Oh Dear! New Labour’s Control of BBC Scotland Must Be Curbed 285


Beyond doubt, a significant number of Scottish citizens are disturbed at what they perceive as a systemic bias in the BBC against Scottish independence. I have read some sixty internet articles to the same effect in the last 24 hours. There is a citizens internet revolt against the mainstream here.

That BBC bias is displayed in the selection of which news stories to present related to independence, in the selection of guests on programmes, in the selection of which facts to highlight within the selected stories, in the comment provided by BBC journalists, and in the treatment afforded to guests, the way guests are presented, the respect they are or are not given and the opportunity they have to present their arguments.

Yesterday’s coverage of the official, civil service prepared GERS report indicating that Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK’s public finances brought these matters to a head.

The BBC’s own journalists presented the report solely as indicating Scotland had a fiscal deficit, without the BBC commenters saying that Scotland’s finances were much better than the rest of the UK – despite the fact that the determination of the comparison is the avowed main purpose of the report.

The BBC subordinated the GERS report to a commentary by the Fraser of Allander Institute allegedly indicating Scotland’s economy was too weak to sustain independence. They ran the story all day but did not reveal once that the Fraser Institute is a New Labour “think-tank”, and its head is the husband of Wendy Alexander, failed New Labour leader, and brother-in-law of shadow Foreign Minister Douglas Alexander. Fraser has an appalling forecasting record, having issued dire and completely wrong forecasts on growth ever since the SNP came to power in Holyrood.
[My dad used to work for Hugh Fraser, a total bastard incidentally]. It is, in short, not a real economic institute at all but another New Labour device to fund undeclared political contributions in effect to the party (cf the Smith Institute).

The GERS report was also subordinated in news bulletings to a “leaked” report about Scotland’s future spending choices. The apocalyptic tone of the BBC reporting of this bore no relation to the report’s contents. They continually showed the report with a graphic of a cover stamped Top Secret – an entirely false graphic actually made by the No campaign and circulated by them with a press release. This leaked report was the number one news story, and television guests invited to discuss it in the course of the day were unionist to nationalist in the ratio of 17 to 3.

Just one day, but part of an unbroked pattern of behaviour by BBC Scotland.

Broadcast media does have a real impact on public opinion and voting intentions. BBC Scotland is particularly influential as there is limited alternative broadcasting which reflects across its output Scots culture and interests.

Fairness in an election campaign is a much wider concept than the process of voting, and fairness of access to broadcast media is an extremely important component of that. It is plain that, as things stand, the referendum campaign will not be free and fair.

Action must be taken now. That necessary and urgent action is for Alex Salmond and the Government of Scotland to approach the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and request that the subordinate Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR, ponounced Oh Dear!) deploy immediately an election monitoring mission to cover the referendum.

I have witnessed ODIHR monitoring operations in action, and once had a job interview in Warsaw to be Head of ODIHR. In this, the pre-campaign period, ODIHR will immediately despatch a small team to Scotland of which the principal task will be media monitoring. They will be guided by this ODIHR media monitoring handbook.

This details what they analyse, including these criteria:

Were election candidates and political parties given equal opportunity to present their campaigns and platforms to the electorate through the media?

Did election candidates or political parties have equal or equitable access on a non-discriminatory basis to public/state media?

Were the relevant types of television programmes, such as news programmes or debates, unbiased?

Yes, ODIHR can and does monitor referenda as well as elections – the guidelines are easily followed mutatis mutandi.

It Salmond asks for an OSCE observation mission, I have no doubt it will be granted – there is a strong presumption in favour of missions within the OSCE, and member states like Russia repeatedly complain there should be more monitoring of the West, not just the East. It is hard to see on what grounds the Unionists can oppose international election monitors. They could not in practice stop it. Russia and Ukraine, for example, hate OSCE election observers in their country but have been obliged to accept them. To refuse would likely mean expulsion from the OSCE.

I believe the reason international observers have not yet been requested is a false understanding of their brief, ie that they only check the balloting and counting. That is not true at all – they monitor all the issues around fairness in a holistic way. Their brief is much wider than that of the UK Electoral Commission. The referendum already having been announced, we are already in the designated pre-campaign period. The OSCE observers would come immediately.

The clock is ticking. Alex Salmond must ACT.


285 thoughts on “Oh Dear! New Labour’s Control of BBC Scotland Must Be Curbed

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  • David McCann

    In a nutshell Craig. Absolutely essential we get fair and unbiased coverage from our so called state broadcaster. One only has to look at the Savile affair, to witness how they close ranks when exposed.

  • mike cobley

    Much as I am opposed to independence, I completely agree with the thrust of yr piece. The ethos of a nation’s elections is not restricted to the mechanics of voting and counting, but takes in the wider media context as well. It would be a source of considerable joy to see the over-preponderantly rightwing media held to account.

  • RevStu

    Terrific stuff, but bits like this:

    “television guests invited to discuss it in the course of the day were unionist to nationalist in the ratio of 17 to 3”

    cry out for citations. You’ve clearly gone to the trouble of counting them, so why not give us the list of names?

  • English Knight

    Thanks to the Internet and the esoterics, the spell of the eye in the triangle spin devils is now broken. People are able to see through spin in REAL TIME now. In fact the spin of those toilet compromised devils hired at BBC Scotland may cause more people to vote YES, if only as a protest against their nauseating spin. Next time, when we have an Obama solemnly pledging before a worldwide audience to “save the 800k Muslims of Benghazi” (when it was in fact a CIA Al-Qaeda gang that attacked gaddafy right from the onset!) with a no fly zone as a guise to cluster bomb 50,000 gaddafy forces, we might just have a brave reporter point a finger (or throw a shoe) and start guffawing at the spin. Similarly a diplomat (might just have ended up with a Nobel Peace Prize for averting WW3) should have stood up with an incessant “ha haha hahaha hahah hhahahahaha,hahahahaha, hahahahhhhhhha,hahahahahhhahhhhha” guffaw at 911 Netanyahu with his cartoon spin on the UN Podium.

  • Dave Lewis

    A good piece Craig, I am getting fed up with the one sided bias from BBC, something needs to done before it to late, I thought we lived in a democracy not in a manipulated media state. Fair and unbiased reporting should be the norm it is time the BBC was brought to book.

  • Geoff Huijer

    I’m glad you have written this article; I will forward to as many people as possible.
    Many of my friends are completely unaware of the FACTS as they rely on the BBC as
    their information source.

    The BBC (and MSM) must be held to account for this appalling abuse of
    their power. Unless that happens we will not have a free and fair referendum.

    Complaints by members to the BBC get shirked off so some larger force
    needs to come into play.

    Thank you for helping enlighten people.

  • Gerry Fisher

    A minor and irrelevant point but

    Hugh Fraser may have been a bastard in your or your dad’s ayes but it should go on the record that at a time when the financial survival of the SNP was a question, he saved the Party with a loan which bought the North Charlotte Street HQ.

    Oh and the first Director of the Allendar was an SNP supporter and candidate!

  • scotchman

    Went onto the BBC website to complain about BBC Scotland coverage of GERS v distractions. Online form offers a number of options for the TV service you’d like to complain about.

    These include the main terrestrial channels BBC 1-4, CBeebies, BBC Parliament / America / Canada / Knowledge / Lifestyle etc. BBC Alba even has an option. The one option which is missing is BBC Scotland!

    It’s all too easy to become paranoid……

  • George Anderson

    I agree that Alex Salmond should take this step. It is vital that we have a fair and honest referendum and it is equally clear that the Unionists have control of the BBC and the media in general and are determined to prevent a fair and open debate taking place.

    We must take every step to secure a fair debate, because the alternative is submission to bullies or violence.

    As democrats we have a responsibility to ensure that this referendum is conducted properly. The SNP have done a great job to secure the referendum Alex Salmond must act now to protect it.

  • Rob Royston

    It is not surprising that there were comments on the previous thread from people who fear reprisals if they vote YES in the referendum. The established political parties have been using the national broadcaster for their own propaganda for years now and it is well known that dishonest people and unlawful people are generally one and the same.

  • muttley79

    A very good article Craig. Another example of the blatant bias was when David Cameron gave his speech on the EU referendum. The Scottish edition of Newsnight decided to ignore the obvious implications of this for the No campaign, and instead questioned the SNP on the EU! There was no interview with Alastair Darling or anybody from the No side at all! As far as I am aware no Scottish journalist has asked Darling any questions on the EU after Cameron’s speech. I agree with you on requesting international observers (I don’t know anything about the group you mentioned).

    I think what is also required is a cited article or essay about the long-term links between the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish media, both print and broadcast. The story about Kirsty Wark and Jack McConnell is well known. BBC figures are on record as describing Salmond as a “dictator” (Douglas Fraser), and about loathing him (Jackie Bird). As far as I can tell there is extensive links between the Scottish Labour Party and the media in Scotland. This needs to brought to the attention of as much people as possible in Scotland and elsewhere. I believe what we are witnessing at present is Pravada-like behaviour from the media in Scotland (there are a number of honourable exceptions, such as Iain McWhirter, Lesley Riddoch, Ian Bell, Derek Bateman, Isobel Fraser, Bernard Ponsonby etc). However, generally they simply will not put the No campaign under any scrutiny at all. Both campaigns need to be scrutinised in the same manner because otherwise democracy in Scotland will have been subverted.

  • DtP

    Yesterday’s Toady programme had Evan Davis rug munching Yvette Cooper over their immigration mae culpa – truly pathetic.

  • Julian

    It is in the long-term best interest of both countries for the referendum and the campaigns to be seen to be fair. I actually think that failing to have “devoMax” on the ballot restricts options.

    If the result is perceived in Scotland to have been “gerrymandered” it is simply going to leave a backlog of resentment and anger on both sides of the border, which is not conducive to a good relationship between England and Scotland, whatever the future brings. I never cease to be amazed by how short-termist, cack-handed and inept our ruling classes are. The BBC has always been on the side of reaction – it got its charter for propaganda during the 1926 General Strike, but I feel it has got worse since the Gilligan Affair.

  • Michael Heron

    Does this have to come from a government? What about those of us who are not in positions of power but want to ensure a fair referendum? Can’t the people petition for oversight?

  • CameronB

    Thank you for putting your gravitas behind calls for international observers. I think this should have been arranged to coordinate with the signing of the ‘Edinburgh Agreement’, but hey ho. The state broadcaster is certainly presenting a very one-sided picture, as befits the organisation’s origins disseminating Foreign Office propaganda. Thankfully though, grass-roots movements are very difficult to stop, as the roots tend to spread everywhere. 🙂

  • Vronsky

    Thank you Craig, your support is appreciated – and your advice, which I hope will be heeded.

    A little mini-campaign to have you linked from WingsOverScotland (WoS – a site scrutinising the media) has succeeded. I know that you and your readership, while broadly sympathetic to celtic dreaming, may not want to read or write about it all the time. A reciprocal link to WoS would be useful to those who might want to check in occasionally to see how the war is going. Today, Scotland. Tomorrow, Ramsgate?

  • Clark

    How good is broadband Internet availability in Scotland? Lack of adequate broadband coverage would increase reliance upon broadcast media, thus denying many people access to independent perspectives.

    Broadband over the ‘phone lines tends to be poorer in areas more distant from telephone exchange equipment. When I visited the Doune the Rabbit Hole festival I spoke to a few of the local residents, some of whom complained that broadband was completely unavailable at their location. Others complained that it was slow, and tended to suffer outages on a daily or weekly basis. I experienced this myself when trying to install an operating system at the Carronbridge Hotel, only five miles from a town; the connection failed twice, forcing me to repeat the initial update. Less than two miles further away, broadband had not been installed at all. Most modern websites are effectively unusable over dial-up connections, and mobile broadband signals do not penetrate into the valleys. I suspect that the people of rural Scotland suffer very restricted access to independent news on the Internet.

  • Craig Evans

    Craig,

    this is a brilliant analysis of the current situation with the BBC and MSM in Scotland. Even the English based media; particularly the Telegraph and Guardian are constantly attacking the SNPO government and the Yes campaign whilst spinning in favour of the Unionist parties and the Bitter Together campaign.

    Well done you have made us Scots proud.

  • Vronsky

    @Clark

    “How good is broadband Internet availability in Scotland? ”

    What a perceptive question. The answer is, not good, but on two quite different counts. There is of course the technical: we have wilderness expanses far from fast physical connections – there are no optical fibres laid through the mountains. The bigger problem is social: the demographic most likely to vote for independence (because they are most likely to benefit from it) can’t afford internet access even if the optical fibres run beneath their feet. They’re stuck with the BBC, and the BBC knows it. Que faire? Suggestions welcome.

  • Abe Rene

    Good idea! I am not in favour of Scottish independence myself, but I am even more against biased reporting by a privileged organisation like the BBC; they should think of their reputation, and therefore strive for as much accuracy and fairness as possible (not the same thing as agreeing with CM’s positions). But New Labour is partly responsible for the situation.

  • chicmac

    Fully support that move. I can though, however unprecedented it might be, still easily countenance a move to block it by Westminster, such is their hubris and innate expectation of entitlement.

    But, even in that worse case scenario, their doing so would, I suspect, be unlikely to go unnoticed by the electorate. Which would, of course, result in many people questioning their motives.

  • David Milligan - a very Sovereign Scot

    Craig, you have been brought to my attention after I saw your interview for “Real News”. You have my respect and admiration for speaking out as you did and speaks volumes about your wonderful moral compass. I will order your book now as I wish to read more of what you say.

    The BBC in Scotland are kicking into overdrive. The 21st century propaganda tactics they use must have been thought out for a long time. Gone are the days of Lord Haw-Haw, you knew what you were listening to then.

    Your sensible suggestion is one that I will try to pass upward to the SNP, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. All we want is a level playing field. We don’t want an advantage here. The consequences of voting no carry the same weight as voting yes and the people of Scotland deserve to see and hear factual and balanced information to help them form an opinion – not have it formed for them. I believe that Scottish independence will help everyone north and south of the border and that the facts in this debate will speak for themselves.

    Kindest regards,

    David Milligan – a very Sovereign Scot

    Comment left 7th of March at 13:15 hrs

  • Mary

    LOL

    John Reith, the BBC’s general manager, then bent to the microphone and announced that 5SC, the Glasgow station of the British Broadcasting Company, was calling.

    As a Scotsman, it was a proud moment for Reith, whose legacy of public service broadcasting remains with the BBC to this day.

    They are celebrating 90 years’ worth of their propaganda.

    90 years since BBC went on air in Scotland
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21684289

    What was it again? Nation shall speak peace unto Nation.

  • john tk

    17 to 3, unionist to nationalist? OK, 14 to 6 would be closer to the polls.

    Anyone who knows Scotland knows it’s absolutely inevitable that the nationalists, when they lose the referendum, will BLAME THE ENGLISH, or the ‘London media’, or ‘Westminster’, or use some other terms that no-one else uses but which all basically mean ‘Sassenachs’, for the fact that they weren’t allowed to get their message across…and whinge whinge whinge…my goodness will they fucking whinge whinge whinge…oh dear, is that the chips on the shoulders that are showing?

    Holding the silly referendum 700 years after Bannockburn, and getting even bluenoses to dress up in white roses, won’t make any difference to the BASIC FACT that the VAST MAJORITY of people in Scotland want to remain in Britain, British citizens, in a Scotland that is part of Britain, in other words inside the Union. And yes, that is a bloody fact.

    That isn’t because we’ve all been hoodwinked by some now-defunct Labour brand from years ago called ‘New Labour’.

    Get out some more, and get yourself a proper issue.

  • DtP

    @Mary – ‘i’m pretty sure it was ‘nation shall speak shite unto nation’. Hmm..Some years ago I wrote to Mark Thompson, then Director General of the BBC, bumping along on a meagre public sector salary of one million pounds a year, he was, bless. The burden of my complaint was that for the BBC’s grunting, hunchback transexual, Mr Kirsty Wark, to be sharing holidays with and simultaneously reporting on the possible election of her family friend, the risisbly incompetent Mr, now Lord, Jack McConnell, was actually taking the piss, just a bit. Now, anyone who has ever listened to the BBC complaints show – Feedback, with Roger Bolton – will know that even the lowliest BBC producer considers his or her efforts to be stratospherically above the heads of the great unwashed, the idea that their show might be even slightly flawed merely another illustration of how stupid are those who didn’t go to Oxbridge; compaints unleash a painstaking and blistering tirade; viewers and listeners have no right to quibble, we, at the BBC are all phenomenally clever, funny, insightful and balanced, so Mr Wotsisname in Birmingham should just shut the fuck up and be grateful for the greatest broadcasting service in the world.

  • scotchman

    John TK – Thank you for your your interest in this matter. Troll-ly insightful.

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