deliberately misleading…are you sure?

That’s Svetlana the masseuse away…I’m in my white towelling robe now advertising my sponsor – Arran Aromatics…mmmmm


Just to change tack before it’s pick-up-the-kids time, I have to say I am very doubtful about one of the causes celebres of “Beeb political bias” and that is the Raymond Buchanan report on his interview with Lucinda Creighton in Dublin.

If you look again at the film and read the transcript after wiping your mind free of  previous thoughts, you will hear Lucinda give what sounds to me like a clear indication that she imagines Scotland starting afresh with an application to the EU and it taking some time, a point she reinforces in the second answer with a comparison with Iceland which is currently outside and which had to start from scratch. She equates the two countries using one as a model for the other.  She did not say Scotland would be inside while applying which seemed strange since that was really the key point of the SNP’s position.

When I heard it, I wasn’t left in much doubt that she imagined Scotland starting off outside although, as I say, that was not stated explicitly.

On the basis of this interpretation, Raymond was entitled to suggest this chimed with Moore saying Scotland would be outside asking to get in. Think of it in reverse. If you heard Lucinda say Scots would have to apply and it would take time, (without adding that Scotland was unique and would remain inside during this process), and then Moore saying Scotland would be outside, would you really conclude that were quite different statements?

I thought at the time and think now, that Lucinda’s revised statement, after a call from Nicola, was a retrospective attempt to change her line to fit in with the SNP position. If she really was saying Scotland would remain inside the EU and negotiate – which I am convinced is what will happen – why didn’t she say so? She herself points out that Scotland’s position is unique as it is already “In” so given that, why didn’t she make clear the application would come while remaining a kind of member in limbo? It is the one feature of Scotland’s case that makes it unique. So what is a reporter to do? Put yourself in his shoes and ask what way you would read her statement. You might say in your script that she “appeared” to chime with Moore but that only softens it a bit.

I think she was caught out in the moment. Raymond caught her before she got her story straight. I don’t mean to say she doesn’t believe the SNP position is correct but at the moment of interview that’s not what was in her head. That’s not Raymond’s fault. He was entitled to draw the conclusion he did. (Maybe it was looking up into his dreamy Hebridean eyes that confused her).

But here’s where I think this item went a bit wrong.

I’m hoping it’s safe to say this now that Raymond is off to be Mr Corporate at Weirs…except he just lives round the corner and is much bigger than me.

As one who has followed this European issue perhaps too minutely for too long, the follow-up question that begged to be asked – I think – was the killer every time this comes up.

It is: “If Scotland is outside applying for membership, can you explain the process by which it was expelled?”

There is only one correct answer to this and it is: “No. I haven’t a clue” And neither does anyone else. So if you ask that one follow-up you immediately cast doubt on the first answer and the viewer gets the point that the interviewee is making an assertion…busking it.

There is no legal process in the EU that allows a member state or part of a member state to be expelled. They only got round to working out a process for allowing a member who wants out, to do so, in the Lisbon treaty. The only route would be a treaty amendment relating only to Scotland, which would require unanimity and referendums in different states and take years. It won’t happen.

Barroso was making an unfounded assertion at the behest of worried member states when he claimed Scotland would be outwith EU law after a Yes vote. It is designed to put you off independence because it complicates life in Brussels when it’s their job to complicate life for us.

So I think maybe a trick was missed in what was a stand-up interview, that is, grab the minister and fire off a couple of quickies rather than a sit-down considered discussion where nuance is appropriate. It isn’t making excuses to say that reporting with a camera this way, grabbing what you can while mentally working out the structure and script and dealing with a camera crew you’ve never met before, almost certainly with the clock against you, can be nerve-shredding experience. Honestly, I’ve done it.

On the other hand, you could always add a line into script to say something like: “The minister didn’t explain how Scotland would be expelled.”

What it shows isn’t a deliberate bias but how easy it is let something slip by you and how you have to be constantly up to speed on relevant topics. In my view all reporters should be regularly briefed on this type of area to minimise the chances of either error or interpretation open to doubt in this crucial period for Scotland. Because the management of the news department is so poor, this doesn’t happen. There is effectively no leadership. Journalists either know their stuff or they don’t so it’s a matter of chance who asks the questions.

But what I cannot accept is the BBC’s refusal to cover the revised statement from the same minister. That is dereliction of duty in my view since they were happy to have her say what she did the first time and yet her next statement isn’t news? There was a clear responsibility on the BBC to cover the clarification and I expect the Trust to agree. And the upshot? More bad publicity for the BBC, standing accused of bias and looking like it’s running scared of the guys at Newsnet. I suspect the management just don’t care about that. They sail above it all oblivious to the harm done. It’s a pity the Trust has no sanctions to impose.






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0 thoughts on “deliberately misleading…are you sure?

  1. The rhinestone cowboy next and tearing up the snp manifesto.

  2. cynicalHighlander

    From this side it appears that these reporters are sent out with an ‘agenda’ and as such the line of questioning is geared to get what the political editor wants and not to get the whole truth.

  3. Good stuff Derek. It wasn’t Raymond’s interview I personally had a problem with, it was the BBC suggesting the clarification wasn’t news and shouldn’t be transmitted. Seemed petty, when as you say the original interview wasn’t actually wrong.

  4. […] deliberately misleading…are you sure? […]

  5. Murray McCallum

    I quite liked when Raymond Buchanan stood in on the Gordon Brewer show. He had the refreshing approach of letting people answer questions. If the politicians aren’t up to getting their point across clearly then that’s not his problem.

    To expel 5+ million EU citizens en mass goes against everything the EU and its laws stand for. It’s depressing to see people falling for this rubbish.

  6. Derek,
    This is an incredibly good read, and as Doug Daniel says on the previous thread, I am very grateful you chose this blog rather than a publishing contract to disseminate your experiences.

    However, the problem at hand is that we, as a Nation, are less than a year from a seminal decision. A decision to be made via the medium of ‘democratic’ referendum.

    Key to that ‘democratic’ medium being able to return a true reflection of the will of the Scottish electorate, is a media that will accurately and robustly dissect BOTH political propositions honestly and equally, prior to the final electorate’s decision.

    The power of our Newspapers is on the wane, with falling circulations and their universal support of the Union in part at least being strenuously countered by the internet and blogs such as your own (and Wings Over Scotland, Bella etc).

    My question to you is, how can we place pressure on OUR National broadcaster to reflect the views and forensically dissect the political opinions found throughout the entire width of Scotland’s National debate, on behalf of ALL their license fee paying audience being asked to decide our Countries future on the 18th of September 2014?

    Failing that (almost impossible task), what advice do you have to help further undermine and disseminate BBC Scotland’s (and The BBC’s) fast receding reputation, among the Scots public, for impartial news and political information.

    Thanks again for stepping into the breach, but unfortunately I think it will shock you at the desperation and exasperation your public feel towards an institution that they were once proud of, but have long since felt little association with, representation by and even less actual control over.

    My experiences of my few email exchanges with Jeff Zycinski, and his attitudes they exuded, only accelerated my alienation from a National Broadcaster that I was brought up to respect and admire. All lost credit now, I am afraid.

    I think Derek, you are about to have your eyes forced open in the coming 12 months. I don’t envy you your loyalties.

    • Got to agree with other posts re closing of comments on the BBC Scotland site only, “for editorial reasons”. So soon after the SNP landslide where this major success was partially attributed to online activity of supporters.

  7. Very interesting point on bias by omission. On the substance, I would say that an exposition of the “process of expulsion” was not wanting from the coverage, but an examination of which institution is competent to decide such a question. Barroso had some brass neck in presenting his view as determinative.

    It is important to recall that the European Union derives its territorial scope from that of its Member States (if you’re interested Article 52 of the Treaty on European Union). Treaties apply exclusively as between the States that are party to them. The situation is made more complex when a new State is created: the new entity will succeed to (in effect inherit) some of the rights and obligations of the State(s) from which it was created (the predecessor State(s)) and will not succeed to others. Scottish independence patently envisages the creation of a new State. In such circumstances, each treaty to which the predecessor United Kingdom was party would have to be examined to see whether succession would be permitted. Scotland will succeed to some treaties and memberships, but not to others, pursuant to international law. This is where the debate on EU membership resides and which contemplates the possibility of a process, as it were, to expel Scotland from the European Union (although it is neither an EU “process” nor does it really involve “expulsion”): that where Scotland does not succeed to the Treaties establishing the EU.

    That said, it is far from clear that this would be the case. While there are few examples of international organisations which allow succession to its founding treaty (the Universal Postal Union, anyone?), international law (in the form of Article 4 of the Vienna Convention on State Succession in respect of Treaties) asks us to look to the nature and purpose of each organisation. Putting aside the fact that it might be claimed that the EU isn’t really an international organisation, but something else, it is clear that the EU has a series of particular features, inter alia EU citizenship and the supremacy of its law, that might allow succession to take place. Different views can legitimately be taken here and I would not describe this as a deficiency in the coverage.

    As to the related question of which institution is competent to decide such a question, it is important to note that the EU Treaties don’t deal with this scenario explicitly. Attempts to answer the question by reference to Article 49 (on accession) is disingenuous in the extreme and amounts to addressing the question of succession by not considering whether succession has taken place. The question of competence to decide the succession issue has to be worked out from the broader structure of the EU Treaties, with particular reference to those provisions related to the identity of the Member States. Looking at those provisions, Article 50 (Nigel Farage’s favourite on withdrawal) and Article 49 (on accession), it is clear that the Commission has the most marginal role of all the institutions, having the right simply to be consulted on accession, but not to determine who the Member States are and the conditions for their entry or exit (in contrast to the Council and European Parliament).

    Working out which body should be competent is more complex and vital in terms of ensuring that the question is answered in time. A resort to the Court of Justice after the determination of non-succession has been reached by another of the EU institutions, for example, would be deeply unsatisfactory for Scotland. For my own part, it would appear to be a principally political question that the European Council should address.

    Whatever the complexities, the Commission has, I think, misrepresented its position in presenting itself as the unequivocally competent decision maker; the media has been complicit in this misrepresentation by not questioning this assumption.

    • Sorry, your point was, of course, not that different views *could* be taken on the EU membership issue, but in this case that different views were taken by Lucinda Creighton at different points in time. Nonetheless, in response to your suggestion of appending a query to the original report, a view might reasonably be taken that Scotland does not succeed to the EU treaties.

      For me, the “who” question is just as important as the “membership yes or no” issue. The Commission isn’t the obvious answer and that this is being put forward should be question more thoroughly be the media.

  8. Omission & a lack of rigour, either poor quality or deliberate. Either way, we are failed by the BBC.

  9. Derek, I sympathise with you defending your former colleagues, but I can’t agree that there is not systematic bias. And keep in mind that bias does not equate to “conspiracy” as you implied in your NewsnetScotland article. It can simply be an organisation-wide assumption. It never has to be said out loud. Threats never have to be given.

    The instance that absolutely convinced me of clear BBC bias was Glenn Campbell’s (frankly horrid) coverage of the Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi release in his trip the US when he blatantly mis-stated and misrepresented the position of the US State Department. I happen to be an American (in spite of having grown up in Edinburgh). I was furious and outraged. But the manipulation of the clip of his interview at the State Dept (to try to make it say something that the entire clip showed was NOT what was said was not something he alone could have done) nor was the sudden disappearance of his BBC sponsored “online diary” which contained misstatements about the interview.

    Yes, I still hold a grudge about that interview and the man’s name makes me spit. I have never since trusted a single word out of a BBC presenter’s mouth–your good self excepted.

  10. Which ever way you look at it,the BBC in Scotland,along with all the other unionist organisations is serving masters in London and not the people of Scotland.
    British to the core.

  11. Deliberately misleading?

    With the journalists maybe not, as in *considered*, but often it is the willingness of the journalist to see the negative aspects of anything to do with independence.

    The utter absence of any serious reporting of the Purcell scandal which is a whole can of worms that could and should damage the GCC and the “Scottish” labour party. They can do it to Rangers. But then there are no major connections that I know of between Rangers and the BBC.

    When it comes to the conflation of independence and Alex Salmond I suspect there may be a more organised desire to mislead. The demonisation of the man that has taken place on the BBC is not accidental.

    No disrespect (quite the opposite, in fact!), but perhaps some in the BBC did not choose to include you in their conversations so can you be sure there is no conspiracy? A conspiracy doesn’t have to be everyone in Pacific Quay.

    Why did Daniel Maxwell close comments on the Scottish blogs? I believe that was a purely political decision because the pro-independence were winning the debates hands-down and the unionists did not like that. Who made that decision? Was is just Maxwell, or were his strings pulled? I will not be convinced of the BBC’s evenhanded-ness until they re-open the blogs. They can do it for the rest of the UK. Why is Scotland different?

    Having chucked all that at you, I have to say a huge thanks for your input to the debate. It is much appreciated.

  12. I think that you can guess by now the closure of the Scottish blog has made an impression! It certainly was unforgivable and the gobble-de-gook of reasons afterwards telling. Nevermind, there are many great blogs out there now to which you are hereby included. Us nats are generous indeed!

    Nice to have a voice of reason re the beeb, but I fear that too many have been turned off and will not return. Carry on up the BBC!

  13. we should all stop paying the license fee

  14. How many ‘mistakes’ before it becomes deliberate?

  15. The foreign minister of Luxembourg also complained that he had been mis-quoted by the BBC.

    Two foreign ministers could not have been wrong.

    The BBC uses roundabout ways to get the answers it wants.

    It must have interviewed other Foreign Ministers as well. Why were they not reported? Because they didn’t give the answers the BBC wanted?

    The BBC is much more devious than the most devious UK politician.

    And no Derek, BBC journalists do not join the BBC to give their best, they join to get the best for themselves. Otherwise there would have been some journalists who opened their mouths while still at the BBC.

    In an extremely rare occurance in the BBC’s long history, the BBC was wrong footed when a LIVE audience voted 62% in favour of independence! How quickly Kirsty Wark discredited that poll.

  16. Hello Derek

    I think its fair to say that the BBC haven’t done themselves any favours with their Scottish viewers in recent times. Most especially political anoraks like myself were utterly shocked at the removal punter comments on the BBC Scotland site. The default position of the Beeb in most political reporting which you pointed out in your previous post, the example of poor reportage you’ve pointed out above, and many, many more instances small and large, it all adds up. They’ve literally created a rod for their own back. At the moment, its hard to see where they’re fit to cover next year’s referendum fairly or comprehensively.

  17. Amazing how often things ‘slip by’…!

  18. “In my view all reporters should be regularly briefed on this type of area to minimise the chances of either error or interpretation open to doubt in this crucial period for Scotland.”

    This line made my mind instantly turn to the idea of Scotland being forced to join the Euro. Every time I hear someone claim that joining the Euro is one of the options open to Scotland on independence, it makes me mad. It’s such a simple thing to understand – all it takes is a quick look at the rules for joining the Eurozone – and yet I’ve yet to see a journalist stop someone in their tracks and say “but even if Scotland WANTED to join the Euro, the rules prevent it from doing so”.

    So is this a case of reporters not being briefed, or simply a case of laziness on their part for not even attempting to get up to speed on such a fundamental fact? Either way, it’s things like this that then lead to people assuming the reporter is displaying bias by allowing a flat-out lie go unchallenged.

  19. A conspiracy? maybes aye maybes naw however as a conspiracy is defined as a banding together for a purpose; a plot; joint action it does not take 200 people to be involved it merely takes two or three like minded people to act in concert for a common aim to be achieved.
    If it looks bad, smells bad and tastes bad– It’s bad.

  20. Jeez for a minute there got Svetlana mixed up in my head with Jezerna -whew

  21. Wasn’t there a training video made about how to deal with Nationalists?

  22. “It is: “If Scotland is outside applying for membership, can you explain the process by which it was expelled?”
    A day, or 36hrs, after the comments were broadcast on the BBC, I emailed Lucinda Creighton with exactly this question! I also emailed the same question to Alistair Darling, Johann Lamont and Michael Moore.
    There were no replies of any kind from Darling, Lamont and Moore.
    Lucinda Creighton, or her office, replied that day with the now well known correction of the BBC version. At least she did address me by my first name and sign it Lucinda.
    Lamont’s only public reaction was to say on TV how terrible it was that Lucinda Creighton should have people ask questions of her.

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