constitutional Commission is organising a discussion, to be held on Tuesday December 11, on the role of broadcasting in Scotland.  Despite numerous attempts by the organisers to secure the attendance of a representative from BBC management, the broadcaster repeatedly refused to participate, citing the fear that someone may ask a question outside their remit.

Organisers attempted to address this concern and offered to alter the title of the event to address BBC concerns, but were still met with a blank refusal.  Attempts to secure the attendence of Bill Matthews, the BBC Trustee for Scotland, were equally fruitless.

Writing in Bella Caledonia, Alex Grant, who is organising the discussion on behalf of the Scottish Constitutional Commission, writes of his frustration with the BBC's lack of cooperation and says:

"In summary it would appear to us that the BBC, despite statements to the contrary, does not wish to defend its performance in a public forum.  And there are many questions about current never mind future performance."


# UpSpake 2012-11-28 10:28
The Scottish Parliament has all the power it needs to do whatever it wants to do on behalf of the Scottish People. If it needs more to deal with these cretins then it merely awards itslef the power. Where else do you think power comes from ?
And all this time Blair Jenkins doesn't think the BBC in Scotland is biased. Isobel Fraser must have delighted in that reply.

[Admin - This is to clarify misunderstandin gs in what Yes Scotland head Blair Jenkins has said regarding BBC Scotland political reporting.

Blair Jenkins replied on Politics Scotland earlier this year, when asked by Isabel Fraser about bias, that he had seen "no evidence" of bias at BBC Scotland. He has though recently said that he rarely saw "deliberate bias" but that "mistakes are being made".]
# chicmac 2012-11-28 11:14
All very well if the penny is dropping, however slowly, but if bias is observed at all then I don't see how it can be judged 'deliberate' or not. Bias is bias, the motivation behind it can only very rarely be known by observers.
# alexb 2012-11-28 10:32
Arrogance personified.
# ahumscottish2 2012-11-28 10:35
Hi all,

I was at YES Scotland Adrossan on Sunday and asked the speaker about what we do about BBC BIAS her reply was in her opinion she could see no evidence of biasedness and it was only up to politicians to take this matter up at and when the biasedness is exposed if there were any in the first place.
If Yes Scotland dont want to be political that is fine by me but to stay silent and have no opinion or no response when evidence can and has shown to be particularly one sided then we are in for a troubled couple of years.
Apart from that the meeting was excellent well attended from a very broad spectrum of political and non political factions.
# soutron 2012-11-28 10:37
Agree with above. Afterall the will of the Scottish people is sovereign. If the Scottish public were sufficiently up in arms about this (if the MSM reported it at all, the BBC aren't covering it) the parliament could technically hold a motion to add a power that would allow the BBC to be called to account. This really does show that the BBC don't view Scotland any differently to an English county. I'm already extremely worried about the potential BBC coverage of the referendum but with any luck this will open the eyes of the wider public to the issue also.
# rhymer 2012-11-29 16:17
Quoting soutron:
Agree with above. Afterall the will of the Scottish people is sovereign. If the Scottish public were sufficiently up in arms about this (if the MSM reported it at all, the BBC aren't covering it) the parliament could technically hold a motion to add a power that would allow the BBC to be called to account. This really does show that the BBC don't view Scotland any differently to an English county. I'm already extremely worried about the potential BBC coverage of the referendum but with any luck this will open the eyes of the wider public to the issue also.

They do view it as different from an English county because the English county has a political blog that can be commented on - in Scotland, since the SNP won the last election, the BBC stopped the Scottish public from commenting on B. Taylor's political blog.
# Marian 2012-11-28 11:08
So In a written submission to the committee, the NUJ's Scottish organiser Paul Holleran informed MSPs that BBC management had told him that the independence referendum was a "one off event" which would be "over in one night".

We should not expect anything else from the Westminster controlled BBC state propaganda mouthpiece who are clearly working to Westminster's orders to get rid of the threat of independence by "enemies of the state".

On another related matter I see that the Scots Parliament has the responsibility vested in it to decide how the Leveson report recommendations will be dealt with in Scotland and Alex Salmond has said that he favours changing Scots law on the regulation of press complaints.

At the very least I would hope that the Scots government introduces laws that force the press to print retractions for their lies about Scotland's government on the same page the following day with draconian financial penalties if they don't do so.
# sneckedagain 2012-11-28 11:14
Aha. I agree with Upspake. Gosh
I have always held the view that the Scottish Parliament's limitations are voluntary and that, as a legitimately elected national forum, it has the right to assume any powers it decides to on behalf of the Scottish people.
Many nation's have taken independence on a decision of their Parliaments.
# Barontorc 2012-11-28 11:35
Of course, one way to force the BBC to not merely show respect to its 'customers' in Scotland, but to desist from openly campaigning against the democratic interests of the Scottish people as has been claimed through, what I would estimate to be literally hundreds of complaints of partiality and misinformation leading to bias, is for the Scottish Government to show its indignation with the BBC's refusal to cooperate with this Holyrood Select Committee by withdrawing the draconian compulsion on TV viewers in Scotland to pay the BBC licence cum 'tax'.

Let the MSM and unionist parties try and spin this action without also broadcasting the BBC's failings toward Scotland.
# truth 2012-11-28 12:26
No need to put the word tax in quotation marks. It is officially a tax since the last Labour Govt reclassified it as such in order to remove it fromt the basket of goods used to calculate inflation.

You know that old ruse where they pretended inflation was low so they could maintain the low interest rates, so house prices would continue climbing and so on and so on until.....well we all know what happened next.
# RTP 2012-11-28 11:59

Theresa May To Announce Minimum Alcohol Price Of 45p Per Unit

Just heard a Lab MP say on the Politics Show say he backs her,asked why Lab MSPs were against it in Scotland I thought he said we can change our mind has Lamont and her crew changed there mind???
# cirsium 2012-11-28 12:10
Interesting - members of an organisation funded by taxation refuse to appear before a committee of democratically elected representatives of the taxpayers.
# Silverytay 2012-11-28 12:15
The BBC is the propaganda arm of the British state and as such is only answerable to Westminster .
2015 after we have our independence is the time to deal with this odious institution and until then we are going to have to rely on the internet to get our message out or find other ways to inform the Scottish electorate .
# Shagpile 2012-11-28 12:26
the broadcaster repeatedly refused to participate, citing the fear that someone may ask a question outside their remit.

There's your answer, no mystery and yes, feeble in the extreme I know.

Yet all these screams of BBC bias will become no more than folk crying wolf if it is not accurately directed. It turns people off. If unionists would open their own eyes too, they would see how their own negativity and scaremongering is turning folk off also.

If we want a grown up debate folks, I suggest we deliver it.

The real problem is the BBC bosses in London.

Let London based unionist shoot themselves in the feet. I won't cry, nor will I cry wolf. Think on.
# Ped 2012-11-28 12:39
I have to say that I am not entirely convinced about the claims of BBC bias. True, there are a number of factors that do tend to lead to that viewpoint, but still I am not so sure there is any institutional bias going on.

For an example of a non-biased interviewer, I would point to Isabel Fraser. I really don’t see any attempt by her to sway opinion in any one direction. On the other hand, some interviewers appear to be incapable of listening to replies to questions and prefer to just talk over the interviewees, but is this an example of bias? or just an example of someone who is not very good at their job?

So, I remain to be convinced over the whole BBC bias question.
# Proadge 2012-11-28 13:26
Quoting Ped:
So, I remain to be convinced over the whole BBC bias question.

This might help:
# ButeHouse 2012-11-28 12:46
The bias of the BBC and to a lesser extent STV is an affront to democracy and could tip the balance of the forthcoming Referendum unless tackled head on long before 2014.

# fend 2012-11-28 13:32
Having sat cursing the BBC for far too long, I sent the complaint below.

I am writing to complain about the BBC failing to meet it's Charter and Agreement obligations to be accurate and impartial.

I strongly believe the BBC's Scottish Political coverage is neither accurate or impartial.

Until I am convinced otherwise I am withholding my license fee...

...please start by answering these three concerns:

The BBC repeatedly refer to a political party called "Scottish Labour".
Can you please provide proof of the existence of "Scottish Labour" as a registered political party?

On "Newsnight Scotland" (11th Oct. 2012) the BBC presenter stated, as fact, only "5000 people" were on the Independence March of 22nd Sept. 2012.
Can you provide your evidence for this figure?

Please explain and justify the lack of Comment facility only on the Scottish Political blog?
# Ian Brotherhood 2012-11-28 13:41
Why aren't NUJ Scotland balloting their members for strike action over this outrage? Allegations of bullying and a 'climate of fear' are bad enough, but for the BBC to show such contempt for the Parliament is out of order. The FM should intervene here, and make it clear that the BBC must get its act together.
# Old Smokey 2012-11-28 13:47
Slightly O/T, I see the Guardian is up to no good, by suggesting that Alex Salmond is going to have a pact with the Tories over boundery changes (I kid you not) Its all smoke and mirrors stuff aimed at the Labour supporters in Scotland either supporting independence or thinking about it. The hope no doubt is that this raises the bogey man that the SNP cant be trusted
# xyz 2012-11-28 14:57
Discussed over at Wingsland:

Seem like a load of Unionist mince to me.
# Piemonteis 2012-11-28 19:38
What utter drivvel! The article is not founded on any facts and is just one journalist saying, "What if...?"

It would also be political suicide for Alex Salmond as it would effectively set up an Devo Max vs Independence referendum (rather than Status Quo vs Independence) which Devo Max would in all probability win easily.

I had to find the article through the link because I couldn't find it on the Guardian homepage, so perhaps they know it's mince.
# xyz 2012-11-28 22:44
"This article was amended on 28 November 2012 to add a response from the SNP."

"An SNP spokesperson, however, said there had been no discussions and no deal would be done on the boundary review. "Given the fall-out and petty score-settling between the Tories and Lib Dems, people will wonder if this whole process has been a waste of time and waste of money. For the coalition to abandon its proposals, after spending £12m on this review, shows just how unreformable Westminster is," the spokesperson said."
# NConway 2012-11-28 13:57
The Scots government wants to have a SBC set up like the BBC hence they will not rock the boat by arguing for non payment of the TV tax , I understand why they take this view however they appear supine to the BBC juggernaut.
# EphemeralDeception 2012-11-28 18:05
They are supine, but I guess they have their reasons.

It is clear to me that the same creeps who currently proliferate BBC Scotland draped in all things Union, will suddenly become pro Scotland post independence and keep their jobs with a simple rebranding exercise.
I do not forsee any kind of drastic shakeup or shakeout of the current rotten organisation.
# Caadfael 2012-11-28 16:04
Is there any legal requirement to have the beeb in Holyrood, as opposed to say CH4 or Al Jazzera?
# soutron 2012-11-28 16:14
Its strange that no research (that I can find) has been done on this subject. Someone really needs to carry out a large scale analysis of BBC news and political coverage in Scotland. We need some hard, indisputable statistics that show the BBC in Scotland is far from unbiased.

Would anyone else be interested in an online petition? Any ideas on potential wording?

A real joint effort is required to help bring these issues to light. A demonstration outside Atlantic quay would be good although I'm sure it would be completely ignored by the MSM.
# Breeks 2012-11-28 18:42
Said it before but it's worth saying again, - Remember Peter Wrights book Spycatcher? He detailed how hard it was to prove someone was a spy. Being caught red handed with secret files meant nothing. Spys traded secrets all the time. To decide whether someone was loyal or a traitor, it was necessary to audit all the information they handled, and reconcile all the secrets gained for their country verses the secrets they traded to get them. It got very complicated when high grade intelligence had to be traded for higher grade secrets; that's why you couldn't trust one off incidents, and had to look at patterns, checks and balances.

I believe the BBC bias must be assessed in the same way. It's no good flagging up one off incidents, it needs to be audited over a given period, with bias for and against rigourously documented so that any prevailing patterns of general bias emerge.

Bias is easy to see but very difficult to substantiate.
# BigHeed 2012-11-28 18:44
A few points with regards to the BBC.

1) We all on this site know that the BBC will do ANYTHING to defend the Union. It seems that more and more comments are having a good auld moan about their bias. WE KNOW!!! so how are we going to draw this fact to the general populace without seeming like conspiracy theorists???

2) The SNP with a few months before the referendum(the crucial period in this entire process) should withdraw all access, panelists, MSP's etc this will negate their status on the referendum debate as their will be no independence views on the BBC and everyone will then see what the BBC stand for. Until then we have to laugh them off and thank our lucky stars we have social media and newsnet.
# 1scot 2012-11-28 21:39
All you have to do is go through the history provided by Newsnet Scotland, I'm sure you will find plenty of substantiating
evidence. As far back as the Jamie Murray and Broness Deech, insulting the Scot's on a live BBC Radio programme.
You don't have to pay the licence if you don't watch it live. I have a Tivo, all I have to do is record the programme, wait five minutes and star watching it. As I am five minutes behind, and not watching it live, no need to pay.
# Breeks 2012-11-29 09:36
But who would you want reprimanded for the bias? Is it systemic bias, or restricted to BBC Scotland? Can it be tracked back to particular editors, programs, or is it the presenters who should be condemned?

All of us see the bias, & the BBC must see it too, but proving it means having a watertight documented history of bias, and specific targets for those we hold responsible for it.

Dealing with the issue piecemeal one incident at a time will just get bogged down in the BBC complaints process. Do any of us have evidence of a complaint about bias taken all the way through the complaint process to the BBC trust? Just how far do you think a generic complaint would get in a law court? What law is broken?

I think we'd be wasting our time. I think the BBC should be discredited as a competent source of news or replaced. What we see as bias against nationalism, the BBC sees as keeping faith with the 'Britain' which we want no part of.
# Early Ball 2012-11-28 23:17
O.T. Get well soon Stewart.

Never knew he is married to Shona Robison.
# gus1940 2012-11-29 08:07
Yesterday's Call ToKAYEo Rose was very interesting but not surprising.

The Jackie Baillie Appreciation Society was given free rein for several minutes without a single interruption to inflict on the listeners a vomit inducing hymn of praise to their wonderful MSP. As one would expect no subsequent calls criticising this disgraceful display of BBC Bias were broadcast.

Can anybody out there imagine an Independence supporter being given the same freedom to broadcast uninterrupted what in effect was a Party Political Broadcast praising a member of The SNP Government.
# aikiwolfie 2012-12-02 15:41
Clearly the BBC don't value our license fees. Holyrood should campaign for a directly funded Scottish Broadcasting Service answerable to Holyrood. Funded by Scottish license fees. London shouldn't see a penny of it.

If we don't matter, and clearly we don't. They won't mind.

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