Unfriendly Games

I used to be regarded as an establishment figure because I was part of a public organisation that owed its existence and its loyalty to the State. So long as I too was loyal, I was accepted or at least tolerated for my indiscretions and complaints.


The organisation I worked for was created partly to examine the society we live in and to scrutinise the activities of the authorities on behalf of the people who pay for it.

Central to this role is that of criticism. Questioning elected representatives, doubting policy and challenging motives lies at the heart of that organisation’s role.

Strange then that when the organisation itself becomes the subject of criticism its reaction appears to be to repel both the criticism and the critic.

My outspoken words on BBC management were bound to sting. There are few more potent opponents than one who has just deserted and can speak out with knowledge still hot with immediacy and relevance. Naming names just isn’t done…Generalised attacks on the BBC are scoffed at and brushed aside although publicly treated with manufactured concern. I did name names and did provide not just blow-by-blow accounts from inside but a comprehensive critique of what should happen instead of what actually does.

I didn’t expect thanks from those dodging my bullets. But I expected it to follow a long and honourable tradition of acknowledging criticism and ostensibly accepting it and moving on. I expected to be patronised.


What I didn’t expect was to be blackballed – to be silently marked with a spot, marginalised and ignored. It isn’t that I harbour designs on contributing to BBC programmes – I don’t need the exposure and have enough to do – but the total exclusion in the year since I left must mark some kind of record. When Scotland is abuzz with debate, when programme makers are searching for voices, is it believable that not one producer or reporter thought of asking Bateman? You may genuinely hold the view that my work is execrable…but compared to all those other voices and views pushed at you every day?

I’ve been on the media in Japan and Russia, I am followed online in the US, Australia and 120 different countries, I’m on Twitter with 4000 followers (on 800 tweets), you can’t exactly miss me on Newsnet or Bella, I have to turn down meetings across the country, I’m on community radio and podcasts, have my own internet radio station which included a special with Alex Salmond who, unlike the BBC, does know what I do and yet…not one phone in, not one Blether With…not one programme. Odd, no?

Perhaps I should ask for a BBC manager to come on batemanbroadcasting…

Tonight BBC Scotland airs a documentary looking back at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. I covered that event for the Glasgow Herald along with my colleague Derek Douglas and wrote a book about it – Unfriendly Games, Boycotted and Broke. We were interviewed in the old Meadowbank Stadium by the late George Hume on Reporting Scotland. As a result, the BBC offered me a job. Since then when the Games come round every four somebody in the BBC will interview me about 1986 for telly or radio to remember the Bob Maxwell fiasco and the boycott. (I recall being on Radio Four for the Manchester Games)

But not this time. BBC Scotland’s latest programme has, quite justifiably, interviewed instead my co-author, the other Derek. Although they did call me to get his contact details.

In other words somebody at Pacific Quay has, as they do every four years, said: Let’s get Bateman – he was there and he’s a broadcaster, you know! Then, knowing my current state of pariah, decided not to bother. Get somebody else’s number off him instead. It couldn’t made any clearer – you don’t piss into our tent and get away with it.


It’s similar to the treatment of John Robertson of UWS– dealt with without respect.

I think it’s worth recording as a further insight into the small-minded and dysfunctional ethos now operating at Pacific Quay that critics will be excluded. It is exactly the way Maxwell himself operated – dictatorial, high-handed, dismissive and disrespectful. But it came at a cost – Maxwell was universally loathed. The same fate may be the legacy awaiting management at BBC Scotland.

(The programmes’ on at 10.30pm)

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52 thoughts on “Unfriendly Games

  1. Not long now, until they are gone and I would wager that you will get that telephone call quite soon after, if not before, inviting you become a founder member of the policy group to re-establish ethical journalism in the Scottish broadcast press.

    Any opinion on the Dundee lad Rod Sharpe who fronts Radio 5 though the night from Boston (Mass)?

    Some nights when I cannot sleep I listen in and find which a commensurate radio professional. A listener and informer, inevitably polite.

  2. Derek play the Alexander brothers I’m nobody’s child and chill out

  3. wish I had an edit buttion here

  4. “Maxwell was universally loathed. The same fate may be the legacy awaiting management at BBC Scotland.”

    I already loathe Boothman, MacQuarrie, Small and Maxwell not to mention quite a few presenters as well. Well, hell mend them. They may think big of themselves now, but post independence none of them will be wanted anywhere in Scotland. I hope their masters in London have some positions lined up for them. Oh, wait, bbc is just about to cut ANOTHER 415 jobs from ‘news’. Perhaps they’ll just have to find out first hand about the benefits society in a tory run country. Good luck to them.

  5. Rise above it Derek, your time will surely come, I don’t think you will have long to wait. Good post!!

  6. And I used tae think you were an English spy tae.

  7. Worth remembering that the games were boycotted because of the actions of a government that had been rejected in Scotland. Didn’t make a blind bit of difference so Scotland suffered because of the choices of the english as per usual.

    And there was exactly ZERO support from central government. Compare that with the £250,000,000 minimum thrown at Manchester and the £9,000,000,000 and climbing wasted on london 2012.

    It is just another obvious example of how Scotland is despised by the english government and the people treated like vermin. Because they know they will get away with it thanks to labour voting quislings and traitors. People like T Brown and co.

    Personally I suspect that the behaviour of the english government in 1986 contributed to the extinction of their MPs. It would have cost next to nothing to treat us with respect and provide adequate support but it wasn’t given any consideration becasue we are untermensch.

    • I agree with you but it was not the English as a people, it was Thatcher and her loathsome lot. She wished she could have operated in the UK like the South African government did there. She like Cameron think they have the divine right to do what they like. I’ll be voting YES to be rid of them forever.

  8. Come September and our subsequent independence, BBC Scotland will find they’re not welcome in Scotland. Not after the behaviour they’ve shown to voters in Scotland who deserve to hear both sides of the independence debate yet have only had unionism thrown at them.

    One of the hallmarks of a newly independent Scotland will be a broadcasting service that serves its listeners. All of them. You, Derek, will be one of the central figures in that new development.

  9. Good read, but not just the management Derek. Still waiting for the journalists at PQ to make a stand re BBC membership of the CBI, but unless I missed something, they will be making a stand for more dosh and an increase in licence fee.

  10. The BBC, like Better Together and their mendacious acolytes, runs on the assumption that what is good for them is good for the country, not the other way round. It’s a very unhealthy state of affairs.

  11. Remember the minor disagreement you had with a few of us about the BBC some time ago? Well, this was the kind of thing meant. Anyone who has ever found themselves outside the tent, as you put it, whether in a lofty institution like the BBC or a local community or any human group soon learns of the displeasure of the insider group, who become more dictatorial as they successfully dominate all interactions. Since dissent is excluded, there is no curb on strong ( or weak? ) egos.

    Often it is not just a question of being ostracized or left out of the loop but there is also the further refinement that the outsider has to know that they are being sidelined. Hence the pettiness of ostensibly getting your former colleague’s number from you. Any gang of teenagers would know how to be as bitchy. The trouble is, people don’t expect respected institutions to stoop to such small-minded behaviour but they do. It becomes personal but only someone on the receiving end is meant to get it.

    You are doing better work than they are any way and earning ever more respect. So, forget them – everyone will soon.

    • I didn’t want to bring it up but spot and well said JGedd.

      A new broadcasting service for a new nation. There is a job there for you Derek. Your respected and fair. You have shook off the last of the shackles , something we saw coming i think.

      Your the man who got the First minister to chat on your show. You allowed him to speak o/t allowing us a view of the man we may have missed . You have a great way with all your guests. I listen to your broadcasts along with friends. Who says you cant gather round the radio anymore ?? Yet we do. ( pc/laptop)

      We can all look forward now to a YES vote and a new TV channel. One i hope you have a major part in.

      It’s quite sore when you first see through those you trust. But we all have that experience and we learn a hard lesson. Bugger the BBC .

      We have you now and the tent flap will ALWAYS be open.

  12. Don’t let them get to you, Derek. They are small, petty and inadequate. They never wanted to be more than the biggest fish in the garden pond and the opportunities and challenges of the great ocean frighten them. Such people rarely stay in control for long and never leave a lasting mark. The waves of history have a habit of finding them out and sweeping them away.

  13. I don’t think it matters whether there is a YES or a NO vote in September. BBC Scotland has irretrievably alienated at least one third – probably nearer half of their audience.

    With a YES vote and a wholesale clearance of the current staff there may be hope for the future. With a NO vote the current staff will doubtless crow with glee but blissfully unaware that they are part of a dying industry.

    • Ducking stools on the Clyde would be too good for them. Tarring and feathering and run out of town on a rail would be more appropriate.

  14. Pentland Firth

    Scotland is a small country where the “establishment” exclude those who don’t share their views. You’re in very good company, Derek. David Hume was never offered a post by the University of Edinburgh, but just under two hundred years after his death that esteemed academy named one of its buildings after the great philosopher it had chosen to spurn in his lifetime. Perhaps in a hundred years or so the Scottish public service broadcaster (if there is such a thing by then) will name their headquarters Bateman Tower, and your great grand children can laugh their heads off at the irony of it all.
    In the meantime, keep your chin up. There are many thousands who know your true worth and see BBC Scotchland’s petty vindictiveness for what it is.

  15. Derek,
    Your work is definitely not execrable, and it isn’t odd that the once proud organisation that I admired and thank for the standard of my spoken English, should sideline, nay exclude, one of its best journalists at this time in history, because the BBC is no longer the admirable and impartial organisation it once was. It is now in the control of the arogant elitists who think it is their job to direct public opinion rather than report the news, and at this point in Scotland’s history, they certainly wouldn’t want the input of someone, like yourself, who has a different leaning to that of the status quo, which they have an interest in maintaining because, after all, it provides them with their very comfortable living. They don’t want change. It would be inconvenient for them.
    My personal experience of the management at PQ is that they are indeed elitist, and think everyone else understands their very narrow view of life and of history.

  16. Steve Asaneilean

    Why is anyone surpised by the behaviour of the BBC? This is a UK State-funded organisation and the clue is in their title…
    Their childish dismissal of John Robertson was of primary playground proportions – there was no real attempt to engage with him let alone address the issues he raised. “The conclusions are based largely on flawed analysis and occasionally intuitive guesswork” said Mr MacQuarrie in reference to a University academics work. So that’s fine then – no case to answer…

  17. You have obviously touched a nerve there Derek. I strongly suspect they (the BBC) are jealous as your integrity and passion shine through in your writing, qualities which the BBC lack. Nil desperandum as my Dad used to say (although my personal favorite is ‘don’t get mad, get even’).

  18. RE the management of the BBC, their pettiness is exceeded only by their banality. I look forward to the future when we can create the kind of public broadcasting service which genuinely reflects our culture and interests. In the meantime, your broadcasts keep the light shining.

  19. Ask Ric Bailey to come on. He’s the one who drew up the completely ignored guidelines for the referendum.

  20. Derek, my first reaction was “How dare they!” Then, calming down, I wondered how supposedly professional staff employed by any institution, let alone the “great” BBC, could stoop so low. It’s actually lower than any immature playground nastiness. Sad, sad, sad.

    Here’s to independence and a country with mature adults in positions of power……….you among them.

  21. Your experience is unsurprising, given the nature of the beast. But why complain about being refused a job on the Titanic? The BBC’s iceberg is fast approaching and soon you’ll have the last laugh.

  22. dennis mclaughlin

    Derek remember “Nolite te Bastardos Carborundum”.

  23. Talking of positions of power, I see Charlie Kennedy has finally blown it and opted for the road to easy money in the HoL. Fat chance, foolish man.

  24. Just a thought. Has anyone noticed any difference in the indyref coverage before the regulated period kicked in and after.

    I haven’t

    • Nope. If anything, the anti-independence bias has got worse. They know they’re untouchable. They were able to brush John Robertson aside with impunity. They’re past masters at losing ordinary complainants in the maze of their Byzantine complaints procedure.

      They know the SNP and Yes Scotland don’t dare complain because any such complaint will immediately be transformed into a “desperate attack on our beloved Auntie” smear. They can do what they like and say what they like.

      It could get even worse, as the referendum gets closer. Even if they did something absolutely outrageous in the week or two before the big day, what consequences would there be? Nothing before the vote, and after that, who cares? I wouldn’t put it past them to broadcast a knowingly false hatchet job and take whatever sanction was imposed afterwards.

      And Derek still thinks it’s just incompetence. Aye right.

  25. Once upon a time, maybe 30 or 40 years ago, I thought to myself, is there anything I would miss if Scotland became independent? The only thing I could think of was the BBC, and specifically Radio 3. But I reasoned, it’s likely we’ll still be able to receive BBC broadcasts by arrangement, after all Scotland will still be in the same place. And Scotland might have its own classical music station. Consider Radio Suisse Romande.

    I was a fan. I was thrilled to bits the day the envelope dropped through my letter box saying I’d passed my audition for the BBC Symphony Chorus. Singing in the Proms was the highlight of my hot English summers, and I smiled at the few saltires on display on the Last Night (even if I had a discreet wee SNP logo pin in the collar of my evening dress). I’ve even got a t-shirt with the crest and “Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation” on it.

    Now I wonder, was it all an illusion? Not Radio 3 of course, and I’m listening to it now and I have a definite date for tomorrow night you bet your bottom dollar, wouldn’t miss “The Kingdom” for anything. But the supposed commitment to impartiality and truth. I don’t think it’s ever been unbiassed. I think you don’t notice until it happens to you.

    • Morag,you sang in the BBC Symphony Chorus! I must have heard you singing in many a concert. I sing like a mangled crow but still thought that, next to being able to play the big organ in the Albert Hall, singing in one of those great massed choir works like Beethoven Nine or the Verdi Requiem must be a sensational experience. Respect!

      ( Like you, I still value Radio 3, but I can get grumpy about some of its output nowadays.)

      • Mahler 2. The organ at the end comes right up through the soles of your feet. And you get to sing a top C on the last page.

        Bit prophetic for this year, too. “With Wings I have won for myself, I will soar upwards….”

  26. All I can say is that the person who called you from the BBC for a telephone number is totally insensitive. Your column is the first place I go to every day, and I miss it on the days there isn’t a post,. I never go on the BBC Scotland website for referendum. Why bother when I know it will be biased in favour of the No campaign. If it wasn’t for yourself and Newsnet and Wings over Scotland, the coverage of this Referendum would be unbearable.

  27. Although not quite the same thing Derek I wondered what has happened to Gary Robertson. No sign of him anywhere and wondered if he has signed some sort of gagging clause.

    • Drew Broadley

      I’ll always remember Gary Robertson as the one who forced Ming Campbell to admit that there was no time-frame for consensus among the major parties regarding increased powers for the Scottish Parliament. In other words, jam tomorrow, or at some other undetermined point in the foreseeable sequence of blue moons.

  28. BBC website article: Scottish independence: Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown at Edinburgh International Book Festival

    Of course Alec is debating Independence and Gordie is touting his book. No prizes for forecasting who will get prime coverage from the BBC.

    I don’t Normally visit the BBC Website but it was an item on Peter Bell’s Referendum 2014 Compendium.

    Peter Bells comment was apt.

    “There is something rather quaint about the way the BBC imagines that Gordon Brown is at “the very heart of the independence debate”.

  29. The man of Independent Mind he looks and laughs at aa that

  30. John Brownlie

    I suppose you could invite Gordon Brewer, Glen Campbell or Brian Taylor as guests on your programme.

    Keep us the good work!

    • dennis mclaughlin

      Please Please Derek, try and get a wee minute with oor Debater of the Year ……yep Johann hersel’….failing that Magrit Furren Curran;).

  31. How about the venerable Presbyterian thunderer, Bob Kernohan?!!! I was intrigued by his Thought for the Day on this morning’s Good Morning Scotland. It was clearly very carefully crafted. Could he be preparing the Tory Party at prayer for a Yes vote?

  32. There was a Good Morning Scotland feature this morning on the influence of social media within the independence referendum campaign, as a lead-in to an item with Danny Alexander, promoting the launch of a Westminster website, Gary Robertson interviewed an industry expert. There was mention of the official Yes Scotland and Better Together websites and of twitter, but, almost incredibly, there was no mention of the huge following of news and comment on this blog, Wings over Scotland, Newsnet, Bella Caledonia, The Wee Ginger Dug, etc etc etc, given that the following of these websites rivals the readership of our main national newspapers in Scotland. I said “almost incredibly” but I anticipated that there would be no mention from the beginning of the item on the programme, as that blanking would be entirely in keeping with the BBC’s editorial approach to the referendum. And, sure enough, another nail in the coffin of the BBC’s shredded reputation for impartiality and balance. The BBC was this morning acting like Pravda – the official mouthpiece of the state – ignoring the underground press – the samizdat – in the communist Soviet Union. It’s difficult to see how the BBC will claw back its self-respect and reputation.

  33. BBC Trust review of Television Services 2013, dropped into my emails last night. I wish I could link it but I can’t.
    It looks like Mr Kernohan is not the only one who carefully crafts their sermons.
    In essence, “audiences acknowledge and value the overall quality of BBC news”,
    ‘Accuracy and impartiality are seen as pervasive’
    Among measures of quality spontaneously mentioned in audience engagement trust is the most prominent:levels of trust in BBC news remains high. ( oh how we laugh)

    As for Radio Scotland – it’s not Radio 4 plus they’re all delighted that the great man from Radio 4 is now at Radio Scotland. – fab.
    I honestly wish Derek, STV would have the balls to give you a late night ( after Scotland Tonight) half hour programme, to interview on a one to one the people of Scotland. I would love to hear Ian Hamilton interviewed not just about the stone but about him or the man who holds the cards at Grangemouth ( who is he really) or the woman who runs the Maryhill foodbank or any of the unsung heroes who get out their bed in the morning to make Scotland the place it is.

    Just an aside, according to the Trust report the numbers for Newsnight Scotland were fairly small ( 2013) not sure what they’ll be now, that PQ has added their golden touch to that programme.

  34. Heard Gary Robertson on GMS this morning and thought it was rather insensitive to pair him with Naughtie, considering GR has been given his jotters and Naughtie is costing a fortune for his biased contribution to the referendum (are we allowed to request a FOI from BBC to get the cost?).
    Also heard Ken McDonald who is now the Science Correspondent, thus neutering him from his Sunday morning spot which was more impartial than the usual output from BBC.
    BBC does not appear to be observing the referendum rules.

    • Elizabeth Fairgrieve

      Gary Robertson is on GMS as Naughtie’s keeper, to stop him mumpin’ and grumpin’ and slurpin’ his tea through interviews as he did the other week. Gary might as well make as much money as he can before the jotters are put into effect. Naughtie wasn’t too bad this morning when interviewing someone about Gaza. Maybe he needs to get back to his comfort zone. And, Derek, they must really fear you at the BBC. Keep doing what you’re doing!

    • Submitting FoI requests to the BBC is pointless. UK FoI legislation exempts the BBC from the obligation to provide information where it is held for “purposes of journalism, art or literature”. The Supreme Court has applied such a generous interpretation of this exemption that the BBC is able to snub its nose at FoI requests.

  35. I heard a story today that the security staff at T in the Park had stripped revellers (thousands apparently) of all saltires as they entered the site at Balado. Apparently the excuse that was given was that the BBC had required this as a condition of its TV coverage.

  36. Oh well Derek maybe the sun is beginning to set on your 5 minutes of fame? You’re maybe a big celeb who can draw in the crowds in scottish nationalist circles but outside of there most people won’t have the slightest clue who you are. That’s life I’m afraid, chin up etc.

    • Do you have anything but insults? It refers to 1986 which I think makes it nearly 30 years of fame rather than five minutes. And your dates of fame would be? I would rather be popular among real Scots who believe in their country than followed by Unionist weasels. Which raises the question: What are you doing here?

  37. Jings, you must be one of those “nationalists” then.

    • Afraid not. Derek came to my attention as a result of one of your fellow disciples posting a link to some incorrect comments derek made about the EU so I thought I would drop by. Still don’t really have the slightest idea who he was or is. Certainly don’t remember him ever being on the telly and I’m a bit young to listen to the wireless.

  38. I was interviewed a few years ago on a BBC Scotland radio programme about a First World War story concerning my family. I had an email yesterday from the Beeb asking if they could possibly consider interviewing me on the same story for Reporting Scotland as part of coverage for the anniversary of the start of the war. I declined, citing the bias of the BBC in its referendum coverage as a reason not wanting to be involved with its news output. Just a small personal protest (and I am ex-BBC myself), but it did get me wondering whether BBC Scotland staff are finding it harder to get people to participate in programmes these days, now that so many are losing trust in them. The researcher was very polite in her reply, but I got the feeling it wasn’t the first time she’d had such a response.

  39. I agree that the BBC News etc is biased too far to be redeemed. I would rather give a vox-pop to RT or Al Jazeera English than the Beeb. I would be more confident first that my Yes views would be broadcast and that they would not be edited to show me up etc.

    IF a BBC crew ever did approach me I would decline and politely tell them why, including the above.

    • RT and Al Jazera unbiased?!? Oh dear. Tell you what if you want to investigate bias and corruption in the media look into the tale of the female Al Jazeera reporter sent to cover Syrian rebels (who are of course funded by the same people who fund Al Jazeera) and what happened after the rebels decided to gang rape her. Lovely organisation Al Jazeera.

      And as for RT, well I can understand why you like them given the amount of coverage they have given the SNP, but then again I can see why the russian state broadcaster adheres to the mantra of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

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