Like many others I sat open mouthed listening to Iain Macwhirter’s rant on Radio Scotland yesterday morning.
So uncharacteristic was the apparent loss of control that I at first missed the central theme of his point - that Alex Salmond had supported the “monopolistic commercial interests” of Rupert Murdoch.
There were two things wrong with this claim. The first of course is that ownership of BskyB would have hardly represented a monopoly, given the presence of the BBC, which dwarfs News Corp’s media reach in the UK.
The second though, and one that perhaps offers an insight into the blinkered thinking of the Unionist, and one that Macwhirter will struggle to comprehend is that a virtual media monopoly has existed in Scotland for decades.
The so called Scottish media has been controlled by one single entity throughout Mr Macwhirter’s journalistic career – the entity is Unionism.
Until very recently, and it is still to be proven if the Sun’s ‘worship’ of the SNP is long term, no media outlet would touch the SNP with a barge poll. Independence was the unmentionable, and if former Herald editor Murray Richie is to believed, any journalist that publicly expressed sympathy for the SNP’s ultimate aim found his or her career path blocked.
That’s the reality of Scotland’s media machine, one dominated at the moment by a publicly funded broadcasting giant that even Macwhirter himself admitted not so long ago operated a policy that weeded out those journalists and commentators prepared to give the SNP a fair hearing.
The current campaign of course is only the latest in a series of similar attacks on the integrity of Alex Salmond. It follows the Doosan story and of course tea with the lottery winners amongst others.
The modus operandi is always the same – smears by political opponents, devoid of evidence, followed by headlines in the usual newspapers that are picked up and amplified by the BBC.
It matters not that there is no truth in the claims, by broadcasting a continual stream of ‘Salmond Accused’ and ‘Salmond Denies’ bulletins the BBC subliminally sends the message to viewers and listeners that the SNP lack integrity, the latest is an honest error over a meeting several years ago between Murdoch and Salmond in New York.
The BBC is of course immune from any public backlash, being protected by a licence fee. Newspapers however are reaping the circulation rewards for this unimaginative and blandly partisan approach.
Even now, the Scotsman with its circulation in freefall and owners Johnston Press recording huge losses, the business opportunities offered by endorsing independence are eschewed in favour of even more rabid anti-SNP prose.
The Herald too recently has lost its editorial marbles and is resorting to the kind of coverage that led to its infamous editorial when it attacked SNP supporters after a particularly rabid series of articles following a mock auction at an SNP fund raising dinner in an Indian restaurant.
This approach to political reporting is partly what Euan Crawford was leaning towards when he diplomatically referred to the ‘hysteria’ that has surrounded the Salmond BskyB story.
As usual though, no campaign can hope to be successful unless the mass broadcast media run with it. And again, BBC Scotland have been only too willing to run with any and every aspect of the ‘story’.
Relentless coverage that has served, I believe, to cause even more people to question the agenda of the state broadcaster.
That the story broke on Wednesday just as BBC Scotland were running with Glenn Campbell’s latest ‘scoop’ – re: Ron Gould’s attack on the referendum. The result was that the station gave the impression of running a continuous stream of anti-SNP, anti-Salmond bulletins.
The reason for the panic is of course the local elections next week and the fear that Labour may well lose its last bastion – Glasgow.
The monopoly that Iain Macwhirter should be railing against is right under his nose. Somehow though I don’t expect him to publicly acknowledge it any time soon.