Breaking News…BBC threatens academic

Fascinating to see the BBC’s priorities revealed so nakedly tonight when Pacific Quay management contacted the University of the West of Scotland to object to the UWS Bias in Broadcasting report http://issuu.com/creative_futur/docs/robertson2014fairnessinthefirstyear which, as far as I can see, they didn’t have the courage to broadcast.

Instead of doing what any self-confident public service broadcaster should do and producing a news item out of a critical report from one of our own universities, they seem to have hidden it from the licence-fee paying public who bankroll them and then mounted a sabotage operation against the author.

I understand they are demanding to see the raw data such is their fury at being found out misleading viewers. But even without seeing it, they themselves are reaching conclusions saying they doubt the “factual accuracy of a significant number of the contentions contained within the report and with the language used in the report itself.”

In a letter from Ian Small, the head of public policy, which came to me via a third party source, they say: “many of the conclusions you draw are, on the evidence you provide, unsubstantiated and/or of questionable legitimacy.” You may detect the irony of this statement given what the report revealed about the BBC’s reporting and presentation of referendum news.

There is little doubt that John Robertson’s illuminating report has found out the questionable management of news at Pacific Quay when Small says the report is  “highly subjective and questionable analysis of our news output.” Those are, in my view, spiteful and insulting accusations against a Scottish academic for which Small has no evidence whatsoever. Are you getting the impression of an arrogant, out-of-touch, superior organization resentful of criticism and unable to defend itself without resorting to personal vilification?

So offended is this superannuated administrator that he demands to see the data so the BBC can make its own assessment. Who qualified this pen-pusher to assess any academic’s information? Can we be allowed to see the budget information on which BBC Scotland bases decisions to sack so many experienced staff? I don’t think so.  Perhaps John Boothman will be asked to assess it instead.

And guess what gives the BBC’s game away…their email has a c.c. to Craig Mahoney, the university principal…a classic piece of low cunning to intimidate an academic by referring it to his boss.

I think we need to rally and support this individual who has a track record in exposing media manipulation. It is clear in this case he has struck at nerve at PQ where there are continual concerns at the running of the news operation which have now reached London but which simply don’t move Kenny McQuarrie whose job it is to guarantee an impartial and accurate news service without which there will be no BBC Scotland. It is the basis of the whole organization. He is oblivious to the queue of experienced journalistic staff leaving and to the threatening attitude that is now the hallmark of a once liberal and free-wheeling organization. No doubt when this report was brought to his attention he would express the kind of furious demand for a response that he should be using to energise the news department.

I am sending the details I have to my MSP and to the convenor of the Culture Committee at Holyrood – Stewart.Maxwell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk – as I think it’s time they began another series of investigations into BBC Scotland. Remember, Kenny McQuarrie refused to go before them the last time until given a kick in the pants by the chairman of the Trust. Such respect for the parliament.

I am also writing to the university principal Craig.Mahoney@uws.ac.uk in support of his university and of Dr Robertson who should not be subject to bullying by public officials unable to do their job properly. I urge you to do the same.

We have proof this week with the UWS report that the BBC is failing the Scots – yet again- remember less than half of Scots , 48%, believe the corporation is good at representing their lives through news and current affairs, the lowest proportion of any of the countries in the UK.

It strikes me as the height of hypocrisy for the BBC to try to badger an independent organization because it can’t stand it revealing the truth – that it is failing in its primary duty to the Scots…and they didn’t even report it. Therefore let’s also tell Mr Small what we think of his efforts – ian.small@bbc.co.uk. After all the BBC is always saying it wants to hear from you….

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113 thoughts on “Breaking News…BBC threatens academic

  1. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Attacking the messenger just digs a deeper hole for the management of the BBC in Scotland. You are absolutely right to support Dr Robertson. I too will be doing the same by emailing both Ian Small and my MSP.

    What’s the email of Smalls boss so I can cc him?

  2. Wow.

    Although I know I shouldn’t be, I am flabbergasted at the response to this report by BBC Scotland.

    Oh how I wish the license fee was an option.

  3. I have had the ‘pleasure’ of an audience with Mr Small when trying to get the BBC to participate in a panel discussion about broadcasting in Scotland. Obfuscation is his stock in trade and his ‘presentation’ would have done Yes Minister proud. However someone in the BBC must need ‘their head looking’ by attacking the academic. Given the MSM silence on stuff like this simply ignoring the findings would have been the smart move?

  4. When you are backed into a corner and have nowhere else to go.Panic sets in and you lash out rather than looking inwards at what you have done.Reflection comes when you hit rock bottom.The BBC have just about hit rock bottom button but they don’t realise it yet.There will be a reckoning in Scotland for their disgraceful behaviour.The kicking is coming.You are well out of it Derek.These people have no humility and it appears no scruples or intelligence.They could learn a lot from South African politics that’s just how disgraceful they are.The national broadcaster which ignores and misinforms their own people for a salary is just about the worst form of journalism.The are propegandists not journalists. P.S GMS presenters .I know you read this ,think what you are doing its just wrong.

  5. cynicalHighlander

    The BBC in Scotland has been interfering in democracy for decades which is why trust in them is falling off a cliff throughout these isles.

  6. My email just sent to Craig Mahoney:

    Dear Mr Mahoney,

    No doubt you will be receiving quite a few emails similar to this in the coming hours. I have just read on Derek Bateman’s blog the news that BBC Scotland executives have contacted the UWS to challenge the recent report by John Robertson on bias in BBC and ITV/STV coverage of the independence debate.

    When I read the report, I too was keen that raw data be released. I’m not surprised that the BBC had the same reaction. However, I do not share their arrogant assumption that the assessment of the data must be flawed. The overall results, and Robertson’s analysis, ring true with the experience of a huge, huge number of viewers.

    I’m not a nationalist. I’m not an SNP supporter. I do support a Yes vote in September. And I believe the issues around independence are being treated incompetently, unimaginatively, and with distinct institutional bias by the BBC. Reports like Robertson’s are essential if the people of Scotland are to have any chance of being properly informed and stimulated by public service news broadcasters. With our newspapers all anti-independence, we desperately need this kind of proper scrutiny of TV coverage. The BBC cannot be expected to do it for itself.

    I would urge you to support John Robertson and this report. If the BBC wishes to challenge its conclusions after seeing raw data, they should of course do so. But I hope their interventions today will not result in suppression of the research. That would be a truly worrying development.

    Yours …

  7. This is getting ridiculous sent email to MSP and UoWS Cheers

  8. Unbelievable. Also how was a Tory PPB allowed to be shown in Scotland the night before a Scottish Parliament by election

  9. How on earth can the press ignore this story. The herald and Scotsman I would expect to sweep this under the carpet however the SUN must see the opportunity for some payback. I suppose our pathetic press pack will continue to ignore this unless some of the London press pick it up.

  10. Sent a wee polite email to Mr Small and my MSP Stewart Maxwell. Lets go get em!!

  11. Derek was it clever to dish out Small’s email. If he get’s abusive, threatening email’s it could backfire?

    • Hi It’s a business email available to all. The bbc format is lower case names with a dot between first and surname @ bbc.co.uk. Simple. Anybody can get it. Nobody is responsible for abusive posts but the sender. If it happens, they’ll change his email. I don’t see why he should be protected from the people who pay for him. I’m not protected and wasn’t inside the BBC. Thanks.

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  12. Derek, with your contacts “down south”, any chance of giving this some limelight? Trouble is that BBC London won’t touch it and those papers which hate the BBC hate the SNP/Scotland even more! STV tarnished too, so that’s out. ITV?
    It’s really terrible that in a so-called democracy with “Freedom of the Press” the bad guys ARE the media.

  13. See BBC are now putting out a programme at end of Jan Bbc2.How the Stuarts United Britain.I can’t deny they did create this false state.However why now .Do you think there will be one on how Thatcher woke Scotland up from her slumber by trying to destroy it.mmmm doubt it.No doubt there will be more propaganda to come.

    • Agree! Timing of such a program smacks of pure propaganda – unless there’s a program in the pipeline about Scotland’s wars of independence? Is there BBC? No, didn’t think so.

    • They should also put out a programme about the House of Hanover and the resulting WW1 carnage but I suppose that doesn’t quite reflect the fairy tale being promoted by the antiquated British state.

  14. I too was aghast at the Tory PPB tonight – obviously aimed at a UK rather than a Scottish or Cowdenbeath audience but nevertheless surely underhand in respect of a Scottish by-election. I would like UWS, of which I am a graduate and post graduate, to issue a Press Release for general circualtion intimating their support for Dr Robertson and complaining about BBC heavy tactics.

  15. Wow. I too will make my MSP aware of this outrage.

  16. Dear Mr Small,

    It is time for you and your organisation to understand the Scottish people have sussed you and your ‘friends’ out.
    Only 48% of Scots trust your news output, the lowest in the UK.
    We are sick of your murder, fitba and kittens approach to Scottish news.
    There are serious concerns about the ease of direct access to your head of news by Labour apparatchiks to ensure their side is the only one heard.
    You are still ducking the serious issue of misrepresenting the Eire EU Minister on an independent Scotland’s EU membership.
    As a QA and conformance auditor it is clear the system you have in place to ensure an even handed approach is wanting.
    Your response to the report from the UWS review of media output for the independence debate – anger and denial – convicts you and your organisation as charged as is the total silence of your news coverage on this issue.
    BBC Scotland is a failing organisation in all major respects. Following other once objective and famous Scottish media organisations such as the Scotsman Newspaper into oblivion for much the same reason, failing to treat your licence payers in Scotland with any respect to their intelligence. Surely the message from last night’s BBC Scotland debate is we Scots are not buying your ‘London/ Unionist’ line nor the message Mr Sawar thinks we should swallow.

    Yours sincerely,

  17. Stop watching it. No viewers. No programmes. Heads will roll.

    It’s crap.

  18. I have just written to the BBC Trust:

    ” FOR THE ATTENTION OF LORD PATTEN

    As chairman of the BBC Trust, I feel that it is of vital importance that you are made aware of the extent of the crisis in the news operation at BBC Scotland.

    Following the rebuke by the BBC Trust of BBC Scotland over the misreporting of the Irish Foreign Minister’s remarks, a rebuke which went unremarked by BBC Scotland, they have become embroiled in another controversy.

    The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) has just released a report into media bias at BBC Scotland and Scottish Television.

    http://issuu.com/creative_futur/docs/robertson2014fairnessinthefirstyear

    This academic study demonstrated that the reporting of the Independence referendum by both organisations has shown considerable bias. BBC Scotland left the study unreported but have issued an angry letter to the author of the report, John Robertson

    I understand they are demanding to see the raw data such is their fury at being found out misleading viewers. But even without seeing it, they themselves are reaching conclusions saying they doubt the “factual accuracy of a significant number of the contentions contained within the report and with the language used in the report itself.”

    In a letter from Ian Small, the head of public policy, they say: “many of the conclusions you draw are, on the evidence you provide, unsubstantiated and/or of questionable legitimacy.” You may detect the irony of this statement given what the report revealed about the BBC’s reporting and presentation of referendum news.

    There is little doubt that John Robertson’s illuminating report has found out the questionable management of news at Pacific Quay when Small says the report is “highly subjective and questionable analysis of our news output.” Those are, in my view, spiteful and insulting accusations against a Scottish academic for which Small has no evidence whatsoever.

    So offended is this Mr Small that he demands to see the data so the BBC can make its own assessment. What qualifies this official to assess any academic’s information? Can we be allowed to see the budget information on which BBC Scotland bases decisions to sack so many experienced staff? I don’t think so.

    And guess what gives the BBC’s game away…their email has a c.c. to Craig Mahoney, the university principal…a classic piece of low cunning to intimidate an academic by referring it to his boss.

    The reputation of the BBC is being dragged through the mud by its Scottish operation and it is no wonder that in a recent poll only 48% of Scots believe the corporation is good at representing their lives through news and current affairs, the lowest proportion of any of the countries in the UK.

    What do you intend to do about this?”

  19. At last the report has been published…..by the Paisley Daily Express! However it is part of the Trinity Mirror Group and the Record has a habit of picking up stories from locals so maybe there is hope that a national will cover it. Unfortunately the PDE no longer has its own website – its part of the Record’s local pages but very few stories are put online. I’ll try scanning it and putting it online tomorrow.

  20. Email sent.
    Thanks Derek.

  21. The simple fact that GMS flew up big time unionist reporter James Naughtie to knock us Jocks into shape.Tells you all you need to know about the this organisation.They are pro British and anti Scottish.They are happy selling shortbread tin subordinate Scotland….but Scotland as an actual nation..don’t be daft laddie.

  22. Headway at last! Many more emails on the way.

  23. When did the BBC last ask to see the data behind academic reports critical of independence?

  24. Scotland tonight..yep still no report on media bias..surprise!

  25. Sounds as if the PQ MOB started to believe their own propaganda (always dangerous), and they are untouchable. (Team players)

    Watch how this runs if they all get gongs and promotions then we will know they are covered by London/HMG/MI5. (Team players)

    If it is ignored then we know they are covered by London/HMG/MI5. (Team players)

    If they need an investigation into it, then they are covered by London/HMG/MI5. (I Davidson bayonet man will chair investigation into untrue accusation)

    Will anything change at the BBC PQ. Yes Alex Salmond will be accused of creating this dastardly attack on the world renowned BBC and trying to tarnish its impeccable standing in world broadcasting. A mr P Sinclair will be hired at great expense to check the news operation is running as planned.

    OK BOYS BUSINESS AS USUAL, CARRY ON! It was just a wee mistake,

  26. Dear Mr Small

    I understand that you have emailed Dr Robertson of the University of West Scotland regarding his recently published findings on bias in the BBC coverage of the upcoming Independence referendum.

    What I would like to know is why this research was not reported on the BBC and what makes you believe that you have a right to the data yet the BBC have failed to report this story to the public. It is obvious that the reporting of the referendum campaign is heavily biased in support of “Better Together” and that the BBC is in breach of its charter, or do you not watch Reporting Scotland?

    For you to raise doubts about the validity of the research and attack the honesty of a respected academic is disgraceful. I will be raising this with my MSP in the hope that you are held to account for your actions.

    Regards

  27. The only way to get rid of them is with a yes vote.Pretty hard but we can do it despite them.

  28. When the BBC was asked to provide info on how many pro and anti Independence guests they had on news programmes, as I remember, they replied they didn’t keep that information.
    If they have the info to check this study, it would make me wonder. Just how selective is their records.
    At least they won’t be able to claim they haven’t got info in the future.

  29. […] To make matters even worse, it now turns out that the BBC have not been ignoring the first story at all. They have instead been trying to undermine the researcher who created it. Derek Bateman has the full story. […]

  30. No less than we expect from NLab/BT/BBC.

  31. The license fee is an option.

    Regards

    Ninja special ops team

  32. I have e-mailed Mr. Mahoney with copies to Mr. Small, Mr. Maxwell, Editor of The Sun, Editor of The Herald, Editor of The Guardian:

    Dear Mr. Mahoney

    After months of suspected bias in the Scottish media — that’s the BBC
    and many of the daily newspapers published in Scotland — it would seem
    that someone (a team under your Mr. John Robertson) has finally taken
    the time and made the effort to numerically substantiate the degree of
    bias. I read about the report, for example, in a journalist’s blog:
    derekbateman1.wordpress.com

    Good for Mr. Robertson — and good for the University of the West of
    Scotland!

    That is the kind of service that researchers and educational
    establishments should be undertaking when democracy is at risk. And
    there can be no doubt that the BBC in this matter is jeopardising democracy.

    In the low-level, underhand attack the BBC looks likely to launch I
    implore you: UWS must stick to its guns. Let’s not wilt in the face of
    this state bully. On the contrary, let’s have a wider review of BBC
    policy and behaviour — particularly in relation to the forthcoming
    independence referendum and the democratic process.

    My thanks to UWS and your Mr. Robertson.

    Yours sincerely

  33. FAO Mr Ian Small BBC Scotland
    cc Mr Bill Mathews, Audience Council, Scotland
    cc Mr Craig Mahoney, Principal, UWS

    Dear Mr Small

    As a formerly loyal audience member of the BBC, I have been appalled for the past few months at BBC Scotland’s biased reporting of the independence debate in Scotland. BBC Scotland has deliberately and systematically been playing an active part in support of the No campaign. I, and many others, have been aware of this and despite complaints (including three from me) to various parts of the BBC nothing has changed. BBC Scotland appears to be untouchable.

    Examples of BBC Scotland’s bias are recorded weekly, if not daily, on numerous websites including NewsnetScotland.com and WingsOverScotland.com Much relevant comment also features on DerekBateman1.wordpress.com No doubt you are least familiar with the latter as Mr Bateman formerly worked for BBC Scotland. All of the sites I mention support independence for Scotland. Unlike BBC Scotland, they make no pretence of being impartial.

    As you are aware, earlier this week the University of West Scotland published the results of research carried out between September 2012 and September 2013. This research showed, as many of us have known for a long time, that BBC Scotland television has indeed been biased against the Yes campaign. (I realise that STV comes out only slightly better, but I don’t pay a licence fee to STV, nor did I rely on it as an impartial source of news). I would have thought it reasonable that the publication of such research would have been a prime responsibility of the BBC. I should have known BBC Scotland better by now: you have employed a total news blackout of this research, along with STV and most of the press. I find it disgraceful that you did not broadcast the findings of this research. Why were you afraid to bring the research into the open where your viewers could have made up their own minds about it? I know the answer to that as well as you do.

    To add insult to injury, I read on Derek Bateman’s blog tonight that you are now questioning the legitimacy of the conclusion of Mr Robertson’s research. You don’t have the decency or guts to do this in the light of day, by broadcasting it on BBC Scotland but by trying to undermine it away from the public gaze via contact with UWS. Every day I think that BBC Scotland can’t get any worse, and every day I’m proved wrong.

    I really hope that the Principal of UWS gives Mr Robertson his full support and lets you know that he needs no lessons about ‘factual accuracy’ or ‘questionable legitimacy’ from the likes of BBC Scotland.

  34. Sorry, forgot to say that I emailed previous post tonight.

  35. Can anyone tell me: is it possible to go in and edit line breaks?
    Thanks.

  36. Dear Mr Small

    As a licence payer I am alarmed at the behaviour of BBC Scotland and of you in particular, with regard to the research by an academic at the University of the West of Scotland into BBC Scotland/STV bias in the independence debate.

    It is noteworthy that whilst BBC Scotland covers academic research relating to Scottish independence it has not covered this item of research.

    Why not?

    Is it normal for BBC Scotland to demand data when reporting on academic research? Do you demand data when covering academic research critical of independence?

    An increasing number of people in Scotland are coming to the conclusion that BBC Scotland management does not want a fair independence debate. For you to stifle the reporting of a valid news item about BBC Scotland bias really is unacceptable.

    Yours faithfully

    • Ian Small
      16:41 (27 minutes ago)

      to
      Thank you for your correspondence. The BBC welcomes feedback but to ensure it is dealt with properly, all correspondence has to be submitted via our central system. Comments and complaints are now handled centrally to allow us to make the most efficient use of your licence fee.

      Comments can be made by visiting the Contact the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/contact To send your complaint to the BBC please submit it centrally through our complaints website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints to be guaranteed a reply (or alternatively by post to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington DL3 0UR or by phone on 03700 100 222).

      Full details of our complaints service are available on our Complaints website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

  37. When is news not news?

    When BBC Scotland doesn’t like the look of it.

  38. Thank you for sharing this Derek. I think the scales have finally fallen (or more like been ripped) from your eyes.

    A huge thanks too to your third party source – they should be commended for their bravery.

    I will take your advice and email all parties involved, and my MSP as well, as she has already had some dealing with the BBC on my behalf when they closed the political and business blogs. I’m sure she will be interested to see this and that it will be disseminated around Holyrood.

    Interestingly I watched the livestream event tonight from Business for Scotland:

    http://new.livestream.com/IndependenceLive/events/2682632

    and in the Q&A session following the presentation there was a gentleman on there who said that members of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra have been told that if they vote for independence they will all lose their jobs. They were also told that they must not tell this to anyone.

    I made me wonder how many others in BBC Scotland have been told the same thing. Vote for independence and lose your job. If this is so then it would help to explain some of the attitude from the organisation. How many others are being intimidated by BBC?

    I hope McQuarrie, Boothman and Small are all dismissed. We might then start to get some real impartiality from our state broadcaster.

    Welcome to the club Mr Bateman. We will win this 🙂

    • Just watched “Spirit of ’45” by Ken Loach, and this makes me think of one incident from the film.

      Just before the first post-war elections, the press were attending No. 10 Downing Street, where all the staff were lined up outside (don’t remember the circumstances) .

      When asked how they’d be voting, there was a chorus of “Conservative” then one little voice piped up “we have to or we’ll lose our jobs”.

      That was 1945. This is 2014.

    • And how would anyone in BBC management know how any individual member of the BBCSSO voted in the referendum? Saying that they’d lose their votes if there’s a Yes majority is at least a plausible threat, but it’s rather different.

      • Obviously they wouldn’t Morag, but there would certainly seem to be an element of threats and intimidation taking place.

        I suggest you watch the Q&A session and listen to it for yourself.

  39. Charles P Kearney

    I sincelerly hope that this matter is aired at First Ministers Question time Tomorrow, and if it is not I will be greatly disapointed. It may have passed as the SNP awaited a response from the BBC, but surely this cowardly attack on a respected Academic with great experience in his field cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged?
    I will take the opportunity to email my Member of Parliament, and those others you suggest. So important that you have sources!

  40. I thought nothing would surprise me regarding this report, but this this really takes the biscuit!
    I have forwarded the following complaint to the BBC and STV.

    “According to a recent academic study by University of the West of Scotland, ‘Fairness in the First Year?’ , both BBC Scotland’s and STV’s news reporting of the referendum has shown a heavy bias to the No side.
    Why then, has this study not been reported by either organisation?
    Worse still, we now find that BBC Scotland have described the findings as of ‘questionable legitimacy’.
    Does your organisation subscribe to this analysis of a report you refused to cover in your in your news bulletins.
    I am copying this to the BBC, BBC Trust, STV.”

  41. This is the complaint I sent to the BBC –

    I have learned that Ian Small has sent an letter to Dr John Robertson of the University of West Scotland in regards to his recent report on the bias shown by the BBC in their coverage of the Scottish Independence debate.

    I understand BBC chiefs demand to see this ‘raw data’ they are referring to in their letter. Even without seeing the data, the BBC themselves are reaching certain conclusions by saying that they doubt the ‘factual accuracy of a significant number of the contentions contained within the report and with the language used in the report itself.’ and according to Mr Small ‘many of the conclusions you draw are, on the evidence you provide, unsubstantiated and/or of questionable legitimacy’ How would the BBC know the report is ‘unsubstansiated’ or ‘of questionable legitimacy’ if they didnt have the raw data in the first place ?

    I find these statements ironic, considering what Dr Robertsons findings in the report revealed. I honestly believe that these issues about independence are being treated with complete bias by the BBC.

    Less than half of Scots (48%) believe the BBC is any good at representing their lives through news and current affairs – the lowest proportion of any of the countries in the UK. I hope the guilty parties involved will be held to account as the BBC’s outright bias in regards to being against independence (not to mention the intimidation tactics such Mr Small’s letter) should not be tolerated.

  42. Methinks the BBC may have overstepped the mark on this occasion. I’ve never seen such a flurry of activity in such a short time and this before the cybernat FB crew have bitten into it. You can bet there will be a heavily subscribed petition flowing from that direction before too long.

    Someone like Derek will always be fed sensitive information from malcontents still on board ship and with his newsnet base/blog Derek is, thankfully, in a position to move on information like this quickly.

    Great to see ta local Paisley paper already running with it too. this could lead to an interesting breakthrough on BBC bias. let’s keep those emails flowing in.

  43. Craig Macfarlane

    My letter to the toe-rag Ian Small…

    Dear Sir

    I was appalled to hear of you lambasting Dr Robertson of UWS regarding his so-called biased report. You must have a brass neck Mr small, if you don’t see the irony of the BBC news complaining of bias. I have witnessed first hand the BBC news bias and as a license payer it horrified me that a corporation that was supposed to be impartial was so glaringly biased. There have been many instances of this from your presenters…Mr Brewster is a prime example of a biased commentator and should be brought to heel. However the instance that annoyed me most was the 26th November 2013 The release of the Scottish Government’s white paper on the referendum I watched the BBC news coverage all day that day and was disturbed that out of seven people interviewed by your reporters, six were No’s and one was an undecided…there was not a single yes voter interviewed between the the two cities covered, Glasgow and Dundee…they even managed to interview two English holiday makers who were visiting Dundee but they couldn’t find a single yes voter in two of the biggest cities in Scotland? Come on! It’s hardly balanced journalism Mr Small, now is it?

    I have made a complaint to Ofcom on this matter but could hardly believe how big a hypocrite you are regarding Dr Robertson and felt compelled to vent my anger to you. Your news medium is deliberately misleading the Scottish people who pay your massive salary and if you don’t think there is anything wrong with that then you have a definite problem with your moral compass as well.

    The Scottish people are on to you Mr Small and there are definitely going to repercussions for yourself and your staff…I’d advise you to clean up your act forthwith and try and retrieve what little respect you have left from your viewing public before it’s too late.

    Yours sincerely

  44. Dear Mr Small,

    Thank you for your letter.

    I would be pleased to discuss my report live on Newsnight Scotland at the earliest opportunity.

    Sincerely,

    John Robertson

  45. Derek, when Dr Robertson’s analysis of media Referendum bias was reported on NNS I said it was “Political Dynamite”, in light of the response by ‘The Management’ at BBC Scotland, I now believe we’ve gone “Nuclear”.
    If this cannot be defined as intimidation and by extension Gerrymandering, then my understanding of democracy and it’s principals are sadly flawed.
    I salute your tenacity (and your source) in confronting this injustice and abuse of power.
    I stated in a previous post, I believed you were the YES campaigns “Ace in the hole”, that deduction may prove correct.
    In any case, this saga will be a pivotal moment in the Independence story and for the positive I’m sure.

    • I wonder if Mr Bateman would treat this report with such respect if it had counted ‘SNP lies’ rather than ‘Westminster scare stories’?

      Either way, use of such language in the report compromises its impartiality completely.

  46. Ahh, I see that the BBC thinks it’s immune to the Streisand effect.

    We could probably spread this farther than the Scottish independance sites. Shame Groklaw went offline, maybe Popehat?

    • Craig Macfarlane

      You learn something new every day…thank you illy I had no idea what the Streisand effect was till I saw your post and googled it…and I agree with you they have made the situation much worse by complaining…

  47. Great blog as ever! And thanks for highlighting this shameful intimidation. Is it just me or does BBC Scotland not have the raw data?! If they wanted to investigate the claims they could look through their own output & draw their own conclusions! Surely it would be logical to have done at least a little of this before setting the attack dogs on academics!

  48. [Sent to Mr Small – Copied to several MSPs of Major Parties]

    Dear Sir,

    I am aware that the BBC, inter alia. has failed to publicly acknowledge the existence of the subject report where the BBC Scotland is ‘accused’ of bias. I further understand that you have communicated with the report’s author Dr Robertson and, in doing so, have demanded to see the raw data. I further understand that you have copied that communication to the author’s university principal.

    I write to you, as a license fee payer in Scotland, to complain in the strongest possible way, at this approach. The BBC is a publicly funded organization and, as such MUST be the subject of scrutiny. Furthermore, bullying, of any sort, is to be actively discouraged. Bullying of an Academic, by a public official is, at its least, distasteful.

    I am a retired businessman and have conducted business world-wide. I have often been in a situation similar to yours where I disagreed with another organization. I have always resolved that by discussion. Any company adopting an approach such as yours would be struck off my ‘Preferred Supplier’ list.

    Please reconsider you position. I feel very strongly about this.

    Brian M McCulloch

  49. What BBC Scotland should do to emphasise their impartiality is to televise Glenn Campbell standing on the steps of the university tearing DR Robertson’s paper in half.

  50. “Are you getting the impression of an arrogant, out-of-touch, superior organization resentful of criticism and unable to defend itself without resorting to personal vilification?”

    Yes.

    Its also safe to say from comments so far, that we are all pretty much in agreement. The BBC ‘OUR BBC’ which we pay for, is actively acting in the interests of anyone they feel like other than the general public. Whether it be to suit themselves, a political POV, a particular party of choice, all of the above, some of the above, doesn’t matter. The current set up and management are basically flawed and requires someone to hit reset.

    • Did your hear a news report or was it a spoof that two ex reporters or celebs were getting together again and the trail intro was wait for
      BETTER TOGETHER
      this is the funny BBC Not

  51. I did have a chuckle that Mr Small wants access to the ‘raw data’, which is after all in the case of the BBC nothing more than a years worth of Six O’Clock News followed by Reporting (sic) Scotland. These are things he has access to. I suppose what he really wants is the category coded data, the precise breakdown of textual analysis which the report then allocated into a number of different categories, so that he can see whether he agrees with the way the academics have made their judgement.

    I wouldn’t mind having a look myself, and no doubt there could have been more polite ways of asking for this material, ways which did not carry an implied threat and impugn the integrity of the academic and veracity of his claims.

    It is beyond reproach that this has not seeped into the public domain. If no-one brings this up at FMQ’s today I will be dismayed, not least because I already wrote to my MSP earlier in the week to suggest this very thing. Last night’s developments makes it even more urgent. Thanks to you and your friend for sharing Derek, otherwise this might not have been known beyond the BBC and the University. I hope the University takes stock and then outs the BBC in public. A carefully worded statement issued by the principal attacking the BBC could have quite an impact.

    Unfortunately due to the way the BBC handles complaints nothing will now be resolved by the Trust before the referendum, by which time it will be too late.

    Derek, what I’d be very interested to hear from you about is how BBC is going to change during the legally proscribed period? There has to be a concern given the last year or so of their output, and that they themselves don;t consider they are biased in any way, that the run-in will just see ‘business as usual’ as you put it. If that is the case, and in particular the practice continues of giving all three unionist parties a right of reply, citizens might well have to consider their options in relation to legal action and we know from the past that the SNP is not scared of taking the BBC to court, though not always with success,

    Also, what did you think of the BBC’s first referendum debate, that has to be worth a considered blog surely? In what word is the redoubtable Mr Massie a swithering impartial don’t knower…?

  52. I no longer watch the so called “Scottish news” and with the exception of the occasional foray into RT territory get all my info. from the internet.

  53. You also have to wonder if the research had been done by someone at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow or St Andrews (or heaven forfend, an oxbridge academic) whether the BBC would have acted in this way?

  54. I contacted the Herald by phone yesterday evening – the journalist who spoke to me professed never to have heard of Dr Robertson’s report. Such a denial of course lets the paper escape any censure of ignoring items that do not fit with editorial policy but now that they are aware of the existence of the report one might expect detailed coverage. Or did I come up the Clyde on a bike?

  55. For long enough BBC Scotland and Scotland Tonight have ridiculed the lack of a “game changer” for the Yes campaign.

    Well maybe this is the game changer they have been so desperately looking for.

  56. Unbelievable, where is the BBC going? where is the free speech, free trade, free nationals?

  57. Perfidy Prober
    I do hope your reply to the reporters claim of ignorance was Weel, ye ken noo!

  58. Derek

    I always liked your Headlines programme and was sorry when you left the BBC.

    You always came across as fair and balanced and gave a favourable view of the Yes camp side of the debate.

    Have you possibly let bitterness or regret cloud your judgement?

    Shoot me down if I’m wrong. But if this report had any real credibility the Murdoch press would be all over it. And you know why.

    I think it’s fair for the BBC to request access to the source data. The conclusions reached are, in many instances, highly subjective.

    Surely it’s back to journalistic first principles that sources should be verified.

    Regards

    • The BBC have asked for the data to discredit it. That is openly stated in Ian Small’s email. Any academic enterprise would never start from this position, “Your wrong, and I will prove you wrong”. It is never a question of wrong versus right, it is all about the robustness of the data, the methodology employed in its collection and analysis, and the interpretation of the findings.

      If the BBC were truly interested in determining compliance of their own editorial guidelines they should have suggested that Dr Roberston’s research be subject to independent peer review. After all this is what science is about.

      Instead we have a threatening email. What can one say.

    • I think your definition of ‘subjective’ is rather different to mine, which appears to be little more than a pejorative swipe.

      Subjective: (adjective) based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions

      I really don’t think this report can be fairly said to be subjective, when the conclusions are drawn from a year long study. The authors arguments which follow on from their main table appear to me to be sound, provided the data is correct, and assuming that the way they have ‘coded’ the news reports into the different categories which generated the table is sound. I should add that they do give some examples in the report. Perhaps you can offer an example from the report where you feel their coding is flawed and subjectively motivated?

      This is empirically driven research, which is why it is so interesting. It is perfectly valid to dispute the methodology employed, although I think the coded categories are actually pretty comprehensive. Equally it would be fair to dispute judgements that have been made about whether or not a particular segment should have been coded in a different way. All perfectly legitimate points for academic discussion. However, in the absence of the data behind the table, which has not yet been published, it is simply disingenuous to dismiss the report as ‘subjective’.

      As to why the media have ignored it well there is a long track record of the media in Scotland ignoring academic reports, statements from individuals, etc. which are favourable to the YES campaign. Nevertheless, the question you ask is very important. Personally, my subjectively driven view is that the media does not want to address the question of media bias, it is a subject which it is better left alone for tactical reasons. People in glass houses and all that….

    • Of course I’m bitter…that’s what growing old is all about. Now I’m saying what I want to say for the first time in my life.
      What I don’t understand is why there is an underlying assumption, now made explicit by the BBC management, that this year-long research is anything but sound. Why wouldn’t it be? The media including the BBC publishes at face value all sorts of reports from academics, think tanks and cranks without saying: Oh dear we’d better not touch it until we see the underlying data first and get it independently verified. This is from a Scottish university…they’re quick to quote principals arguing for tuition fees at face value. Why not a report critical of themselves? They should have reported it, added in a line from management that they didn’t agree with the findings and would seek clarification from UWS and politely requested the full data for their own use to make sure, if it’s correct, they don’t continue to favour one side over another. Instead they ignored a legitimate report and then drew disparaging conclusions about the research and it’s author and treated him like an amateur while inviting his boss to step in. This is a big mistake and to me smacks of insecurity leading to overreaction, a hallmark of the McQuarrie regime. On Murdoch, maybe they prefer the Union to the BBC. Thanks for taking part. Derek

      • Having read through the report I can see clearly why the BBC are questioning it.

        First and foremost, there is no peer review of the study. If there is intention to have the study published in a peer reviewed journal, this should surely be mentioned at the start or end of the report.

        The report mentions ‘researchers’ (p3) but the report gives credit only to Dr J. Robertson. Were there others who helped conduct this research, and why have they not been credited?

        There are no references to other similar studies on media bias, so that the methods used in this report can be compared for their adequacy and appropriateness.

        Analysis of the data in Table 1 (labelled for some reason as Figure1 in the report) is somewhat brief, and the lack of subsections in the results section, or even references to the data in the text, makes it difficult to determine what has and hasn’t been analysed.

        Critical discussion of conclusions are somewhat lacking. For example (p8) “In sharp contrast [to referendum reports on Scottish channels] the UK-wide broadcasts rarely reported on this topic”. Perhaps this holds true for STV and ITV (141 vs 11), however relevant factors such geographic distribution of viewership are not discussed, and so use of the term ‘rarely’ here seems mostly subjective to the fact that 141 is approx. 10x larger than 11. This paragraph goes on to discuss that the BBC1 figures are reportedly inflated, however no data is presented to back up this statement.

        Also on p8, “Anti-independence statements were heavily concentrated on economic affairs”. Such breakdown of the data is not given in this report, it is simply not there. Picking out 3 reports as examples for this is certainly not evidence.

        And on p9, “Health-related matters were the other dominant theme”. Firstly, what exactly qualifies as a ‘theme’ is not discussed. If we are to assume that ‘Economic evidence’, ‘Social evidence’ and ‘Political evidence’ and the coded categories which qualify as themes, then health-related matters, which fall under ‘social evidence’ (p6), rank 3rd out of the three (35 counts for social vs 73 for economic evidence and 40 for political evidence).

        p10 draws conclusions from data which again is not presented in the report

        p12: “The closing statements in reports might be felt to leave a lingering impression and thus carry more weight than some others”. What evidence is this statement based on? The tone (“might be felt”) suggests anecdotal evidence or personal experience of the writer, rather than previous peer-reviewed studies.

        The final conclusion that coverage has not been balanced seems to be based mostly on the data in the “Finsihing with Pro/Anti evidence unchallenged” which seems like a reasonable statement, however there are no references to show why this category is the most relevant to the conclusion, and again the data and its context simply aren’t discussed in any critical manner.

        The evidence presented in this report is far from objective (all examples of news reports given fit with a pro=independence agenda), their final conclusion has absolutely no basis given in the report (what evidence is presented for damage to the Yes campaign?), and there is a very rushed feel to the whole report, in its briefness and lack of critical data analysis.

        I’m sure Dr Robertson is entirely capable as a researcher, but this report does not read as ‘sound research’, I’m not at all surprised that the BBC have questioned it.

        And with regards to my position on this matter, I completely believe that the BBC is biased in their editing with regards to the referendum. But this report, in its current state, does not provide the evidence to back that belief.

        • Barry
          Great post..cant disagree with anything you say as you sound expert. The thing is though the BBC never challenges the soundness of academic reports or expert reports on any subject to my knowledge. In almost every single survey or poll they could in theory test the credentials of the author and the sponsor or the methodology or the language. They don’t. So why only in this case? If they reported first and offered a statement questioning it, it would allow them the moral right to to contact the author and express their surprise at his findings and ask politely if they could view the data for themselves to help them evaluate how effective they were on balance. Instead the ignored the work and then hounded the author, questioning his integrity and dropping in the threat of the principal’s involvement. This is not appropriate behaviour for any public body and the tone is utterly unprofessional. How would you feel if you got a letter like that? This is the first time I can think of where a university research project has been subjected to this inquisitive interference and displays crass misjudgement given that it is about the BBC. Your first PR thought would be to handle this carefully and not kick up a bigger stink. They have lost the ability to act properly at PQ. They need help. This also opens the way for viewers and listeners to challenge every single report broadcast by the BBC from now on. The next time you hear them say “the independent and highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, write to Ian Small and say you don’t believe their methodology and could they check it with the source? Why do they report opinion polls without declaring they have checked the methodology and approved the findings? We should bombard them from now on every time they report some academics or experts work. Have you checked its provenance and efficacy, Mr Small? Is it approved by the BBC monitors and does it meet acceptable standards for us to view? Barry, they are not questioning the data, they are attempting to rubbish the report. It is a dirty trick. This has some way to run. The next question may well be: Was there a plan to run an item on Newsnight? Was it postponed? And why? BBC journalism does not allow for BBC management interference in editorial affairs. Regards. Derek

    • Agreed with all the responses to the comments made by longshanker’s, the only objective element of which is an uncontentious value judgment implicit in the final rhetorical question. Sources should indeed be verified. For myself, as far as that principle is concerned in this case, I’ve no cause to doubt that those were the programmes watched by the author of the report, nor that the report was published.

  59. Since my earlier post above, I have sent details of this ongoing saga to Channel 4 News, Aljazeers, and Russia Today.
    I hope they give it laldy!

  60. Longshanker: “But if this report had any real credibility the Murdoch press would be all over it. And you know why.”

    Aye I understand why the Murdoch press would be all over this report. It’s not the report’s credibility that’s stopping the SUN from publicising the report.

  61. If the BBC in Scotland merely ‘required access to the source data’, why did they not just ask for it? Why did they feel the need to add all the pejoratives?

    You make the same mistake the BBC did by attempting to do down a report with out any evidence other than, it doesn’t suit the unionist message.

    I imagine, if a report came out showing the BBC in Scotland to be honest and completely unbiased in the referendum debate, BT would be all over it.

  62. If the Scottish media won’t publicise this report.
    then Circulate Derek’s article and newsnetscotland’s article to contacts.
    Ask your contacts to pass it on.

  63. I am not unfamiliar with customer relations and customer care structure and would class this action by Ian Small on behalf of the BBC as tantamount to scuttling his own flagship.

    The operation of the whole BBC, Scotland and elsewhere, is predicated on its Charter and conformance to it, but this is damaging to the BBC, the UWS and Dr John Robertson himself.

    I would expect UWS and the report’s author to take suitable action, but given its past, the BBC will not do anything which is indicative of an oppressive internal atmosphere. As a public corporation and indeed, the public broadcaster, it should be called out as unfit.

  64. Is Grahamski a BBC employee?

  65. The BBC broadcast opinion from random people at bus stops with red rosettes as long as it suits them and does not citicise them. So why would they not publish this report. Lets think about this if the report was in their favour it would have been on the news when the print was still wet.

  66. Email sent:

    Dear Mr Small,

    I understand that you have written to Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland in relation to his year long study “Fairness in the First Year?” to request his raw data for analysis.

    Without seeing this raw data, it’s highly surprising that you would immediately doubt the “factual accuracy of a significant number of the contentions contained within the report and with the language used in the report itself.” Or additionally, “many of the conclusions you draw are, on the evidence you provide, unsubstantiated and/or of questionable legitimacy.” and describing it as “highly subjective and questionable analysis of our news output.”.

    Dr Robertson’s methodology is clearly described in his report and it would be a straightforward exercise for the BBC to look back through a portion of the historical broadcasts in question to check his analysis. In fact, I would have thought it prudent to do so before forcefully questioning the validity of this study.

    We, the licence fee paying public are constantly reassured that the BBC is an impartial organisation and so the BBC must have these programs available to them for their own analysis. Otherwise, how could you examine and maintain your impartiality over the course of an extended time frame?

    Regards,

  67. What I would say is that the report is perhaps biased towards fairness? In that my reading of the report, if the SNP & Labour couldn’t agree on the shape of the Earth, rather than taking the side of those who know the Earth is round and lambasting those who think the Earth was flat, that the BBC and STV should present the arguments of both sides with talks from both sides equally and with independent advice from both sides equally with any hidden agendas revealed.

  68. In my humble opinion the BBC and STV are totally biased in favor of the “NO” camp in the question of Scottish Independence.

  69. In case you didn’t know, Derek, the BBC are very aware of possible perceptions of bias – so much so that they commissioned Ipsos-Mori to conduct a poll in early December to test it. There was an Ipsos researcher in our house who interviewed my brother, and they asked about perceptions of bias in all the main media outlets, but I collared the chap on the way out, and he said it was commissioned by the BBC.

    I have to think that if this survey showed no noticeable concerns or reports of bias from those questioned, we would have heard chapter verse & trumpet fanfare about it by now from a grinning Jackie Bird.

  70. I’m pretty sure Dr Robertson took a deep breath before publishing knowing full well it would result in some “negative attention”.

    What I wonder was Ian small thinking? perhaps “I’ll write a bad tempered letter drawing attention to our own incompetence” ?

  71. Google “Balen Report” and “28gate”. Hypocrisy must be in the job specs.

  72. A Southern intruder, wandering in via WUWT.

    The BBC plainly acts as a political institution now, rather than a broadcaster of record. Its values have mutated throughout its entire output, from drama to sport via current affairs, news (of course), wildlife programming (for heaven’s sake!), and even the coming 1914 commemorations, treating those as an opportunity for melodramatic agitprop.

    I may not agree with those who would break up the UK, but throttling a proper debate about it is a dishonest, disgusting and shameful (though not unexpected) action which simply confirms the state of degradation into which the BBC has fallen. It has actually made me think twice about the whole independence issue – if a truly independent broadcasting network for Scotland were part of the deal, receivable in the rest of the UK as well, maybe that would be a way out of everyone’s present dilemma of what to do with the BBC now that it is so patently morally derelict? Pardon my extreme ignorance, is that at all on the cards?

  73. Reply from Stewart Maxwell MSP

    Thank you for your email regarding the study on referendum media coverage by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland.

    The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee will be meeting next Tuesday to discuss its future work programme. I plan to raise the findings of Dr Robertson’s report at the meeting and will ask members to consider if the issue should be examined further by the committee.

    I will contact you again to let you know how the committee decides to proceed.

    Thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to my attention.

    Kind regards,

    Stewart Maxwell

  74. Just had an automated reply from Mr Small’s inbox.

    On 24 January 2014 16:41, Ian Small wrote:
    Thank you for your correspondence. The BBC welcomes feedback but to ensure it is dealt with properly, all correspondence has to be submitted via our central system. Comments and complaints are now handled centrally to allow us to make the most efficient use of your licence fee.

    Comments can be made by visiting the Contact the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/contact To send your complaint to the BBC please submit it centrally through our complaints website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints to be guaranteed a reply (or alternatively by post to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington DL3 0UR or by phone on 03700 100 222).

    Full details of our complaints service are available on our Complaints website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

  75. Ian Small
    16:41 (27 minutes ago)

    to
    Thank you for your correspondence. The BBC welcomes feedback but to ensure it is dealt with properly, all correspondence has to be submitted via our central system. Comments and complaints are now handled centrally to allow us to make the most efficient use of your licence fee.

    Comments can be made by visiting the Contact the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/contact To send your complaint to the BBC please submit it centrally through our complaints website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints to be guaranteed a reply (or alternatively by post to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington DL3 0UR or by phone on 03700 100 222).

    Full details of our complaints service are available on our Complaints website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

  76. I have duly sent two emails as suggested citing my academic qualifications in the hope of making me harder to ignore. Thank you a lot Mr Bateman for flagging this issue up. To attempt, on the sly, to shoot the messenger was highly reprehensible.

  77. I have now received a reply from Mr. Small in standard wording advising me to send my complaint to a BBC address in Darlington!

    What a Kafkaesque organisation the BBC has become!

  78. […] Piker, if you scratch around beyond the normal press routes you find wee gems… Broadcasters favouring No campaign according to new academic study Breaking News […]

  79. […] paper and no friend of the SNP) and also by prominent Scottish bloggers, including a former BBC Scotland producer, Derek Bateman  Dr Robertson was interviewed on the BBC’s Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland […]

  80. […] 22 January 2014: There are continual concerns at the running of the news operation which have now reached London but which simply don’t move Kenny McQuarrie whose job it is to guarantee an impartial and accurate news service without which there will be no BBC Scotland. It is the basis of the whole organization. http://derekbateman.co.uk/2014/01/22/breaking-newsbbc-threatens-academic/ […]

  81. […] 22 January 2014: There are continual concerns at the running of the news operation which have now reached London but which simply don’t move Kenny McQuarrie whose job it is to guarantee an impartial and accurate news service without which there will be no BBC Scotland. It is the basis of the whole organization. http://derekbateman.co.uk/2014/01/22/breaking-newsbbc-threatens-academic/ […]

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