As Bad As It Gets

Sorry to have disappeared so mysteriously this morning but I’m trying to walk a difficult line between revealing what the public has a right to know and avoiding counter-productive consequences for those involved. bbcscotland3 As I indicated, and as confirmed here by Seve Carrell, there is a serious reputational issue confronting BBC Scotland which is impacting on the entire newsroom and on a number of individuals in a damaging and disproportionate way. It is essentially, according to my information, a question of management failure in News and Current Affairs where staff have for years complained of inappropriate and sometimes intimidatory behaviour. This has led to disputes, threats of industrial action, a devastating emotional impact on staff and extremely low morale. Whenever complaints were made, either privately to senior managers or formally through the grievance process, the outcome has been predictable with executives largely ignoring the pleas of staff for help. As a result, an air of desperation and frustration built up and relations with the management, led by Ken McQuarrie, went from dismay to outright hostility with the Scottish organiser of the National Union of Journalists, Paul Holleran, describing them as the worst management he’d dealt with in 20 years. The centre of this acrimony is the Head of News and Current Affairs John Boothman. His dealings with staff are described by those on the receiving end as brutal and often unprofessional. I have described him here previously as miscast as a manager and lacking the skills needed to lead a news department –a not infrequent fate of those who are excellent practitioners at the basics of the job but who are not cut out for management. His personal dealings with the political community seemed to me maladroit for a BBC executive and led to a suspicion of bias – a view still prevalent today (see above). Unknown Management ignored all this and protected John Boothman because they neither like nor respect the journalists at Pacific Quay and because they wanted someone in charge who would force through the staff reductions and cost cutting that has so damaged the department. Boothman not only ensured the cuts were made but did so faster than any other part of the BBC by front-loading redundancies which could have been staved off for years and even eventually dropped as priorities changed. A clutch of good people whose experience could have helped guide the BBC through the referendum were lost as a result and careers ended prematurely. Even at this stage management stood accused of breaching its own protocols on dealing with staff and some were obliged to depart without the dignity their service deserved. I have tired of the stories I have heard of men and women in a creative industry reduced to tears or emotional wrecks by McQuarrie’s management. The only reason there is now a very real prospect of the Head of News being replaced is an error both typical in tone but staggering in execution. In discussing the future of an experienced camerawoman – as it happens the daughter of Margo MacDonald – with a personnel manager, John Boothman repaired to a studio gallery and talked in front of an open mic. It is perhaps the most elementary of mistakes in the whole broadcasting industry. Unknown to them, Zoe McDonald was in an adjoining studio having lunch and heard herself talked about in what one staffer described to me as the most personally wounding way. She recorded the words on her phone. It left Zoe, a model professional and a highly capable woman, crushed and shocked. Boothman, against whom the bullying claim was made, has now apologised. The tape of that recording is the hard evidence of what journalists have been telling McQuarrie and his executives since Boothman was appointed in 2011. I believe it is the only reason action is now being taken – because it can’t be ignored. As things stand, the personnel bloke has departed but I still have no word on the future of John Boothman. I don’t believe the newsroom can function properly while he remains in post. Some staff have been pretty much traumatised by events and this in a major Scottish institution. What were management playing at for so long? Where is the BBC Trust? Do we simply accept that one man may be responsible for bullying behaviour? Or is the entire management at Pacific Quay guilty by implication for wilfully ignoring the damage being done to their own staff on the fourth floor? The evidence of a dysfunctional organisation is written all over BBC Scotland. Can we have a full-blown inquiry into its running and how it plans to meet its commitments? (For managers who accused journalists of disloyalty, here’s a question. What do you think the reaction would have been if someone had leaked, just before the General Election, a headline that said: Labour-linked BBC executive accused of bullying daughter of Nationalist legend?)

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67 thoughts on “As Bad As It Gets

  1. “What do you think the reaction would have been if someone had leaked, just before the General Election, a headline that said: Labour-linked BBC executive accused of bullying daughter of Nationalist legend?”

    Knowi ng the mainstream media in Scotland – it wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

  2. Having never met Mr. Bateman, its a strange thing for me to say…..but I admire Mr.Bateman beyond belief. Integrity,honesty & depth of compassion are measures that are not readily recocognised,these are just 3, out of many others that Mr.Bateman regularly demonstrates.

  3. Yes Jimbo-that would be my assumption too. No one would have ever heard about it.

    Poor management practice does not excuse the clearly blatent & ever present bias that exists in PQ news management. It rightly deserves the title of Labour’s Public Relations Dept.

    • Well it hasn’t done much of a job for SLab then especially on Murphy’s counter demo. Most rational people have come to see through this type of shoddy editing post insured.

  4. What I don’t understand Derek is if things have been as bad as you say for as long as you say why did the journalists concerned not simply put in a mass resignation and all of them take the BBC to court for constructive dismissal which they would surely have won?

  5. Derek, why are the news staff at BBC Scotland such shrinking violets? Don’t they regard themselves as exemplars of investigative journalism? Doesn’t say much for them that they have not been able to completely shaft Boothman before now. Seems to me they were too busy toadying up to SLAB and BBC London. I don’t share your high opinion of oppressed staff at BBC Scotland. Bullies need complicit victims. Best thing the public can do is mass cancellation of the TV licence and hasten the demise of the whole rotten state propaganda machine.

    • Wow victim blaming. Clearly stated that staff have complained in numerous occasions. Having been a non compliant victim of workplace bullying I can assure you that organisations can file behind the bully, especially if they are a manager, to ensure it in the victim who it castigated.

      The “anti-bullying” policies of many organisations are shaped to ensure that complaints cannot be borne out and that they can report flawless report cards. That any moved to formal allegations speaks volumes of their courage. It in atbthat point specifically they face the sack for gross misconduct if their allegations, as they inevitably will be in such institutions, are found not proven.

      The costs emotionally and financially in taking your suggested approach of resignation and suing for constructive dismissal are more than any but a tiny minority can tolerate.

    • Can we establish a date for mass cancellation of licence fees?
      It would be great to join a large number of like-minded people in the same week.

    • Clive, it sounds as if you are blaming the staff at BBC Scotland for the apparent bullying behaviour of management.

    • Well that isn’t fair Clive. People have mortgages/rent to pay kids to raise and families to support. Getting a job at the BBC would be a big thing to most journalists.

      Obviously you’ve never been bullied at work because you totally fail to understand how such treatment messes with your head.

      Don’t blame the victims blame the managers responsible

  6. More telling would be to ask, what would the reaction have been if someone had leaked, just before the election, a story that an SNP linked manager had been bullying Sarah Smith?

  7. I’ve said before that on screen BBC folk have an earpiece through which they’re instructed to take a certain line.
    I’ve said before that journalists need/want to keep their jobs like anyone else, and so have to toe the boss’ line.
    What we don’t know about the BBC issues which wind up pro-indy folk so much is how much comes from the presenter/journalist and how much comes from upstairs.
    Delighted to see the Guardian exposing the BBC’s dirty laundry.
    Oh and a big hug for Zoe.

  8. BBC Scotland is simply the north British propaganda channel for the England based Establishment. Thus, it exercises & expresses the institutional corruption, criminality, group think & management dysfunction that the BBC in London is famous for. Other institutions in London exhibit similar chronic patterns of self serving, narcissistic behaviour including the Metropolitan Police, The House of Lords in Westminster & many financial institutions, especially banks.

    When subjects such as historic child abuse, institutional racism, wholesale greed & rewards for criminality are mentioned, we automatically associate these problems with London. But this is a reasonable one to make because there is a demonstrably huge, back catalogue of these issues.

    They are also inevitable when such centralised powerbases are physically located so close to each other & simultaneously staffed from the same, small exclusive club of largely public school educated people who are fond of rewarding each other with ever more important titles & disproportionate pay cheques & bonuses, irrespective of performance.

    It does seem that good performance is actually frowned upon because higher levels of productivity are usually only achievable through efficiency of time, work rate & resources. Unlike a car assembly plant, these features don’t belong in bureaucracies because they work against the preservation of the status quo.

    If one must protest, you could start with the BBC. But sending in letters of complaint is a waste of time. Only if enough payers of the License Fee (Effectively a television tax) withdraw their financial support with immediate effect, might something meaningful & respectful replace it.

    I haven’t paid the License Fee for quite some time. And I do not regret missing one minute of the BBC’s blatant, jingoistic, Home Counties bias. It is an agenda eagerly delivered by its executives, managers, reporters, editors, advisors & agents specifically, to subvert the perspective of the electorate with the singular objective of maintaining political & financial support, not just in London but across the UK.

    It’s structured & predictable response to the independence question came as no surprise. And the BBC will continue to attempt to modify, contain & attenuate public opinion in Scotland so that the integrity of its protectorate in London is upheld, no matter how disgracefully corrupt & dysfunctional, it actually is.

  9. Why on earth do BBC Scotland’s senior managers neither like nor respect like their own journalists, Derek? But then again, given their track record, one has to wonder whether they like or respect anyone.

  10. I would shut the whole place down.

    They, including the moaners ,allowed lies and scares on the people of Scotland during the referendum. No one opened their mouths then. The most important and historic vote in our history was tarred by the same people you say are complaining Derek.

    Way too late for my sympathy vote.

    Like Liebour it no longer has a place here.

    A propaganda wing for the LIEbour party and establishment.

    Constant liars Derek. Every article spun to confuse and frighten folk.

    Damn them . ALL OF THEM

  11. I do wish British management would realise that management is a skill in itself, not a logical career step for good performers. I’ve known successful salesmen who were crap managers because they were selfish, greedy shits. I’ve seen market researchers run a business into debt and require a takeover. And how many competent solicitors with ASD end up running a partnership into the ground and alienating staff?

  12. BBC Scotland / Labour / Unionist / British State.

  13. They should all be sacked and replaced with people who will broadcast the truth and not the lies fed them by their beloved unionist overlords.

    Quislings on the dole, Quislings on the dole, laugh, I think my corset’s split, Quislings on the dole!

  14. I’ve met the type and I’m sure many folk have. A corporate hatchet man and a managerial enabler. They can literally suck the life/morale out of a workforce just by walking into a room. In this case institutionalised and corporately backed by the looks of it.

    As I said last night before you took the initial post down, had it not been for the existence of hard evidence, would anyone have heard of it yet? I doubt it very much.

    The high ups have turned a blind eye to this for some time by all accounts. Why? Simply because it suited their purpose.


  15. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil …

    The BBC has been hiding behind its mask of the kindly auntie for decades. Look at how much has gone on over those decades behind closed doors that everyone agrees should have been made public.

    I half wish I still had a BBC license so that I could join in a mass cancel on a particular day, but it will be good to know that such a thing might happen.

    Day after day their lies and distortions fouled the airwaves, stifling democratic debate and frightening people – especially the elderly. I have little sympathy for anyone who says they were just doing what they were told to do – as a journalist there are surely principles and ethics that shape your approach to the news and its dissemination, and the BBC output over the years of the referendum and the GE2015 was an embarrassment to the profession.

    Your article makes me very, very angry, Derek – not at you but at BBC Scotland and the BBC in general. Not least because of how that creep Boothman spoke about our Margo and her daughter Zoe.

  16. Not sure where to start. No sympathy for people who take their money and keep schtum, while people with no money are prevented from securing they change they need.

    I was in a public sector role and disagreed fundamentally with the management. I resigned and while I did myself no favours, I sleep at night and smile when I see certain news articles, knowing I’m not part of that aspect of the public sector system.

    Journalists on the receiving end of bad management and what might be close to constructive dismissal? Perhaps a few experiences, rather than just reporting on others, and taking the cash for the story. Sympathy? Not a lot, but then I feel our media have abused their trust along with our political masters.

  17. HandandShrimp

    Over the years I have worked for and with many managers. Some were good, a few were inspirational and small number were absolutely awful. However, I am not sure the latter ever quite achieved the level of disengagement in staff surveys that the management team at Pacific Quay have. There is clearly something dreadfully amiss there.

    I thought the BBC journalistic integrity poor during the referendum. However, it doesn’t automatically follow that the team in Pacific Quay were in any way coerced into the approach taken. Current events suggests that perhaps there was pressure and more valves may burst yet.

  18. One of the major problems that afflicts the British state and it’s establishment is lack of accountability.
    It starts with a system of government that allows politicians to promise the electorate anything in return for their support and then do something completely different when elected without any consequences (lying I think it is called).
    The BBC in Scotland is no different from any of the other representatives of the British state,Labour,Tories,Liberals etc who,until recently,could say and do anything because all that London is interested in is keeping Scotland in thrall to England at what appears to be,according to the British state,any cost to the London treasury (strange that).
    Until the organs of state in Scotland become accountable to the Scottish people through it’s democratically elected parliament then we are going to be stuck with the
    British colonialists whose agenda is decided in London for the benefit of London.
    Thanks Derek.

  19. I have quite a lot of sympathy for what Clive Scott is saying. I don’t see how this lot at PQ are such shrinking violets either, AND they have a Trade Union. Looks like Zoe is the only one with the brains and the guts to confront the guy, and I’ve been bullied by men and women. Without exception, you know your rights, and you confront the bully, and they are like a burst balloon.

    I’m afraid I don’t have much sympathy for people that work for the corporation that covered for Savile et al. Have they learned nothing, that they just go along with an insecure bully, rather than get organised, and get it sorted?

    How would any of us expect to have a balanced report anyway, regardless of them being Labour’s bullhorn, if they can’t tell right from wrong, support their colleagues, or avail themselves of some pretty basic rights?


  20. I should also have said:
    How many countries would allow their state broadcaster to take a position diametrically opposed to their interests?
    The people responsible for those actions would be gone in a very short time scale.

  21. Charles Kearney

    There was a terrible inevitability about this Article, Derek, and whilst I admire your Loyalty to your erstwhile Colleagues, it is long overdue. The Silver Bullet was bound to appear, but, like others on here, I have to ask where was the Integrity of the Journalists in the face of this oppressive behaviour by Management.

    Where was their Union who appear to have been sitting on their Hands for Years. I’m quite certain they did not expect the ‘Trust’ to take action! I’m even more certain they did not expect Mr. McQuarrie, to whom all of these complaints had been made, to suddenly oust Mr. Boothman with whom he was working Hand in Glove and who had been appointed by London to do a very specific Job!

    In hard times one has to know the value of a Job, but should the price be that one cannot face ones Colleagues, or indeed, ones own Family, then it is too dear, and they and their Union must be held responsible, it is Unions who are supposed to protect their Membership, and they have fallen down badly on this!

  22. BTW, I have always resisted from taking pot shots at the PQ staff for their bias, preferring to ignore them, and accept its all part of the “scene”. However, you might give the timing of these revelations some more thought – a few weeks after the GE, and the wipe out of Labour? SNP looking and acting like a party very much in charge of their destiny? The licence fee being questioned? Lots of talk about FFA, and who knows what else???

    What always disgusted me about various BBC reporters was the absolute disregard for their personal reputation, should they ever look to be moving on. No professional pride in making a fair and balanced report and being judged on your work, or thinking of your CV, yet they remain.

    Could it be they are just doing a bit of strategic planning now that things don’t look so certain as the previous decades? Oh but, how could I do my job properly when I was under such pressure to conform to this bully, when I’m brilliant really.

    Oh I know I’m just an old cynic, probably watching too much telly.

  23. Clive Scott…. I agree with your first class comments…. Shrinking violets though…. is that not another name for “”PANSY’S “”

  24. A wise cynic, Valerie.

  25. seanair
    The BBC has grown into a massive blob of pseudo-information with no-one able to get it to rein it in. Who authorised it to have “investigative teams” for example? Why does it have “correspondents” for every subject under the sun when only a fraction of their work-time can be used in bulletins? What do they do for the rest of the day/week?
    I hope Derek’s article and the Guardian’s surprising take on the situation at PQ will open the doors to the public and bring about much-needed change to this self-satisfied monster. I won’t hold my breath however.

  26. Boothman was appointed in 2011…. just in time to sort out the rise of the SNP and to butcher any integrity that BBC Scotland had left. It was no coincidence that his appointment was made and followed by his totalitarian ‘New Labour’ managerial style.

    Remember all the familiar faces that were jettisoned and replaced with ‘new faces’ , nearly all English newbies or Scottish quislings like Naughtie? Now all we’re left with the ‘ubiquitous’ Beattie, ‘I’d work for nothing’…aye I’d bet you would John boy.

    Like all out of touch monolithic, biased and moribund institutions, the cracks have appeared and the inherent contradictions are reaching a screeching crescendo. Let’s hope it’s the sound of Boothman’s tyres as he accelerates south out of Pacific Quay’s car park on his way back to his imperial paymasters.

  27. Gordon Carmichael

    Sadly, the issues revealed here, whilst spectacularly devastating to the individuals concerned, and clearly detrimental to the well-being of the remaining personnel within the organisation, are all too common within many of our major institutions and at all levels of our society. Such issues are regular experiences for a significant number of employees engaged in delivering public services.

  28. It wont stop Bias reporting anytime soon & the Union is useless another Lab muppet controlled branch,so,s hell mend everyone at Bbc,crying crocodile tears now after 3 years of Bias reporting. A total new Scottish broadcaster is required & no re-employment for Bbc quislings.

  29. I’m willing to bet Boothman has never had cause to criticise his Newsroom Poster Girl, Jackie the arch Unionist Burd.

  30. Now is the time for the 56 SNP MPs to agitate for control of Scottish Broadcasting. Let’s not forget Boothman & McQuarrie had to be ordered by London to acknowledge the Scottish parliaments request that they appear before a committee. However nobody instructed them to answer questions, so they just pissed about and laughed at the MSPs.

    IMHO EBC London is complacent in the shambles that PQ has become and tolerates this mess as long as it’s playing the ESTABLISHMENTS TUNE.

  31. What, I suspect is that John Boothman did not realise he is disposable.

    It seems to me that he will be.

    But two issues raise themselves.

    Who would replace him and what morals would they have? The same?

    And on the disloyalty issue. To what should journalists be beholden to other than the truth?

    It is certainly about toeing an establishment line. How dare a BBC executive attempt to do suggest otherwise!

    As Papadox nearly says in the post above, they are only beholden to their own ancient regieme. They are the enemy, they are not neutral.

  32. Oops!

    *It is certainly not about toeing an establishment line.

  33. Stop moaning about the BBC – the clue is in the name – get even 30 hours to go–2#/story


    £2,500 needed

  34. BBC on their way out of Scotland? Good-riddance, I hate that bile-factory with all my heart.
    Mass cancellation of the TV licence; let’s make it in September, around the 18th – let’s send a very strong message to any big business or corporations that we’re serious about our self-determination.

  35. “Where is the BBC Trust”? Apparently at the Bildenburg conference. No doubt taking instructions on the line to take.

  36. LONDON CALLING: How the BBC stole the Referendum

    There can be no forgiveness – ever.

  37. Just as there is no such thing as Scottish Labour, only the Labour Party in Scotland, similarly there is only the metropolitan BBC in Scotland.

    Consequently, I’m afraid that the obvious inference from Derek’s report is that there is nothing whatever wrong in Pacific Quay: the world is unfolding as it should. London control is being effectively enforced and if it makes the natives squirm, then so much the better. The Raj has always known how to deal with backchat.

  38. So Boothman’s married to Susan Deacon? There’s a cosy set up for you.

  39. thomaspotter2014

    Shut Pacific Quay down asap

  40. Aw so the poor things get bullied do they, I don’t give a toss about them or their poxy jobs and mortgages, they’re part of a criminal organization which actively works against the interests of the Scottish population at large. However I do suppose that if mismanagement is starting to fuck it up from inside then that has to be at least something of a good thing.

  41. a lot of words and comments but i never saw a single journalist come out with anything but the party line in the last three years and more. ever since the last holyrood elections it has been getting worse in every single bulletin from every single journalist and presenter. perhaps i give them too much credit? are they really journalist? do they research and write their own copy? if they do then they’ve all been complicit in putting across the anti SNP, anti YES campaign, anti independence message. i watch a lot of news and nearly always the BBC, to be frank i think STV come across as amateurish with a style stuck in the 1950’s, STV Glasgow is embarrassing to watch to be honest. hence i catch every BBC Scotland bulletin, i don’t watch their post late news programs like newsnight scotland or Scotland 2015 etc. there is only so much bias you can sit through, don’t get me started on andrew niell or the likes of question time, not to mention have i got news for you and every single comedy show on the network where it is now acceptable to make racist comments and slurs about Scots, Scottish people and Scotland as a country, we’ve become the 1970’s black neighbour, the pakistani in the room and every single member of BBC Scotland who appears in front of camera is guilty of bias.
    The longer it goes on the more i think we should have taken the Irish route and taken independence by force, throw BBC Scotland into that black hole they keep going on about, i didn’t know this hole was based in Scotland, i thought it was a british black hole? seems to me that according to BBC Scotland the english, irish and welsh share will disappear once Scotland are independent. it seems it is easier to transfer ownership of an economic black hole from a rotten empire to a nation than it is to transfer ownership of oil fields off our own coastline, although it is easy to re-write the boundaries of Scottish part of north sea, especially if you do it during the run up to an election in a good week to hide news.

  42. dennis mclaughlin

    All Quiet On The Western Front….??
    Anything of note to continue this tale of woe Derek….the Great BBC Firewall seems impregnable from out here in the ‘real’ world.

  43. Honestly Derek, are you really trying to convince us now that the BBC bias was really the responsibility of just one rogue manager?- jeez, when are you going to stop trying to defend them?! You keep trying to convince us all that somehow you’re in the know and not just naive- less and less of us are buying it. You’re a hero for what you’ve done over this last couple of years but your loyalty to former BBC colleagues seems misplaced.

  44. So who at the BBC decides not to report Mundell’s economy with the truth yesterday when he denied, contrary to all the easily available evidence, that Gordon Brown had promised a No vote would deliver “Home Rule within the UK” or “federalism” for Scotland?

    This is my fundamental problem with BBC Scotland journalists. Here is a story of major public interest – another Scottish MP denying the truth – yet not a cheap on the BBC Scotland news programmes or pages. How can they call themselves journalists if they won’t report this kind of stuff or allow others to stop them from reporting it?

  45. Whatever is going on at Pacific Quay, the content, quality and tone of BBC Scotland’s political coverage are inadequately explained by a state of victimhood.

    On a day of significant votes on the Scotland Bill, someone in the Scotland 2015 team thought it was clever and pertinent to tweet:

    “David Starkey has criticised the left for not “recognising” the SNP’s “national socialism”. Is he right to compare the SNP with Nazism?”

    The Labour Party in Scotland at least had the grace to feel embarrassed when Ian Smart indulged in online activity of this sort.

  46. The “news” workforce at BBC Scotland are not journalists, They are a mouthpiece for it’s corporate agenda, which appears to comprise denigrating the Scottish electorate and their elected representatives under all and any circumstances.

    Until they stop being deid blue parrots, and reattach themselves to their balls, no BBC Scotland “journalist” deserves sympathy or understanding.

  47. Conrad Hughes

    So, he’s gone. Now he’s going to be “working on [BBC] Scotland’s proposals for Charter Renewal.” It would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

  48. Steve Asaneilean

    You were right Derek – Boothman punted

  49. Ive just finished the excellent Michael Moore’s book (the author not the politician) ‘Stupid White Men’.
    On Page 15 though, Michael praises the couage and integrity of the BBC for revealing the TRUTH while the American media tried to hide it.
    How far an organisation has plummeted in such a short time.

  50. […] news and current affairs recently former BBC producer, Derek Batman, highlighted on his web page another reason that Boothman’s time in the role had been seen by many of his staff as poorly […]

  51. Surely the reported and acknowledged behaviour of such a senior executive calls for dismissal rather than a cosy sideways move.
    Who are those people answerable to?
    BBC Scotland appears wholly incapable of accepting responsibility or blame for its many faults. The interminable criticism of the Scottish Government is the default position for news presentation .
    Any attempt to complain hits the inevitable brick wall

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