By G.A.Ponsonby

There was an interesting exchange of views on Derek Bateman's blog towards the end of last week. 

The former BBC man, who is now firmly in the Yes camp and arguing passionately for a Yes vote, had what is best described as a healthy exchange of views with those who post comments beneath his online offerings.

Mr Bateman had, as ever, given his honest view on one of the most contentious areas of the independence debate – the performance of the BBC in Scotland.  I paraphrase, but according to the former BBC reporter the lamentable coverage and questionable neutrality of the broadcaster was more to do with poor quality and bad judgement than any deliberate attempt to manipulate.

His detractors begged to differ.  Bateman was ignoring the evidence in front of his face, some said.  Worse, he was protecting his former employer and was very clearly 'one of them' opined others.

I rarely read online comments.  I don't object to them, it's just that finding anything of real value can mean wading through scores of dross in search if the diamond.  However reading Bateman's latest blogs on the BBC, one could sense his frustration at the refusal of his detractors to accept his point of view.

For me though the debate was academic.  Both sides clearly accepted there was a serious problem in the way BBC Scotland had been handling the debate.

Whether deliberate and orchestrated news manipulation or the result of cutbacks and resultant falling standards, no-one can be sure for certain.

My own view for what it is worth is that there are people in key positions who are working to their own agenda.  They work within parameters that have not altered since before devolution and use the latitude and out-dated template in order to work news output to suit.

The people were already employed to these key positions well before 2011 and their reaction to the SNP landslide was predictable.  Do they dislike the SNP? Are they afraid a Yes vote will alter the structure of BBC Scotland and affect their careers? Are they pro-Union? Is it all three?

Who knows, but the circumstantial evidence suggests that key positions at BBC Scotland are occupied by a people who fit one or more of the descriptions above.

Think about it.  BBC Scotland is controlled from London where the likelihood of any pro-Yes management is almost non-existent.  The head of BBC Scotland knows what is expected of him and those immediately below him know what MacQuarrie expects of them.

It's an unspoken peer pressure that those hoping to advance their career will be all too aware of.  Like organisations in Scotland's dark past that operated sectarian recruitment policies, there is never any need for anything to be written down.  Like a football crowd breaking into spontaneous song, there is no need to conspire beforehand for everyone to behave in the same manner.

Thus, agendas are set but all can proclaim they have not been explicitly instructed.

This same environment will result in reporters liable to resist the resultant pro-Union agenda, either through a desire to employ the highest journalistic standards or even a leaning towards independence (they do exist) themselves would simply be moved to areas where they would have minimal impact on the referendum.

But what about claims the lack of balance we are seeing is down to cutbacks?

BBC Scotland were given £5 million to increase their referendum output.  They recruited trainees with no journalistic experience who produced what looked like a recruitment video for the No campaign.  We already have James Naughtie and we're soon to have former Labour leader, the late John Smith's daughter Sarah Smith heading the replacement for Newsnight Scotland.

Sarah Smith and James Naughtie, who have developed their careers outwith Scotland for years, are to project the debate to those of us who have lived here for years.

Neither myself or Derek Bateman can say with absolute certainty either is correct, but we do agree that BBC Scotland is not presenting the referendum in a mature, non-partisan manner.

If the corporation was a door-to-door salesman it would have been run out of town a long time ago.

Look at what they hawked around last week for goodness sake:

On Saturday morning former Northern Ireland First Minister, Lord David Trimble, was lined up to sink the boot in to a Yes vote.  The BBC Ulster had reported that Trimble believed a Yes vote could see an end to the peace process and a return to violence.

Radio Scotland, in its now familiar routine, invited the politician onto Good Morning Scotland to broadcast his views.  It backfired spectacularly when the peer confronted Bill Whiteford and denounced the BBC report as contrived crap … or words to that effect.

Not only that, but Trimble explained that his views were in fact the polar opposite from what the BBC were claiming.

He said: "Actually, a Yes vote in Scotland would reinforce the argument against violence because it’s a demonstration of how you can achieve major change through the political democratic process."

As far as I am aware, the BBC has issued no retraction of their initial claims or any correction.  Indeed one day later, Gary Robertson repeated the misinformation in a live broadcast and but for the intervention of blogger Kate Higgins, viewers would have been subjected to another 'Creighton' episode.

This cannot be explained by lack of funding.  Robertson is the poster boy for Good Morning Scotland, that he was unaware that Trimble had denounced the BBC's claim over 24 hours earlier on the programme would have been known to Good Morning Scotland's weekday anchor.

A senior figure at BBC Scotland recently told someone close to Newsnet Scotland that Gary Robertson had no agenda but was merely parroting what he heard in his earpiece.  If that is the case then somebody is feeding BBC Scotland presenters anti-independence bullets and these people are firing them.

Last week we witnessed BBC Scotland pour over the Salmond/Putin smear in unseemly fashion.  With the Euro elections looming it had all the hallmarks of the co-ordinated smear campaign that preceded the local council elections in 2012 when Salmond was targeted after supposedly being too close to Rupert Murdoch.

What sealed BBC Scotland's fate last week was a blundering decision by someone to remove from news broadcasts  footage of Salmond highlighting Labour party hypocrisy over Putin when he read out a statement from Ukrainians angry at Labour peer George Robertson's call for the Russian leader to be invited to join NATO.

That was on Thursday and one could only sigh when BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor told listeners that Lord George Robertson hadn't in fact asked Putin to be invited to join NATO, but had merely called for "closer links".

How is it that BBC Scotland's chief political editor can be so hopelessly misinformed, especially when Newsnet Scotland sent him a link to George Robertson very clearly calling for Putin to be invited to join NATO?

Either Taylor had confused Robertson with Tony Blair, who had indeed called for closer ties between NATO and a Putin led Russia in 2001 (13 years ago) or he was deliberately misleading licence payers.  This weekend Blair also called for Britain to forge closer ties with Putin, is that what Taylor meant?

Taylor is one thing, and that is informed.  He knows fine well what George Robertson said.  Newsnet Scotland sent him the video clip.

But if you want to see just how low some BBC Scotland presenters will stoop in order to smear Alex Salmond then have a listen to this clip from Morning Call, the weekday phone-in programme.

Kaye Adams, after hectoring her way through a conversation with someone who described the pride the hated Nazis installed in 1930s Germany, sees her chance to introduce Godwin's Law into a programme designed specifically to promote the Salmond/Putin smear.  Who might the 'modern politician' be that Adams is inviting listeners to imagine?

Adams herself may of course view this clip as an attempt to smear her.  If so, she now knows how it feels.

BBC Scotland is institutionally corrupt and those who are employed within will be tainted.  It's up to the good guys to do something.


# Angry_Weegie 2014-05-06 07:53
It is true that the behaviour of any company will eventually reflect the views of the management, and that would explain some of BBC Scotland's output, but at times the bias goes further than simply slanting broadcasts in favour of a pro-union stance. To be complicit in repeating lies and, in some cases, invented anti-independence stories and to continue to do that despite evidence to the contrary seems to go beyond institutional bias into the realm of malice by individual presenters.

And that's before we get into the repeating of SLab press releases as fact.
# Breeks 2014-05-06 07:58
The BBC is the living embodiment of all that is wrong with the Union.
Obsolete, out of touch, trading on the laurels and omnipotence of a great former empire, blind to it's short comings, and deluded by a stature it spends a fortune to uphold but does nothing to deserve.

Go ahead then BBC, you will anyway, shout at me. Scream. Whisper, implore me, disarm me or threaten me. Do your best, do your worst, because I don't listen any more.

Come in BBC. You're time is up.

Come in the Union. Time is up for both of you.
# JimW 2014-05-06 08:31
The headline of this piece puts it in a nutshell. Professor Robertson's report aside, any first year student of media deconstructing the output of BBC Scotland news and current affairs in relation to the referendum would come to the inescapable conclusion that there is bias in favour of the union. One of the first things students are taught is that nothing happens by accident. An audience is targeted by use of language, by use if imagery, and in presentation and production. It is only surprising that the BBC imagines that no one knows, or understands, what they are doing. Even viewers who clearly have no media background can see the bias for themselves.
Inept or corrupt. There is no other explanation.
# BRL 2014-05-06 12:34
I really appreciate Derek Bateman's blog and I'm certain that many others do too, but I am troubled that his view on actual and potential bias from the BBC is so prepared for it taking place at all, even if he surely deplores its effect.

Surely, as one of the first 'campaign' acts of the BBC was to prevent criticism of output, by denying online comment facilities and then stonewalling any complaint either of that, or indeed any actual output, it was as obvious as the very nose on your face, that a pejorative line was the order of the day regarding all things SNP and independence. That is not sloppy journalism or a lack of managerial awareness, it's anti-independence, bias and pro-union partiality, all of which is intentional propaganda. The BBC is in no ethical position to be any of these things - ergo,it is in conflict with it's own Charter.
# Breeks 2014-05-06 16:19
It's not any difficulty with the concept of Scottish Independence which causes unionism to flounder, it's the rejection of Britishness which throws them.

They see Scotland's independence as an abstract threat from outside, beyond the ramparts of Fortress Britain, & do not understand it is something grown from within. It is something that's been 'here' all along.

They thought they held the patent on being British, and if you think about it, why wouldn't they?

Now we see the readjustments. A few see it as a breach of faith, some see ingratitude, some resent our rejection. Perhaps people go through phases of each.

We shouldn't judge the BBC or the CBI too harshly for being British, but then, I don't think we do. What creates anger is pretending to be neutral and impartial when it is as clear as day they are much too confused to be sure of anything.

We might hope for greater clarity & understanding, but neutrality asks too much.
# Breeks 2014-05-07 06:53
They think we are rejecting our Britishness because we lack understanding of what it means to be British. We are heathens to their "British" Religion. They think if they preach the faith from the Gospel Britannia, we'll come back to the bosom of their Kirk.

We won't. Scottish Nationalism is to Britain what secularism is to all religions. It's not the expression of faith as a Muslim differs from a Christian, it's the watershed, the point when faith itself ceases to be enough.

Can you prove the positive case for a religion? Course you can't. The Union is not about practicalities of government, it never was. Britishness is a faith flying above terrestrial realities. With the faith, you see and believe in all things British. Don't question it, shut up & keep believing pilgrim.
Unionism is the fire and brimstone sermon from the pulpit. "Repent sinners! It isn't too late!".

It is too late for me. There is no divinity in the sermon.
# ScotsCanuck 2014-05-06 14:14
Excellent analysis and well crafted article.
# YESGUY 2014-05-06 14:32
I made my comments on derek's page too and to be fair i felt his frustration pouring from the pages. The BBC are so bad now i turn everything they say around , it's the only way i can make sense of it all.

The BBC are biased fact. It's so obvious and they take us for fools. My worry is people still listen and believe the rubbish being poured out. keep telling everyone to get online , give them sites to look, go to their homes and show them on their pc's . This is just the start folks and it will get much worse. Although I must admit to watching Mr Salmond recently and he gives me the impression of biding his time. I bloody hope so
# Massan_Gow 2014-05-06 21:46
To answer the headline's question...

# UpSpake 2014-05-07 06:59
The Answer lies in the headline :- BBC Scotland - Inpet or Corrupt.

The Answer is all three of them. Inept, Corrupt and Institutionally biased against both the Scots Government and the concept of Independence.
It's in their name and for so long as its British then it will be the voicepiece for the British/English establishment. No doubts whatsoever about that.
# Graham Hughes 2014-05-07 13:10
The coverage of the Aberdeen Donside by-election was enough for me. After discussing with the representatives from labour LibDem and Conservative the topic of "What do Better together need to do to improve the effectiveness of their campaign?" The presenter finally turned to the SNP spokeswoman. She was barely half-way through her first sentence when she was interrupted as the "Had" to go live to the count. From where the reporter told us the result was expected in around ten minutes time, and then conducted a lengthy interview with the UKIP candidate. Eventually they went back to the studio where the question to the SNP spokeswoman had been forgotten and the other three were once again given the opportunity to speak against independence. Finally we got back to the incredibly patient SNP woman only for her to again be cut short almost as soon as she started to speak, as the result, the timing of which had been forecast ten minutes earlier, was about to be announced.
# Dr JM Mackintosh 2014-05-08 21:50
No - Just Corrupt.

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