By G.A.Ponsonby
Since its inception as an online news outlet, this site has made clear its editorial stance when it comes to independence.  There’s nothing unique in adopting a stance, indeed every news outlet takes its own editorial line.
Actually it’s not true to say that every news outlet adopts a position, some broadcasters don’t, and into that category one would place the BBC and STV. 

BBC and STV, it’s fair to say, are the leading news providers in Scotland and both take pride in their much vaunted political neutrality.  Whether either are neutral in practice is a debate for another day.

Just over one week ago the CBI announced it had registered with the Electoral Commission in order to be recognised as an official No campaigner.  The CBI is a London based business lobbying group which has for some time signalled its opposition to Scottish independence.

It has a Scottish branch called, not surprisingly, CBI Scotland.  The membership of CBI Scotland has been a matter of some debate for a number of years.  Most observers agree however that it has no more than 90 members – even less now.

One day after it emerged that the CBI had formally backed the No campaign, STV quit as a member.  Very noble you might think, and in truth STV did act with admirable haste.

Quite why the broadcaster was a member of a group which had frequently made its opposition to a Yes vote known in numerous public statements, is unknown … but STV’s membership, like the CBI’s reputation, is no longer.

Notwithstanding the exodus of other organisations which had also decided membership of the CBI was no longer helpful to their own public profile, the big story remained the decision of the CBI to register with the Electoral Commission.

That was until Thursday when to the shock of many, including its own employees, the BBC was revealed to be a member.

I have to admit to being genuinely shocked at the news.  Like STV, the BBC had been paying membership fees to an organisation that the BBC itself had recently began to acknowledge was against Scottish independence.

But there was more.  The news that the BBC was a CBI member was not accompanied as one might have expected, with an announcement by the state broadcaster that it was quitting the CBI forthwith, but rather the BBC let it be known it was considering its position.

Why? was my own immediate thought.  At that precise moment in time the BBC was an implicit supporter of Better Together.  Licence payer’s cash was being funnelled into an organisation which had formally declared itself to be a campaigner against a Yes vote.  Yet the BBC prevaricated.

I can still hardly believe it.  But there was worse to come.

Compounding the situation, the BBC eventually announced that it would continue its CBI membership up until May 30th, which is the formal beginning of the period within which strict rules governing the referendum must be adhered to.

As you read this, the situation remains unchanged and your licence fee is now funding the Better Together campaign.  That the CBI is trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube and reverse its registration is irrelevant, as things stand it is part of the No campaign.

Former BBC Scotland presenter Derek Bateman has revealed that news staff at BBC Scotland will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the situation.

That we’ve reached this point at all is almost a parody of the BBC’s entire handling of the referendum.  It’s surreal.

Game Over

This is the end of the road for the BBC in Scotland.  Whatever happens at the meeting in Pacific Quay is totally irrelevant.  You are watching end game.

Why was the BBC a secret member of the CBI at all?  Why in the name of goodness does a body that is allowed to legally extort payment from householders, require to be a member of a right wing lobbying group which has links to the Conservative party?

For several years the CBI, or more precisely the CBI in Scotland, has had access to BBC Scotland’s substantial media platform in which to promote its ideological opposition to independence and it has used this to good effect.

Indeed CBI Scotland director, Iain McMillan is even granted the privilege of a Christmas message!

In TV and radio broadcasts as well as online, McMillan has been portrayed by the BBC in Scotland as a spokesperson for Scottish business.  It’s usual for Mr McMillan to be termed a ‘business leader’, which of course lends authority and credibility to each and every one of his utterances.

Even if it were true and CBI Scotland was indeed expressing the views of most of its members, then the BBC was opposing independence by proxy.  If McMillan was speaking on behalf of his membership then he was speaking on behalf of the BBC.

The BBC has only now revealed its own membership of this politically partisan body, but it hasn’t confirmed if it was consulted on the decision to register with the Electoral Commission.  That is surely something licence payers deserve to know.

The BBC Trust has found BBC Scotland guilty of misleading viewers in reporting of a key referendum issue – the report benefited the No campaign.  An academic study has found evidence of a pro-Union bias in TV news coverage.

Now we learn that one of the bodies the BBC once regularly portrayed as a neutral but concerned observer of Scottish politics was in fact contracted through membership to act on behalf of the BBC.  That same body, as well as registering with the Electoral Commission, has published a significant volume of anti-independence material on its website.

I said some time ago that the BBC blundered when it failed to evolve in line with what was happening during the devolution period.  After 1997, broadcasting ought to have been devolved.

It had a second chance when the SNP won its first term in 2007 but again did nothing save for upping its anti-SNP rhetoric.

In 2011, circumstance gave it a third bite at the cherry when the SNP won a historic majority.  At that point management should have acknowledged the seismic event and readied the broadcaster for the referendum.  It did nothing and has allowed events to overtake it - it's stuck in a time warp.

The product being served up by BBC Scotland in terms of coverage of the referendum is dire.  There’s no imaginative programming and virtually no attempt at exploring in mature fashion the key issues.

Debates are reduced to puerile shouting matches with the same questions featuring again and again and the same scripted answers.  The same talking heads turn up saying the same thing over and over on the limited current affairs programmes available.

Daytime radio offers us Morning Call.  A programme designed to allow poorly informed people to display their own ignorance and in some cases their political prejudices, to the world.

The truth is the BBC in Scotland has blown the referendum.  The CBI episode merely reinforces the extent of the arrogant blundering that has placed political agenda in front of honest journalism.

Iain McMillan has announced he is to step down as head of the CBI in Scotland.  In truth a move already planned, but spun nonetheless in an attempt to take the heat from his superiors in London who so miscalculated the political mood in Scotland.

If there is any justice, tomorrow’s meeting at Pacific Quay will result in the removal of John Boothman and Kenneth MacQuarrie from their respective posts.  For the BBC in Scotland, the game is up.

[Newsnet comment.  This morning on Good Morning Scotland they reported on a press release claiming that the coming months would be the best for the UK economy.   In the introduction to the news item, there was no mention of the constitutional stance of the organisation who issued the press release.  The organisation was the CBI.]


# doonhamer 2014-04-27 23:23
If there is any justice, tomorrow’s meeting at Pacific Quay will result in the removal of John Boothman and Kenneth MacQuarrie from their respective posts.

More likely they would be promoted and give a bonus for a job well done.

Jesus wept.
# call me dave 2014-04-28 00:09
I agree completely, our Scottish auntie has been exposed by an unfortunate political ill wind,revealing what we all suspected, a pair of threadbare union jack bloomers with a CBI membership card tucked into the elastic.

Her reputation for moral rectitude blown and with nothing to be done that can hide her crimson cheeks, surely she must away to a convent and repent.
# hiorta 2014-04-28 10:11
BBC Scotland has shown herself to be utterly unreliable in speaking without bias, hooked on political pornography and wishful thinking.
# steveb 2014-04-28 02:23
That is enough.

All of us now have to stop paying the license fee and see them in court. Newsnet Scotland has given us the evidence to produce to the court as evidence that they have breached their charter. they have lied to us all, they are not impartial.
And they are using our own money to lie to us.
There is no way thy can win and the publicity will only help our cause.
# martin morrison 2014-04-28 08:33
I'm game for this. Anybody up for fixing a date to cancel direct debits? If enough people do it simultaneously, their admin would go into meltdown.

I'm in all day.
# call me dave 2014-04-28 13:41
Too late for me, I have done the deed already, I regret the time I pondered about it.

Should have done it the day G. Campbell ripped up the SNP manifesto on steps of holyrood.
# Breeks 2014-04-28 05:45
The activities of the CBI and the BBC steer uncomfortably close parallels. Unionist sympathies masked behind a cloak of disingenuous impartiality betrayed by their own indiscretions.
In the light of events, it is breathtakingly arrogant for the CBI, as perfectly described, to try squeezing the toothpaste back into the tube, but the uncomfortable parallels continue with similar hubris from the BBC remaining allied to a partisan organisation with the disingenuous platitudes that it will 'do the right thing' from May 30th.

The only difference between these two floundering ships, and it's a big difference, is that the CBI is answerable to its membership. The BBC carries on with its usual omnipotence, answerable to nobody, unbound by the merely terrestial chains of its mortal charter.

Not only will the Electoral Commission stand or fall with it's response to the CBI U-turn, it should equally demand the BBC's registration as pro Union.
# Breeks 2014-04-28 06:25
I see Ian Brotherhood has a petition aimed at Chris Patton, but I am wondering whether a similar salvo should be aimed in the direction of the Electoral Commission over the blatant insincerity of the BBC's claim of impartiality. Seeing the BBC compelled to register itself as a pro-union agency would really set the cat amongst the pigeons.
# Leader of the Pack 2014-04-28 07:07
Youre presuming that the electoral commission is impartial and free from bias in spite of the fact that it is a body set up by Westminster. It has been as aware of the CBI and BBC discretions for months now and sat back and done nothing what makes you think they will do anything any time soon?
# Breeks 2014-04-28 09:33
Because it too is openly compromised if it is made aware of the BBC's partisan activities yet does nothing. There is quite a dossier to discredit any BBC denial.

If Business for Scotland hadn't challenged the CBI, they'd still be undercover Unionists pretending they were impartial.

Put the Electoral Commission on the spot. Have them declare the BBC is indeed partisan, or have themselves discredited as weak and ineffective. If the BBC won't provide answers, then let the Electoral Commission explain it.

My guess is they will not bludgeon the BBC to submission, however much we might like them to, but they might give the BBC a thunderous rebuke for it's conduct so far and withering condemnation of its management of referendum coverage.

If it doesn't, then we have a lame duck Electoral Commission with evidence to back up its impotence and strengthen our case for neutral observers.
# Breeks 2014-04-28 10:18
The Electoral Commission, whatever its sympathies, whatever its prejudices, will be aware that if it falls down on the job, then there will be international observers called in to replace them.
Who will these be? Europe? Germany? France? Australia? Canada? See the UK beginning to sweat yet? China? Russia? Argentina? Ireland? Spain?
Can you imagine what the US would think about Russian observers called in to prevent the suppression of democracy in a country with Scotland's strategic location with deep water naval capacities, and which has already been warned by a member state with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council that it'll be kicked out of NATO if Westminster doesn't like our democratic result?
Good, bad or ugly, the Electoral Commission is the cork in the bottle. What would you do in their shoes? Agitate more ill feeling or pacify concerns?
# Leader of the Pack 2014-04-28 12:10
That's exactly my point Breeks. Both the CBI and the BBC have blatantly shown their open bias. As you say there is more than ample evidence available. Evidence ignored by the electoral commission which in itself shows me a underlying if not blatant bias of its own.

Had this bias been for the yes campaign how long do you think it would have taken a UK Government to "influence" the electoral commission to act?

I don't see any condemnation coming to the BBC nor the CBI. The media in fairness have mocked them and presented their stupidity but I don't see any evidence of condemnation coming from anybody not connected to the yes campaign.

Only Newsnet Wings and Bella Cal have made any effort to treat this matter in the way it deserves and have taken any effort to show the implications to the BBC. I haven't seen any sign of anybody in the MSM having a go at the BBC for its open display of distain for its own charter.
# Breeks 2014-04-28 19:41
By the same token, how long did the CBI present itself as impartial before direct action by Business For Scotland obliged them to register their position?
The 'rules' for the BBC and CBI are there, but its the enforcement which needs a firm nudge, if only to draw the distinction between passive inaction and active subversion.
# mealer 2014-04-28 06:39
Well done Mr Ponsonby.It must be very difficult trying to find out what's going on within these secret organisations.
# UpSpake 2014-04-28 06:46
This situation. laughable as it has become is precisely why moves were made over two years ago to alert the appropriate office of the OSCE which handles media output.
Whilst an alert was made the reply from them was that in order to both police the media and the Electoral Commission and its role in the democratic process, that it was for the elected government to make such a request, not a think tank or any other.
In the meantime, we have been waiting for the Scottish Government to grow a pair and denounce the media bias but despite many opportunities for them to do so, Mr. Swinney take note, they have sat on their hands and done precisely nothing.
Now, and under the current circumstances I think they have no option but to act.
# Caithness Calling 2014-04-28 13:15
As the person who wrote and posted the letters to the OSCE, and who saw the replies, I fully back Upspake's call for John Swinney to 'get his finger out'.

OSCE will happily monitor Westminster's shennanigans, but only if requested to do so by the government, ie., the SNP as the government of Scotland.

Failure to call in the OSCE smacks of arrogance, but we cannot rely on arrogance to beat the evil powers of Westminster.
# Jo Bloggs 2014-04-28 18:19
I agree with what you're saying, but why John Swinney in particular? I, a member, once wote to SNP headquarters over this (ages ago) and got an anodyne response from some Scottis Govrnmentoffici a, all about everything being in good hands, the Edinburgh Areement, the Electoral Commission blah blah blah.
# Christian_Wright 2014-04-28 07:20
Make no mistake, in continuing to pay dues to and maintaining membership of the CBI, the BBC is endorsing it and bestowing upon it the imprimatur of authenticity and legitimacy.

That makes the BBC itself an agency of that same partisan political campaign, in violation of every tenet, law, and ethic, to which it is required to adhere and obey.

Though it may officially withdraw its support for Better Together, the CBI continues to use its resources to lobby on behalf of the anti-independence campaign by seeding scare story after scare story in the media, and in particular, on the BBC.

There is consequently still a transfer of asset value going on, in the form of the distribution and dissemination of unpaid propaganda by the CBI to the NO campaign.

That operation costs money and who’s providing it? You are.
# MajorBloodnok 2014-04-28 07:38
So until 30 May the BBC remains a member of the CBI whose political stance is openly right wing and anti-independence.

This means that the BBC is a member of a lobby group that is campaigning explicitly against the stated policies of (at least) two political parties, the SNP and the Scottish Greens, that are contesting the European Elections on 22 May.

How can the BBC get away with that and still claim to be 'impartial'?
# farrochie 2014-04-28 07:59
Morning Call: "A programme designed to allow poorly informed people to display their own ignorance and in some cases their political prejudices, to the world."

Some people who phone in are quite knowledgeable and provide well-supported facts and opinion.

The trouble is that others who phone make unsupported assertions, give inaccurate and incorrect information. Because the programme is not treated as news but as "topical" the chosen presenters are rarely able to or allowed to challenge incorrect statements.
# pomatiaH1 2014-04-28 08:01
When I commented in the Guardian that the CBI was registered for the No campaign and that the BBC was only going to suspend its membership of the CBI from the 30th May, so it was also supporting the No campaign, there was 94 up votes, when most were getting 6 or 7.
People are becoming aware.
I also wrote to RT explaining the situation, maybe not the best place, but there needs to be some internayional exposure.
If anyone is aware of other European bodies to contact it would useful to have the addresses.
I did sign the online petition tp Chris Patten, another commentator mentioned.
# Dundonian West 2014-04-28 10:08
Trust Once Lost, is Lost Forever. In The Name of God ----GO.
# Muz 2014-04-28 11:24
How long has this been going on - when did the BBC first join the CBI?

In addition to the Scottish independence debate, I'm thinking of every BBC interview & debate where the BBC, CBI and a Trades Union representative were involved.

Shouldn't we have known that the BBC and CBI were connected organisations who contact each other privately to discuss policy?

This seems rotten to the core.
# Macart 2014-04-28 11:25
Must admit to being left speechless when I first heard of their membership. The bias and mismanagement we've been aware of to this point is nothing compared to this. This is as clean a cut case of conflict of interest as is possible to find.

How could they even consider a delay?

Shameful behaviour by BBC.
# fiferblue 2014-04-28 11:43
Are the BBC allowed to quote an organisation extensively, as they do with the CBI, without declaring themselves a member of that organisation?
# bringiton 2014-04-28 11:47
The BBC suspending it's membership of an organisation which is now actively involved in a political campaign,just won't cut it.
As soon as the CBI announced it's intent,the BBC along with STV should have resigned immediately.
Now,they are just hoping that the CBI will be allowed to reverse it's decision.
The Electoral Commission will no doubt be concerned with funding during the official campaign period but the fact that the state broadcaster is now openly supporting the anti independence position needs to be scrutinised closely.
The BBC in such circumstances,i n Scotland,should suspend all current affairs and political broadcasting during the official campaign period so as not to be seen as spending tax payers money to support one side of a political argument.
# X_Sticks 2014-04-28 12:01
"the removal of John Boothman and Kenneth MacQuarrie from their respective posts"

This two along with Ian Small and Daniel Maxwell are where the problem with bbc Scotland comes from. We should target their resignations as soon as possible. While they remain in bbc Scotland nothing will change and the subtle (and not so subtle) anti-independence propaganda will continue.
# chicmac 2014-04-28 12:05
I find it ironic that just a couple of years ago, the following poster/leaflet was felt by some to be too strident. Now, it seems to be all too tame, if anything.
# Leader of the Pack 2014-04-28 12:31
It will be interesting if the electoral commission openly admitted its own bias and announced its intent to support the No campaign.
Its ridiculous to even pretend to believe that any Westminster Government would set up a body which could potentially work against it at any given point during such a time as this from their perspective.

Know thine enemy.
# Ian Brotherhood 2014-04-28 13:01
Still ticking along...tick tock...
# handyscot 2014-04-28 14:39
Ahem...the Electoral Commission's Commissioner with responsibility for Scotland is John McCormick, former Secretary of the BBC and subsequently Controller of BBC Scotland. How long should we hold our breath?
# rabkae 2014-04-28 14:55
"As you read this, the situation remains unchanged and your licence fee is now funding the Better Together campaign"

Au contraire mon ami! I cancelled my Licence Fee Direct Debit last year and replaced it with a monthly Standing Order to the tune of £10 made payable to 'Newsnet Scotland'.

More of us should do so IMHO.
# velofello 2014-04-28 15:01
And the members of the Electoral Commission are?

I opted out of the BBC license fee some time back. "I'n not paying anyone to lie to me" was my response to the visitors enquiring as to why I had stopped after so many years as a license payer.

Up until recently a complaint by the Scottish Government to OSCE would have been essentially based upon perceptions. Now however the study by the Univ of West of Scotland, and the BBC's bitter response to it, and the CBI membership revelation does put meat on the bones of a complaint of unfair reporting.
# Breeks 2014-04-28 15:24
And Chris Patten is who?

I've made my suggestion. If these people in such positions are disingenuous in their responsibilitie s, then I want to see them compromised and exposed by deed not suspicion, and sooner rather than later.
# Leader of the Pack 2014-04-28 16:44
What would constitute a "deed" in this instance Breeks? Ignoring blatant publically reported bias when there is a legal requirement of impartiality in the case of forcefully obtaining public funds which would be used to promote a political campaign?

They've already been exposed and compromised but the reality is they are beyond reproach and immune.

This is the despotic nature of the UK state you live in. I thought youd be well aware of that by now?
Without the internet would we even be aware of a fraction of any of this?
# Breeks 2014-04-28 19:57
Passive inaction is one thing. You can easily put it down to research or monitoring, gathering evidence, reviewing the circumstances. It is open ended and could go on for months, and all the while the abuse continues.

The 'deed' I mean is an active failure; action. Expressing a conclusion which is contrary to the evidence. Articulating a position which can then be formally contested. Positive action which turns fuzzy grey uncertainty into crisp black or white parameters.

If the Electoral Commission is being indecisive, it has to be contested, just like Business For Scotland contested the CBI's position.
# brusque 2014-04-28 16:38
I cancelled my Direct Debit to BBC Licence, a long time back.........around the same time I wrote my first piece on Newsnet Scotland (the old site!) which was a bit of a rant about Glenn Campbell's sycophantic love-in with Jim Murphy. It was clear to me then that the Referendum would never be treated fairly; recent events have certainly underlined that opinion, and how!!

A little information for those who may feel they can no longer supply funding for the No Campaign, via the BBC. There is an article entitled "13 things you need to know about the TV Licence" it is full of VERY useful suggestions for those who have become disillusioned with the lies and deceit from the BBC in Scotland.
# Edzell Blue 2014-04-28 17:38
If the Electoral Commission has a TV then they will have license and so by funding the BBC they will also be supporting the CBI!
# rockhaggis 2014-04-28 18:36
# call me dave 2014-04-28 19:46
BBC staff had a meeting in Glasgow today.

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