That’s All For Now

This will probably be the last time I actually write anything about the BBC so my heart is light.

Some responses to the blog gave me a laugh, some had me nodding in agreement and others had my head in my hands.

First, for all those hard of learning, can I repeat (please imagine capitals on) I have never said there is no bias. Every time I’ve written on this topic I’ve only ever offered my own direct experience to say there is no deliberate, organised, planned BBC campaign to do down the SNP, oppose independence or vilify Yes.

Bias takes many forms and comes from many sources, none of them acceptable professionally but some, no doubt understandably, as in any large organisation with multiple platforms, working round the clock producing an endless stream of output.

The truth is that no news organisation is free from bias no matter how hard they try because it is an objective – and aspiration – that can never be achieved 100 per cent. Human frailty and work pressures ensure that several times a day someone somewhere will have legitimate cause to claim a report does not accurately reflect what they believe to be true.

When you add in other factors like corporate mindset and, yes, personal viewpoints masquerading as fact, it is inevitable that some output will appear compromised.

Personally, I believe we have undergone a transformation in newsgathering and information dissemination in which old certainties and methods have been changed or dismantled. Put another way, standards have fallen, probably in proportion to the sheer amount of information now sloshing about in the ether. To keep up with rapidly advancing technology – and in response to government public spending cuts endorsed by voters – the BBC has found itself under crushing financial pressure. Therefore some budgets were cut, notably staffing. Take away a tier of decision-makers like programme editors and you remove an essential filter through which material is screened before broadcast. Their role was supervisory asking questions like: Are we right to describe a political initiative this way? Could the opposition fairly complain about it? Why are we doing yet another item on the same subject? Do we need more balance? Without them the rigour goes.

Sometimes it’s just bad journalism, either in the framing of an item, the choice of guests or the quality of script and questions. That comes from both inexperience (not helped by removing through redundancy those with the knowledge to pass on) and, conversely, the sloppiness that comes from long experience. We all get lazy. A good example in recent months was a radio interview with two economics academics, both known as Better Together old hands but not introduced as such – in other words identified as if neutral. Anyone with knowledge of the referendum would have known their affiliation which I assume the producer didn’t. The experienced interviewer then asked them non-challenging, soft questions about the possible consequences of independence including a shrug-of-the-shoulder effort to the effect that ‘…it would all be terribly complicated…’ I listened in horror to an inept, uninformative item that gave a misleading impression. It failed every tests of BBC journalism. I said to myself: They can hardly object that critics say they’re biased if that’s the quality of the output.

Another thing a good editor does is look at the continuity of coverage over a longer period. For instance, the best stories are based on criticism – something someone doesn’t want you to know. (Nowadays that’s usually the SNP government). Therefore it makes sense that a correspondent keeps in touch with those looking to expose shortcomings. In other words, the opposition. They, in turn, are fed inside information from sources who share their political affiliation. It could be in health, for example, and a good correspondent gets a stream of material from an opposition source about problems in hospitals that embarrasses the government. That is journalism. But a good editor will spot when the weight of similar attack stories seems excessive and turns into an area of public concern in itself. It’s obvious that not everything in a given field like health is bad news or the NHS would stop functioning. The reality is that there are heartbreakingly good stories in our hospitals every day and world leading work is done. Journalism is by definition selective. So an editor would look to balance his output over time with good stories. No editor – less chance of balance.

I know it doesn’t fit the blood lust of condemnation but doesn’t it sound a bit more plausible than a coven of executives scheming Sturgeon’s downfall and instructing reporters to do the dirty work?

Someone in the responses thinks the BBC is best pals with the Liberals’ press office so just gets them on air instead of the Greens…

Someone else thinks if you’re Unionist, your face fits and you get on and that’s why I apparently didn’t – nothing to do with my aversion to promotion to any management role then or my total unsuitability for the job…

Another says you can’t be a former Tory activist and be neutral…

And someone suggests they only started being anti SNP after they hired me…

(I must have been the only one not in the know. Or maybe they started when I left. (‘Right, Bateman’s away. Let’s get the Nats.’)

It is true that, even to me, there are items which sound so wrong, so unbalanced that I understand perfectly why a consumer would deduce there is deliberate bias, although the obsessive scrutiny of detail is just sad – a pro SNP story drops down the online page! A mistake at a Labour council is headlined ‘Council in scandal’ but a mistake at an SNP council is headlined ‘SNP council in scandal’ !!

Our capacity for outrage is outstripping national productivity.

But others recognise that you don’t need a conspiracy to produce an effect and I agree. We all work to the boss. Yet my sense is that at BBC Scotland staff have been more afraid of managers because they’ve shown a willingness to sack them than a desire to distort the news to order.

To those convinced Pacific Quay is a bastion of Unionism, wittingly or otherwise, I should point out, contrary to some of my correspondents, that two heads of the news department in recent years have been, so far as I know, Scottish Nationalists – one of them led the Yes campaign, Blair Jenkins. People don’t as a rule talk about how they vote (it never bothered me) but I know for certain at least one on air presenter whom you also know, who is a committed nationalist. There are Yes-voting producers of my ken. I’m aware of one manager who definitely voted SNP and of another who backs independence and reads this blog – (hi). Both John Nicolson and Brendan O’Hara worked at BBC Scotland. I have no reason to believe the political make up of the staff is any different from wider Scotland.

Beware of the groupthink you accuse journalists of perpetrating. One correspondent says most posters here are against me therefore that proves it. In other words, if enough of us say it, we’ll drown you out, never mind the facts. (I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way.)

Another suggests the ex BBC man now working for Nicola Sturgeon might be a double agent sabotaging her efforts. So that’s why they lost all those seats!

Let’s stop making ourselves look silly. There are genuine concerns about BBC Scotland and I’m doubtful about the SNP hands-off strategy which avoids confronting real broadcast issues head on. But remember that the SNP after a Yes vote has no intention of destroying what is there but rather building on it to produce a better service. Criticism would be better focussed on that plan than demonising individuals (some of whom don’t even write the scripts they read). The wilder the accusations, the more extreme the reactions, the easier it is for the BBC to sweep them aside.

There’s also a feeling that relentless blaming of the broadcasters shifts responsibility for SNP failures away from where it belongs. Blasting the Beeb over coverage of education stats won’t help the kids at school. Asking the SNP questions might.

An activist dialogue with the party about the BBC, conducted in reasonable terms, might result in a better SNP approach to broadcast shortcomings AND make the corporation think harder about quality journalism and balance.

Which reminds me: someone asks if the BBC showed how other small countries were faring independently during the indyref. Yes, they did. Allan Little went to Scandinavia.

The best summation is this from Chris. I concur.

Everyone has an opinion Derek, but not all of those criticising the BBC do so from a splendid isolation beyond the BBC – some of us have also worked there in the past and have had major issues on London’s patrician relationship with Glasgow. I agree with yourself that there is no direct edict from above – “destroy the Nats!” – but there is a group think in parts of the Beeb based on a variety of factors that I do think can help to create an atmosphere of bias in places. With staff jobs disappeared, and people now on short term contracts, the mantra of “you’re only as good as your last job” is one that focuses the mind if you are going from three month contracts to three month contracts, for example. Don’t upset the apple cart – keep your head down, do what is asked, and you might just be back again next week. 

There will nevertheless be individuals for whom many of us will have issues – Nick Robinson in 2014 with his edited Alex Salmond comment of “he couldn’t answer” is one that I have never been able to justify. But I do also buy into the idea of a decline in journalistic standards, an under-investment in investigative journalism and documentary, and an over-reliance on newspapers as unquestionable sources. On another front, a lot of output is also made by indies these days, and I think there are some issues there also. Mentorn Scotland’s handling of Question Time is appalling, for example, and I’m not just asking as a viewer today, but as someone who has a friend who has shared much experience with me of having worked on the series for many months. 

There is a lot the BBC gets right, but in these days of constitutional urgency, every single error gets amplified a hundred fold. Whether the BBC is biased is one question, but the fact that it is perceived to be biased, with allegations that it somehow never seems to satisfactorily address, is what ultimately will hole it below the waterline. As much as it is impossible to blame everyone in the BBC for being biased, it is also equally impossible to accuse every viewer/listener with a grievance of having no genuine issue of concern. There are issues on both sides. The tragedy is that a lot of good folk at the BBC are as much a victim of all this as many of the viewers who feel so aggrieved. The ultimate failure is in management at the corporation.

Thank you for listening. That’s all from us for tonight. Sleep well. Here’s the national anthem….

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35 thoughts on “That’s All For Now

  1. That’s the thing Derek, its not a ‘conspiracy’, its an accumulation of intent by individuals, alongside some active decision making higher up to ‘not go hard on the Tories’ for example.

    Pushing back is nigh on impossible inside the BBC and the sideways promotion/demotion is the technique for keeping dissenting voices down .. where the relevant management decides its Tory beliefs are the important message.

    Those I left behind at the BBC are wither disguising their colours, or worse, blithely accepting non-reporting and misreporting that they can see for themselves.

    I really do imagine that 70% inside are good honest socially aware people. But the remaining 30% are either actively right wing, or care nothing of the impact of the BBC disinformation game. The 30% are at the top, in production, or in editing.

    I still have to watch the BBC – for so many things it is apolitical, and excellent, but when I weigh up the state of the UK and their divisive inability to criticise it … well, you know what I think.

  2. I think this is going to be like the BBC’s output – full of repeats.

    I think I accept and agree with most of what Derek says. But I would take issue with the notion that someone formerly holding a high position in a party can be an objective journalist – perhaps not impossible, but very difficult, even though we all have our biases.

    One further point is that the BBC never engages in debate over criticism and resorts to the usual cliches and justifications. There is no effective oversight or calling to account and no independent analysis of how well or otherwise it is meeting its statutory obligations. So while it issues endless FOI’s and gleefully reports on hospital inspections, Audit Scotland reports etc there is nothing similar being done to audit the BBC’s output.

  3. THOMAS Brotherston

    I’m quite willing to believe that there will be decent people working in the BBC and that by and large there is no ” party line”
    However when the people recruited to work as journalists are the products themselves of comfortable middle class homes steeped in middle class values and having gone to ” good schools” resulting in them having the mandatory university education needed to qualify for the post you have in essence the first screening process. There is virtually no need for ideological direction. You have assembled a relatively homogeneous cohort.
    If you then overlay that with an atmosphere of fear generated by job losses and budget cuts, with temporary contracts hanging like the sword of Damocles over everyone’s head then the desire to deliver the product becomes one of self survival. When history comes to be written the Nuremberg defence won’t apply to the BBC because there was order to be obeyed. Maybe the Stockholm syndrome will be cited
    . But if the output of all the arms of the BBC was the only evidence it’s use as a vehicle for propaganda that would be one thing but surely it is possible for the corporation to go through a single day without the subliminal propaganda of discrete placement of the union flag. Even in the aisles of the supermarket it is almost impossible to purchase any product not smothered in the union flag. Just think of how that is achieved. But maybe it’s my imagination or maybe it’s not.

  4. Och, Derek, you are doing your best to be even handed, but it is falling on increasingly deaf ears.
    There are elements of ‘some of my best friends are Catholics’, and Eichmann’s Nuremberg defence: ‘I was only obeying orders.’ in your thoughtful and rueful piece.
    There is a hint of ‘pour rechercher les temps perdus’ in your prose, a hankering after times past, when the BBC hired professionals and let them get on with the job without a jobsworth clerk breathing down their necks counting the pennies.
    Tonight on Reporting Scotland, the CBI, and the Confederation of Small Businesses were featured, calling for a Soft Brexit, and access to the Single Market, and Freedom of Movement, because anything less would be ruinous to the Scottish economy. Mundell was on cuddling a fish and insisting that Scotland must stay in the Common Fisheries Policy.
    Davidson of course is no where to be seen.
    Where were these people when our FM and the SNP/Green Scottish Government set out this alternative strategy for 62% Scotland Remain last winter?
    They were following Davidson about the land filming her feeding cows, vrooming about the Trossachs on a disability scooter while her Government’s hit squad Atos was stripping 1000 disabled folk a week of their motability vehicles, and she was backing Big T to get the best deal for Britain, and vowed to make Britain, like Trump’s America, great again.
    If indeed journalists and editors at the BBC are keeping their three months contracts heads below the parapet, and will write to Unionist order, then the BBC, and by extension, the Fourth Estate, are compromised, and merely a propaganda tool of the Scottish, and ultimately, English Establishment.
    The Storm clouds are gathering, Derek.

    • Absolutely correct Jack. The British State are determined that Scotland will never gain its independence, and its main propaganda outlet is the B.B.C. And while its influence may be diminishing, along with the rest of the M.S.M, it is still the most potent weapon in their considerable arsenal.
      Unfortunately, the supporters of independence still have to engage with the broadcaster, as not do so, would provoke accusations of now wanting to publicise our point of view when we were given the opportunity, despite on most occasions, being outnumbered by unionist supporting commentators.
      Until the creation of the S.B.S, an S.N.P Scottish Government has no chance of there being a level playing field in respect of news/current affairs reporting, and we will just have to carry on pointing out the bias that exists in an organisation, which in many aspects, is not fit for purpose.

  5. Hi Derek – I have never posted here before so – first off – can I thank you for all the time and effort you put into the blog and the Newsnet Scotland podcasts? – I am an avid consumer and sometimes these news outlets have managed to keep me sane amongst the torrential output of SNP BAD – INDY BAD that we get from the Scottish/British Press.

    I’ve spent many years as an NHS worker and suspect the BBC is a large (very large) bureacracy with some similarities to the NHS. I believe sometimes people (Joe Public) suspect ‘The NHS’ follows some kind of ‘line’ on issues. It really isn’t like that in my experience (and like you – I can only talk about my own experience). Sure – senior management will have ‘lines’ that they try to shape, run and promote – but with a large workforce of hard-bitten healthcare professionals it would simply be impossible to ‘force’ a line (for more than a very short time). Having said that – there almost certainly is some kind of NHS Point of View (Group Think?) on many issues – simply because of the kinds of people who go willingly into NHS work and stay in it – and due to the ‘realities’ these workers experience on a daily basis.

    I confess that listening to the BBC Scotland news and comment output makes my blood boil at regular intervals (I don’t have a TV – I don’t think I could take that aggravation). Strangely – despite all the output I hear that I feel has a slant on it – I still find myself back listening to the BBC. Why? – Maybe ‘because it is there’ – but also maybe – despite all its many faults – (and they are many) it still offers a pretty comprehensive operation. I try to listen to World Service news during the evening and – although there are lots of ‘Britania-mode’ moments I still get a lot from this news service. Similarly I regularly check news on the BBC webpages.

    To my mind a real problem with BBC radio Scotland and radio 4 (and to a lesser degree World Service) is this much observed tendency to frame news/current affairs around the output of the London/Scottish newspapers. Is this to do with convenience (due to absence of experienced BBC staffers) or what? The radio news/current affairs programmes will ‘report’ the newspapers and then ‘frame’ their coverage around the ‘stories’ selected by those same newspapers. The programmes will invite guest journalists to discuss these ‘stories’ from those very same newspapers (presenting these print journalists as if they are impartial and expert witnesses). This results in the ‘objective’ broadcasters’ output being largely (at times entirely) moulded by the London/Scottish newspapers (which are entitled to be ‘partisan/biased’ in a way that the ‘objective’ broadcasters are not supposed to be).

    Sorry for being so long-winded. What I suppose I’m trying to say is that – yes – when I allow myself to calm down enough I too would view the various BBC biases as ‘Group Think’ and ‘BBC Point of View’ rather than some powerful conspiracy involving the vast bulk of the news/current affairs staff. However, I do have to wonder about this apparent constant ‘surrender’ of the news/current affairs agenda by the broadcast media to the newspapers. It does seem a pretty constant phenomenon and I wonder (genuine question) is this idea of ‘framing’ the news/current affairs output around a ‘What The Papers Say’ – type of format something that is determined from the top – or simply a result of poor standards and absence of experienced and committed broadcast journalist staffers on the ground? –
    Thanks, Ludo

  6. I am glad this is your last piece on the subject…. because I want you hale and hearty for writing your thoughts and observations about the massive events that are likely to unfold over the next 12 months.

    At times you seem to have been scratching a wound and allowing it to fester – definitely time to move on!

    I will not offer any further opinion about the BBC on this blog either only to say that as an SNP member and devout independentista I feel the the SNP need to get a grip and deal with the media differently. If the SNP raise their game so must the media and it would be much harder to slant stories.

    Calling Ruth Davidson a ‘one trick pony’ is a good start

  7. Gavin C Barrie

    Yes Derek, leave the BBC behind and apply your thinking to your blog and allow us to enjoy, and comment, on your future thoughts.

    I stopped buying the Herald finally, when it posted a 1/4 page sized colour photo of Marg Curran and Jim Murphy smiling, hand in hand, and on the same page a postage stamp sized black and white photo of Alec Salmond deep in thought, or arguably scowling. I wish I kept a copy of that issue. That issue was the straw that broke for me, having been increasingly concerned with the Herald’s content.

    And so with the BBC, a similar journey of increasing discontent at one-sided articles, and so I stopped paying the license fee. and to repeat myself, ” I’m not paying to be lied to” to the concerned BBC reps. enquiring why I hadn’t paid, “can we come in and see if you have a television?”.

    The continual BBC enabled denigration of our education and the health service is despicable. Of course these complex services are easy targets to seek out faults. To whoever is reading this – have you, or those near to you had NHS treatment, was it satisfactory? Are your children attending a satisfactory school and receiving a good education?

    finally,I am not an experienced political activist, but I simply cannot comprehend how people of middle income or less, voted Tory and so endorsed Teresa May and Ruth Davidson.

  8. “When you add in other factors like corporate mindset and, yes, personal viewpoints masquerading as fact, it is inevitable that some output will appear compromised.”
    But surely “corporate mindset” is exactly what the BBC’s critics are complaining about here, Derek. The fact that there are no staff meeting with “How best to undermine Scottish Independence” on the agenda under Special Business does not mean that the allegations of bias are false. And when you layer this mindset on top of “personal viewpoints masquerading as fact” and add the other factor, “the downright lie”, we end up with news pieces like Nick Robinson’s notorious one on Salmond’s supposed failure to answer his question in September 2014.
    News presentation should be easy to police for broad accuracy and fairness if there is a will to do so. The article or programme does not just disappear into memory like a pub conversation or tea-break debate. It can be reassessed for quality and truth. Take the Robinson piece; tt was a gross misrepresentation of what really happened and it was timed to undermine the case for independence at a key point in the campaign. But there should be no “inevitability” about such output which wouldn’t exist if there was genuine will at the BBC to protect us from it. Everybody responsible for that news story must have been aware what was happening and if there had been any genuine reassessment of it at managerial level then Robinson would have been censured and even disciplined. Instead the incident is known only to online “geeks” like us who then have to listen to weak excuses by journalists telling us that such output is inevitable.
    When bias is ingrained into the very culture of news-making there is no need for active conspiracy and no need to address the concerns of frustrated viewers when they complain.

  9. You say that bias is not always deliberate and I understand that but what I don’t understand is that even though people have proved them to be bias in many occasions, people protesting outside BBC Glasgow over their bias they still carried on.

    The problem with the BBC is that anyone who watches or records live tv are forced into buying a licence whether or not they watch BBC programmes, they don’t need to keep their viewer happy because the money keeps rolling in and they have nothing to lose by having a bias streak.

    And it’s not just bias, it started way back on 9th September 2001 when a BBC reporter stood in front of the camera and broadcast to the BBC viewers that world trade centre tower 7 had fallen while viewers saw it still standing behind the reporter.

    I think that is where it was noticed by more people that one incident could be a mistake but many incidents of misreporting and one sided views as was seen during the referendum.

    The BBC doesn’t depend on viewing figures and advertising so they don’t need to keep anyone happy except the ones who ensure that forcing people to pay over £140 a year and that certainly not the viewers.

  10. I think you have not caught the paradigm shift away from viewing broadcast TV entirely.

    Yesterday’s medium, headed the way of silent movies and steam trains

  11. Love your live interviews. Agree with you about independence issues. Oddly enough, I agree with Jack Collatin above. Everyone has a blind spot. Perhaps BBC Scotland also has one, as do you. Not to claim prejudice, but to claim an unerring bias. By them.

    You and I will never agree on this subject,

    Words mean a lot, and journalistic phrasing is frankly contemptuous of the independence case.

    It is a far, far better thing that you do now than you ever did before.

    So, best wishes for the future Derek

  12. Never talk about religion or politics in polite company – said mainly by those who benefit most from our ignorance. Just who turned down the wick on the enlightenment and why?

    Maybe that guy was right when he said “if by voting we could actually change anything of substance, they would never allow it”.

  13. Davy, when it gets right down to it, ‘they’ rule the world and all creatures who walk, crawl and swim in it.
    ‘They’ certainly control the media and monitor its output…

    • No they don’t. As long as there is one Jack Collatin they, just don’t.

    • Aye rust never sleeps eh. Some think they cant fool all of the people all of the time but our overlords know they don’t have too. Fool enough of them for long enough (media control?) is all they need to do.

      They get plenty of help from those who will avoid the truth if it’s inconvenient or if it throws a negative slant on their preconceptions. Add those who think they are doing well enough already and wont rock the boat for fear of fiscal punishment and you have political stagnation (at best) a kind of ground hog day.

      They are quite literally fiddling while Rome burns.

  14. So its also just coincidence that when the labour party were in governmemt in Scotland they were given a free ride and that the number of FOI requests has skyrocketed since the SNP came to power.

  15. Derek,

    I posted the below in one of your articles in December 2016, and I can’t think of expressing it any other way.

    Times and events move on however, and like many others, I look on at the Tory Inferno in London with horror, but not with surprise at the growing awareness in England, that the press and the BBC are not doing their jobs properly, and the most likely beneficiary are the Government.

    A voters role check would provided the number of residents, a school check would show how many pupils are not present, a rent check would show… well you get the idea. Normally the TV would be running constantly with the interviews from survivors. Growing suspicion from residents are being expressed of a coordinated downplaying of the disaster.

    So, with regards your comments re the BBC, I say the following. I hope the tone is not rude, that is not my intention. And I hope it will not get me banned from commenting. On this subject we do not see eye to eye, but I greatly value your work.

    I always enjoy the quality of your writing, and your reasoned arguments – even if on this subject I disagree with you.

    The evidence gathering by Mr Ponsonby and Prf Robertson is comprehensive. Up until their work all journalism could hide behind a batch of pro forma excuses.

    How much evidence do you need? I can think of a dozen blatant examples off the bat….aghhhh. But on this blog your readers can think of them too and plenty more besides.

    I’m happy for you that years ago, when you worked for the Beeb, you did not experience institutional bias, but lets be realistic, there wasn’t any sight of an Indy Ref then, was there? Think they’d employ you or your ilk today? Good luck with that, cause I don’t seem to see you getting called up as an expert on any of their shows, not like Mcternan or even Edwina Curry for heavens sake, to talk about the Scottish NHS.

    And here’s the thing, I loved the Beeb, was always politically aware, always against the likes of Murdoch. Defended it in debates with Americans.

    There was a contract and I paid it gladly and would have defended it to the last. Now its broken, and it wasn’t me or mine who ripped it to pieces and pissed all over it.

    And I am furious. In this light, billboards are the epitome of civil protest.

    You often defend the BBC with the tired old excuse of they didn’t mean it, its a new team, its a bedding in period etc, etc. Well I have over 20 years service in a male dominated workplace and like any female there could write a book about discrimination, so trust me when I say that the first line of defence when challenged on it is the ‘daft laddy’ defence of, oh we didn’t know, we didn’t mean it, its a new team, a bedding in period….

    The Beeb could publish the figures for how many people in Scotland have stopped paying the fee in the last 2 or 3 years. It is substantial. Any boss, in any other industry, loosing custom like that would be out on their ear.

    It is not accidental, it is not incompetence, it is not inexperience, it is not a bedding in period, it is not cut backs, it is clear and deliberate policy from the weather map up. And given its size and status, it has to be called out on it.

    • Daisy, thinking latterly, BBC London Bosses are quite happy if BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs lose viewers, and only the old traditional audience remains. Old Fogies like me who, unlike me, mourn the Passing of the White Heather Club and Doctor Finlay’s Casebook.

      Scotland 2016 was allowed to limp along for a whole year, with audiences in the mere thousands.
      It was a Unionist mouthpiece and a nice little earner for Herald,Times, Guardian, and DR hacks and opinion piece peddlers.
      How much did BBC Scotland spend on this amateurish Unionist propaganda porn?

      I doubt that any of the London Executive care a toss about the success or failure of the Scotland Branch.
      Campbell, Brewer, Robertson, Adams, Bird, Taylor, Fraser, Magnusson, all dance to the same London ‘traditional’ tune.
      Their Appraisal at year’s end will read; ‘Job Done’. The Nats have been contained yet again.

      It is not long ago that a certain religion ensured that a would be broadcasting hopeful was sent the stock rejection by post:

      ‘Thank you for your interest in the vacancy as Trainee Tea maker in the News Room.
      Unfortunately due to the high number of highly qualified applicants, we regret that you have not been invited to attend for interview on this occasion.’

      Derek would have been rattling about the World of News during those dark days…

  16. Sorry what a loads of codswallop I don’t give a damn about how and why the BBC are biased all I know is that their output IS BIASED and there is something very very wrong with that coming from a supposedly public service broadcaster.

    Is this fixable, probably not as this is now SOP and to fix it means a total and I mean total clear out of all working there.

    It is a bit like institutional racism discrimination that has become established as normal behaviour within a society or organization. That IS the BBC’s problem.

    Their bias is that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn it is the way they think and the way they work.

    Surprisingly NOT you never saw that as you were part of the organisation.

    And the new head of BBC Scotland is part of the problem NOT part of the solution.

    Unfortunately unlike a private company the BBC cant vanish due to not being financially viable and meeting its customers needs.

    Restructuring wont work here, not from the inside, nor the outside, the BBC needs to be dismantled totally for ANYTHING to CHANGE and we all know that this is not going to happen so nothing will change.

  17. well after reading a few comments on this and the previous thread , re the BBC anyone have any idea of the final score ? , it looks like BBC 0 – disgruntled posters eh 20-25-30 or more I am not sure how many people actually trust the output of BBC Scotland . However it dosent look like many .

  18. BTW Derek I did not say I thought there was someone at the BBC who was best friends with the LibDems, it was an example of the sort of thing which has to go on to explain why the BBC continues to have Rennie on more than Harvie.

    If things have gotten so bad that nobody at PQ can take the time to look at the election numbers and think ‘the LibDems’ are now all the way down in 4th, golly we had best change a bit’ then I’m afraid things have gotten so bad BBC Scotland, the organisation not the people, needs to be put out its misery for humane reasons.

    OR there is some sort of groupthink operating as your cited correspondent suggests whereby manifest election outcomes get ignored because they are in some way seen as inconvenient, or so temporary and unimportant that the belief is it will change back to ‘normal’ soon enough.

    I believe I also expressed that last thought too, it certainly explains a lot about BBC Scotland’s attitude to various things.

    I note you took no umbrage at my point about the embedded nature of Labour in Scottish institutional life. You just noted the LibDem bit.

    Maybe it is some trait of the journalistic mind to report like that, that too would explain a lot. I’m a scientist though and operating like that, cherry picking the juicy bits and binning the rest would get you hauled up on a charge of research misconduct. This serious not just because it distorts science but because we are not spending our own money but someone else’s, often the taxpayers’ by a remove or two (from the Research Councils). So it is fraud in a sense.

    If only public journalism had such a sense and ethics.

    It strikes me that budget cuts notwithstanding that BBC Scotland does not WANT to not be biased on the Independence question. They do after all have a charter which includes a responsibility to bring the country together. On such an issue, they have to be institutionally biased.

    You also ignore the testament by a lot of journalists at the end of the last indyref that BBC Scotland had gone into full, war time, propaganda mode. Where does this instinct to go there come from do you think Derek?

    How does a want to be balanced on all issues institution suddenly go into that mode? And retain Yes staff AND not instil an at least implicit message in all the staff that this is the mode that Aunty Head Office will be pleased with. You cannot see that, I cannot see how you cannot see that.

  19. I suppose some people are very prone to suggestion, so if they read that gazing at crystals will cure gout enough times they will believe that gazing at crystals will cure gout. Then they get in the internet and tell anyone who can be bothered listening that that gazing at crystals will cure gout, and so on, and so on.

  20. cyril mitchell

    Ruth Davidson should by now be facing the same incessant pressure over Brexit as the FM endured during the GE over Indyref2. She isn’t.

  21. Martin Bell is appearing at the Book Festival on 24th August, talking about some of these issues (cahired by Allan Little!). Should be interesting 🙂

  22. Strange is it not that Tory ideology is so firmly against any kind of state ownership, except when it comes to the BBC.

    Lets face the fact that they are THE state broadcaster, they promote Britain through the world service and steer public consensus and opinion with ease. Their huge budget and previous reputation for accuracy and impartiality make this possible.

    Any drive to split the union is seen as an attack on the very state they serve, on THEM!

    When a banana republic revolts, the first targets for takeover are usually TV and radio stations. Tell the people you are now firmly in control, if no one replaces you, enough of them will do as they are told.

  23. I’m even more curious now, which ones made you laugh, nod or bash your head off the wall. We need feedback, how do I know if I’m paranoid if you don’t confirm it.

  24. Hey! We’re never going to get a fair crack from the BBC and I can kind of live with that now. We must be strong enough to get what we need with other means. I don’t want to be living in an independant Scotland if people are going to be pilloried for having a fly listen to Bryan Burnett in the evening. We are bigger than that. Derek, keep on going with your comments that a lot of people enjoy. We can disagree amicably at times as that is what adults do.

  25. If you regard the BBC as an organism that has a sense of self-preservation, it goes some way towards explaining their unbalanced output; the organism acts to preserve the status quo, pushing against factors which will disrupt it, such as Scots independence. We can all recall times we know beyond doubt that the BBC has shown it’s bias. It is endemic. A common trope is to present commentators, such as the the profs Gallagher as “neutral” but to qualify pro-indy commentators as “former SNP activist” or suchlike. This immediately sets the ground rules for how listeners judge their input. Recently Drivetime has Jim Sillars (former depute leader of SNP) waxing lyrical about how the SNP had it wrong on Brexit. NO MENTION AT ALL of Jim’s oft stated opinion about being out of the EU.

    Check this old article;

    It really hits the spot. The killer blow is in the footnote.

  26. Sorry, Derek, but I believe the bias is at the very highest levels where there is the conviction that ‘saving the Union’ is a given. This is the same mindset that caused the appalling interference by the UK Civil Service in the independence referendum (admitted, if you recall). Some is done by people like Robinson who are simply committed unionists and some by people who know where their bread is buttered and have no desire to go against what you refer to as corporate culture. The entirety of it is a blatant, pervasive bias, not just a bit here and there through sloppiness or inexperience.

  27. Derek,

    You’re the best indy blogger out there and the one I turn to first when switching on the IPad. Put all this behind you and concentrate on keeping us in the picture as the disaster of Brexit unfolds. We need you.

    I used to buy the Scotsman and the Herald and watched/listened to BBC News. I do none of these things any more.

  28. Cadogan Enright

    Derek, you are sincere, but mistaken. There are none as blind as those who will not see. It is inexcusable to continue to explain away the BBC in Scotland

    • This is really sad.
      Derek, all power to you on loyalty to your colleagues, evenhandedness in a heated debate and seriously trying to get to grips with the mechanisms of bias.
      But when all’s said and done the plain truth is that the BBC on Scotland isn’t fit for purpose. Whatever the reason it is frankly unwatchable. The challenge for the SNP and the movement is not how to engage with a farcical propaganda outfit, but rather how to go round it and develop alternative public discussions. And with all respect to the flowering of Indy media, a few WordPress sites isn’t going to cut it.

  29. Derek has decried criticism that hasn’t made the effort to recognise his actual views on the BBC, that can be seen in his review of ‘London Calling’:

    Derek says

    “… failings in BBC journalism that could have been overcome if, in my view, internal oversight had been good enough, standards set high enough and had staff not been run ragged by poor management and relentless budget cuts.”

    My view is that BBC ‘Scotland’ is beyond repair, but I can’t agree that he doesn’t recognise bias in the output.

    It’s two years ago now, Derek, and you also said,

    “It seems that years of executive neglect of documented harassment and ill-treatment of staff in news and current affairs may be coming to a head at BBC Scotland….”

    “… PQ has been a desperately unhappy place for too long with the journalists’ organiser describing relations there as the worst he’d seen in 20 years as a union rep. Former colleagues deserve better. Recent reports suggest a day of redemption may be near for them.”

    What was the outcome? How is current affairs harassment and ill-treatment? Whither the day of redemption? On you go, you know you can’t resist 🙂

  30. Derek, take a different perspective for a moment. Suppose you are neither a unionist nor independentist, but strictly impartial and a disinterested neutral observer. Do you believe that the ScotRef issues prior to the referendum will be thoroughly researched, properly analysed, rigorously tested, and dispassionately presented to educate and inform the Scottish electorate on a BBC network?

    If your answer is yes, then I salute you as a hopeless lost cause and walk away.

    I don’t care if there is institutional bias, systemic bias, natural predilection for UK perspective, or simple ineptitude and inefficiency. What does the reason matter at the end of the day?

    What matters is whether the ScotRef narrative will be distorted by the BBC and the electorate left uninformed, or worse misinformed, about the salient issues prior to the vote.

    My grievance is not with the BBC, (though I can’t find a good word to say about them), but leave them be in their cosy well feathered nest. My grievance is with Broadcasting being reserved to Westminster, which will not permit Organic Scottish Broadcast media to exist. Nevermind our own digital stations, we can’t even get our own News slot.

    Let the BBC stand or fall on merit. But why deny Scottish Broadcasting simple parity? The answer we all know is to suppress dissent and debunking of BBC “truth”. Nevermind an alternative voice broadcasting in Scotland, the BBC cannot even bear to support comments beneath its Scottish News articles for fear the truth will out.

    You’re correct Derek. What is happening in Scotland’s ether is not simply bias, it is something a lot more sophisticated and sinister, and the BBC is a mechanism near the heart of it.

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