By G.A.Ponsonby
The referendum date was announced this week – an historic moment regardless of your constitutional leanings as for the first time ever Scots will be able to give their verdict on the Union.
The BBC, unlike Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, recognised the significance of the announcement from Alex Salmond and bigged up the news.

Their teatime news programme Reporting Scotland actually provided coverage worthy of the event.  Radio Scotland’s coverage was decent, if a tad underwhelming, but they did at least allow listeners to hear the First Minister delivering the statement to Parliament although this was tempered by allowing arch Unionist Alan Cochrane to give his own unique take on the event.

However things went from passable to mediocre when Newsnight Scotland aired and Gordon Brewer gave yet another pantomime performance that was in keeping with the deterioration of the programme.

I don’t know what’s happened to Newsnight Scotland, but it seems incapable of providing any in depth analysis of a story and Brewer looks bored with it all.  It has also developed a rather worrying habit of ignoring important issues in favour of the mundane.

Earlier in the week, on the day the Scottish Parliament was debating the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Newsnight Scotland contrived to discuss a rather pathetic confrontation between some football fans and the police in Glasgow.

The illegal march to a football stadium by around 100 odd fans was a bit part story at best and already days old.  What it wasn’t was an issue that merited the time spent on it by Scotland’s flagship current affairs programme.

That this non-story featured at all this week is bad enough, but that it did so whilst Labour’s shocking decision to refuse to oppose Tory plans to remove workers’ rights in a House of Commons vote didn’t, calls into question the purpose of this programme.

But Thursday’s announcement of the referendum date meant that it had to provide coverage of the event.  That Brewer knew of the date announcment was a minor miracle given his claims in the interview with Nicola Sturgeon, not to know much about SNP policies.

Brewer has developed an irritating and quite transparent habit of feigning ignorance and confusion when interviewing SNP politicians.  “Sorry I’m confused” and “What I don’t understand is …” pepper interviews and follow replies from the same politicians that the local village idiot could easily comprehend.

The tactic is actually rather effective when faced with evasive politicians who simply will not answer questions and embark on a meandering trail of obfuscation, but there’s one thing that SNP politicians will do when given the opportunity and that’s be clear what they are spelling out in relation to independence.

What passed for an interview on Thursday evening when Brewer harangued Nicola Sturgeon did the BBC man no favours.  This habit of asking a question then interrupting with a provocative interjection before the response has been given serves only to highlight the desire on the part of the interviewer to turn the exchange into a joust.

We’ve said before on Newsnet Scotland when analysing the interview techniques of Gary Robertson and Glenn Campbell, that frequent interruptions and hectoring will result in no information being imparted to the audience.

There is a time and place for interruptions, but when politicians are prepared to answer questions then a respective silence should be observed.

Isabel Fraser, before she was disappeared from BBC Scotland flagship political programmes and sent to the weekend dead zone, perfected the art of extracting information whilst politely interrogating the interviewee.

In the Sturgeon interview Brewer’s rather blatant attempt at creating a headline by deliberately misrepresenting the Deputy First Minister’s remark that other nations would consider it “crazy” to be debating the merits of independence, was unbecoming.  Most people can see through this kind of behaviour and the careful editing of the interview couldn’t mask Sturgeon’s puzzlement at some of the points Brewer was making.

In the discussion that followed, Brewer repeated the line currently being pushed by BBC Scotland that the contest is over and everyone is turned off with the referendum.  Kaye Adams was “bored” the following day and was urging other bored people to phone in.

We pay the BBC, not to turn people off of the debate, but to actively encourage them to participate.  Perhaps instead of pushing the ‘it’s too boring’ line and suggesting the contest is over because the No campaign are ahead in the polls, they could start with some mature analysis and decent programming.

People aren’t bored with the referendum.  What they perhaps are tiring of is BBC Scotland’s refusal to provide mature and informative analysis and balance – some quality programming.

Newsnight Scotland is now little more than a late night parade of pomposity watched only by those anoraks (me) who drift over after STV’s Scotland Tonight has ended.  Thursday’s Scotland Tonight was far superior to Brewer’s offering that followed with host Rona Dougall giving both Nicola Sturgeon and Alistair Darling an equally hard but fair grilling.

STV also has a wide and varied selection of guests and topics that leaves Newsnight Scotland looking like the antiques roadshow.

There’s only so many times John Curtice can tell us how far behind in the polls the Yes campaign is, that David Bell of Stirling University or the McLaren/Armstrong CPPR double act can be wheeled out in order to inform us of the economic catastrophe that will follow independence or several Unionist MSPs can attack the pre-recorded interview with the lone SNP guest.

So let’s ditch Newsnight Scotland, and let’s give Gordon Brewer a rest.

The money saved could be used to produce a twice weekly 1 hour long special that scrutinises that week’s referendum issue.  The people who can make this work are Derek Bateman and Isabel Fraser ... and neither are confused.


# tartanfever 2013-03-24 00:08
Any sense of public duty, of fulfilling a positive public role and educating the public have long gone from BBC Scotland.

They live in their Glasgow - Labour-media bubble, fulfilling their importance through self promotion. The celebrity is king at BBC Scotland, and the majority of presenters are over the top characters, kidding themselves that :

a) they are intelligent
b) they are carrying out 'serious' reporting
c) they are making a difference.

Cue Jackie Bird's feigning 'inquisition' of Lamont on Thursday that saw her pulling such angst-ridden 'concerned' expressions that actually had me laughing at the screen. Act she cannot, present live she cannot.

As for interviewing, I've seen more gumption from student journalists.
# Dee 2013-03-24 00:23
I have noticed this tactic developing for weeks now and Iam so glad you have also Noticed.

When you watch and listen to BBC Scotland, you think that you are the only person in the world that is picking up the blatant biased unionist trash that spouts out of them and you start to question your own sanity.

So welcome aboard, "Knowledge is Power", "Unity is Strength"

Also they must all have been briefed to mention the latest opinion poll percentages. EVERYONE of them are repeating the same line.

And what can we do to get that so called pollster Curtis removed from our screens. I have tried to listen to what he is talking about and I am left totally confused every time, and I am still waiting on one of his poll predictions to materialise. Hope he doesn't do the lottery.
# oldnat 2013-03-24 01:57
Curtice isn't a pollster - though he is involved with ScotCen, which is a perfectly respectable academic research organisation.

The problem is that he also has strong political views on independence, and those make him marketable to the BBC. He isn't appearing there without a fee!
# Puskas 2013-03-24 07:54
I agree with much of the response to the article.

I shall add one point of view.... Curtice should get outdoors a bit more the situ I have found is not so black and white as he suggests.

A political anorak since my youth I suggest the YES vote has been going up for quite some time and 30-3 % is drivel.

Vote YES but for the coming months leading to September 2014 TALK TALK TALK to all and sundry and lead the yes campaign from the front.
# ButeHouse 2013-03-24 02:07
Haranguing doesn't even begin to describe Brewer's treatment of Nicola on Thursday's Newsnight.

His belligerent style was designed to confuse Nicol and the viewers. If he is as stupid as he was making out he shouldn't be on that programme and if he isn't stupid then he was deliberately setting out to cheat the public of the facts they need to know about Independence.

He isn't stupid but he is overly confident and arrogant that he thinks he can get away with this for much longer.

As NNS is the only decent 'news outlet we have, can someone tell me why it's not advertised on every leaflet the YES campaign produces? I've asked them several times and so far getting nowhere?

Clearly not asking loud enough, perhaps others could also drop them a line.

VOTE YES on 18.9.14
# Marian 2013-03-24 06:41
I fear that Scots are never going to hear the case for independence unless the YES campaign can come up with a way to ensure balance and fairness in the debate by the BBC.

On the face of it, impartiality should be easy to obtain, given the high and mighty ideals written into the BBC Charter, but somehow the BBC in Glasgow are able to totally ignore or circumvent the requirement to be impartial, without receiving any censure from anyone.

Its like night and day when you compare the BBC in Glasgow's bias with the generally high quality and impartial news output of BBC Radio 4, so why is it so difficult to expose and get BBC in Glasgow to change its ways?
# Breeks 2013-03-24 09:25
I agree with you Marian, but it's not a hopeless situation. Even despite their bias and vice like grip of the media, where, throughout any of it, does the NO campaign have any initiative or momentum building?

Look at the recent Top Ten Unionist Myths on YouTube. Better Together got it taken down, but search YouTube for it now, and there must be 10 or 20 other people all hosting it.

There are more and more pro Indy videos appearing all the time.

There are YES blogs popping up everywhere, proactive and well informed for the most part. Compare this to the Better Together Blog; flat and lifeless with Unionist article after article lacking any comment from the public. Nobody is listening. Soon enough, nobody will be listening to Gordon Brewer either.
Momentum for a YES vote is building, and in spite of the BBC.

The Kryptonite for Better Together is the positive case for the Union. They try to make their case, but they just can't do it.
# Dundonian West 2013-03-24 11:09
Yes Breeks,"Look at the recent Top Ten Unionist Myths on YouTube. Better Together got it taken down, but search YouTube for it now, and there must be 10 or 20 other people all hosting it."
I've put the link into my Facebook and also YouTube.
NOT my YT channel.

As for Newsnight Scotland,I stopped watching them weeks ago,and watch STV's Scotland Tonight,a far superior source of information from both the Yes and No camps.
BBC Newsnight Scotland has a BetterTogether mindset and it shows.
# gayle 2013-03-24 08:13
Brewer was an absolute shambles. Started off bullying and talking over her but Nicola quickly adjusted and didn't let him get away with it. So many but but but's spouted by him when she gave clear answers and she wasn't tricked into revealing what is in the white papers which will be revealed in a few months times. Thought the video was going to be much worse than it actually was. well done Nicola.
# G. P. Walrus 2013-03-24 08:43
I wouldnt say any BBC news output is impartial, even Radio 4 is selective and distorting. What singles BBC Scotland out is low low quality.
# BRL 2013-03-24 09:22
I watched the Brewer -v- Nicola spat again and it looked to me like there was only one winner. Brewer was badgering throughout, no doubt that's his style, but Nicola sailed through it all. I suppose what sticks in many a craw is the different approach taken by anybody at the BBC when they're interviewing an independence speaker, to a unionist speaker - Isabel Fraser and Derek Bateman being the sole exceptions in professional journalism.
# Leader of the Pack 2013-03-24 09:27
We're going to have to accept the BBC are the established UK broadcast machine what we need to do is highlight this fact across the whole of Scotland so nobody but nobody doubts this fact and can then take every inverview every program every statement they make with the knowledge that its coloured with bias inaccuracy and in some cases bare faced lies.

Its pointless complaining to the BBC itself they know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it what you need to do is put your complaints direct to the people of Scotland in order to neutralise the effect the BBC has.

If people understand what they are seeing and hearing is tainted it will make them think about what the real issue is and make at least some of them dig deeper for themselves.
# clootie 2013-03-24 09:58
Brewer style is designed to ensure you do not hear the answer. He is hoping the viewer will only remember his negative sound bite.

Curtis has no credibility due to his obvious bias in presenting his analysis ( he is being well paid for his loyal unionist stance).

Joan Bakewell on the Andrew Marr show this morning - "The BBC is a Royal Charter and nobody would suggest politicians can influence it...."

Pay a visit to Scotland Joan and tell me you still believe that!
# farrochie 2013-03-24 10:07
Derek Bateman and his guests on Newsweek Scotland had a well-balanced discussion of the news and newspapers this morning.

I watched the interview with Nicola Sturgeon on i-player yesterday, and I hope Mr Brewer takes a look at it too. What do you think, Gordon? The eyes of Scotland are on you.

As I think about Brewer, I think about the poor person that has to serve him breakfast in the morning.
# govanite 2013-03-24 11:12
Yup, Newsnicht is really poor. It is not just the bias, it is really poor quality. Scotland tonight is way better. Brewer has become sad looking and his tie said it all. Not enough attention to detail there to be an objective journo.
Bernard Ponsonby has come a long way for a LibDem candidate & he is determined not to look foolish by giving soft interviews. Way better than some at the BBC. Poor Brian is straight jacketed by his service to the state. Means he can't really do his job.
# HighlandBark 2013-03-24 11:26
Compare Brewer's style with that of Eddie Mair this morning on the Andrew Marr show. I've no idea of his leanings, but I find him far more acceptable to watch and listen to, despite the fact that he is probably told what to say. And 'Gel Boy Brewer' could take quite a few tips from Eddie, including how to tie a tie.
# Marque 2013-03-24 11:26
A long time ago, I had an image of the BBC as doing hard-hitting, intelligent journalism. It is now utterly bereft of the latter quality, left with bullying ignorance. That Brewer dude is dire.
# Early Ball 2013-03-24 11:34
When Alistair Darling was on GMS the other morning he was allowed to talk without interruption. He actually sounded a bit hoarse at the end he spoke so much. I did not hear if Blair Jenkins was allowed the same privilege but noted the i player clip was much shorter in time.

One thing I did notice yesterday was Brian Taylor disagreeing John Cutice's "flat" assessment of Alex Salmond's speech. Curtice looked a bit miffed.
# fynesider 2013-03-24 13:05
Have just watched Brewer 'interviewing' Nicola & then watched Eddie Mair interviewing Boris Johnstone - chalk & cheese! Listens to the answers, doesn't harangue the person being interviewed, polite. In essence everything Gordon Brewer isn't. Why did Eddie ever leave BBC Scotland..?
# Diabloandco 2013-03-24 13:22
I haven't watched Newsnight Scotland for months .Having watched this clip with MrBrewer and Ms Sturgeon ,it reinforces that watching Brewer/Campbell/Robertson is dire and bad for my blood pressure.

What an ignorant,ill mannered interviewer obviously so pleased with himself- what a foolish man.
# Shaggy 2013-03-24 14:05
Think remarks about Curtice are unfair. Yes is behind in the polls. What's he supposed to say? I've never considered him to show a strong opinion on anything. He talks about the issues which affect voting intention. He doesn't say if the issues themselves have any credibility or not. He's on the box far too much.

Glenn Campbell pulled up Clarke today. Is he now a Yes voter? Hardly. He's doing his job and, for the most part, does it well. Raymond and Gary give both sides a grilling. I honestly can't see the issue with these guys.

There is an issue with bias. I do believe that. But it's down to imagery and content not interviewing techniques, in my view.

BBC London is a different kettle of fish right enough and is blatantly proUnion right down to the journalist but it's not the same in Scotland.
# cokynutjoe 2013-03-24 14:13
AS intends to make child care in Scotland the "best in these islands". Curtis misquoted this as the "best in the world", thus inviting ridicule. Impartial or a mistake? I don't think so.
# samizdat 2013-03-24 14:33
I used to watch Newsnicht regularly but the constant unionist and particular blatant labour bias was so tedious and obvious that I realised the utter contempt the presenters had for the intellect of the viewer,I now only occasionally watch it just to see how many times Brewer interrupts a reply to his own question with a "hang on" and then erroneously makes a misquote or takes something out of context of some statement that an SNP spokesperson has supposedly made,of course he hopes his misquote has been accepted by the viewer and so job done.
The BBC in Scotland news and topical affairs gang are really appalling whether it is education,healt h or whatever that is being reported there is always an anti Scottish government nuance running through the thread of the story,while real topical news stories are blatantly disregarded or given brief mention if they have a negative outlook on the labour party.So now I would rather have an extra 20 minutes in my scratcher than watch this
# viking_celt_428 2013-03-24 15:39
Andy Kerr, in Thursday's special broadcast, gave the last word to Patricia Ferguson in one interview and Alan Cochrane in another when interviewed alongside pro-independence supporters. In Ms Fergusson's case Margo should have been given the chance to make one last response. Then with Newsnicht, well that was clear bias by Gordon Brewer!
# Indy_Scot 2013-03-24 15:46
I have noticed lately that unionist and unionist commentators seem to be very aggressive and have panic written all over their faces. At first I was not sure why, but then I realised that now that the Referendum date has been announced, there is a psychological change in peoples mind set.

After the18th of September 2014 a Nationalist will still be a Nationalist no matter what, but a unionist, well that’s not so straight forward. It must be like the Grim Reaper giving you a leaving date and saying, I don’t fancy your chances much.
# pomatiaH1 2013-03-24 16:09
He does have the habit of making up scenarios then pursuing them as if these were real issues in the debate.
There is the situation where the no campaigners asserted that Scotland was too small to go it alone and for many years the SNP, and now in Government, used the Scandinavian countries as examples of small countries successfully setting their own agendas and working. Brewer has started taking specific policies used in those countries and talking as if the Scottish Government is going to adopt the same. Getting annoyed when SG Ministers won't join in these made up arguments.
# Nautilus 2013-03-24 23:34
Notice when Gordon Brewer meets anyone his intellectual superior, his face takes on a shade of puce reminiscent of a smacked a- - - e and a sulk reminiscent of Michael Gove whilst he interrupts answers to prevent the viewer learning anything.

When he meets an interviewee that he is giving an easy time, he puts on the look-over-the-glasses wise owl look whilst asking the most inane questions designed to prevent the viewer learning anything.

Why is he an interviewer? He enlightens no one.
# Edulis 2013-03-25 00:06
I noticed this morning that Alister Darling had his cheerleaders to accompany him on the Politics Show. First Andrew Neil allowed him to sail through his interview with easy questions and a little praise for his chancellorship without picking him up on a straight lie he spouted on the SG's oil report ("dreamt up over a weekend"). Of course Neil being a wholly owned subsiduary of the London elite wouldn't know the truth on that one. This was followed by three London-based journalists, bigging him up as impressive and suggesting that he should return like the cavalry to rescue Labour from the unpopular Balls!
# Radge 2013-03-25 10:00
After David Attenborough the only presenter of anything worth watching on the BBC for some time)retires, perhaps it will be time for the Scottish people to decide they cannot afford to keep BBC Execs, Presenters and Journos in the style to which they have become accustomed.
# millie 2013-03-25 23:58
Newsnight Scotland appears to have a new ruse – They invite a neutral, also someone from ‘Yes Scotland’ (who is not a politician) - and then a member of the Labour Party (instead of someone purely speaking for the Better Together campaign).

The ‘party’ member is then allowed to spout the Labour Party’s agenda and anti- SNP rhetoric (even although there is no- one from the SNP in the studio to respond).

This has now happened twice…. Last week with Patricia Ferguson - she was able to attack the SNP, and get away with it , as Blair Jenkins (who was the other panel member) could only speak for ‘Yes Scotland’, therefore Ms Ferguson’s comments went unchallenged.

The same happened tonight - Jeanne Freeman was representing ‘Yes Scotland’ (she mentioned she didn’t speak on behalf of the SNP), however, Kezia Dugdale was given free rein to attack the SNP and push a ‘Labour’ agenda. (The interviewer didn’t challenge her on this).
# src19 2013-03-26 00:25
If there really is Better Together group for Women why was their head of this so called group not on the Newsnicht tonight instead of Dugdale !!. It would never happen in a millions years, *Scottish labour and BBC Scotland are like peas in a pod to help defend the failing union.

*=Northern branch of labour as there is no such entity as Scottish labour.
# xyz 2013-03-26 00:34
My thoughts exactly! Just one more nail in the coffin of the despicable BBC.
# williemacewan 2013-03-26 09:37
I suspect Gordon Brewer's interview with Nicola did more damage to himself and the BBC than itdod to Nicola.

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