And the walls came tumbling down

0
457

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
The moment arrived last week.  Hoped for, but never realistically expected, one of BBC Scotland’s most respected presenters has finally lifted the lid on the corporation’s Scottish franchise.
 
Derek Bateman’s blog is a must read.  A conveyor belt of witty and insightful recollections of his time at the BBC has grabbed the attention of Scotland’s cyber dwellers.

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
The moment arrived last week.  Hoped for, but never realistically expected, one of BBC Scotland’s most respected presenters has finally lifted the lid on the corporation’s Scottish franchise.
 
Derek Bateman’s blog is a must read.  A conveyor belt of witty and insightful recollections of his time at the BBC has grabbed the attention of Scotland’s cyber dwellers.

The presenter has pulled back the shroud of secrecy and revealed an organisation slowly withering, a shell of its former self led by men with no ambition.  An image of a corporation where intimidation is rife, where experienced staff are targeted and hounded until they grasp at the sanctuary of redundancy. 

Bateman himself left BBC Scotland earlier this year after twenty five years of service.  What prompted someone who was poised to cover the most important period in Scottish history for three hundred years, to walk away from the nation’s biggest media outlet?

Bateman was, as can be seen from his blogs, scunnered.  Cutbacks, falling standards and a management incapable of the most basic requirements of leadership apparently took their toll.  His own show, Newsweek, once a solitary beacon in a desert of mediocrity, was axed.

John Boothman and Kenneth MacQuarrie have presided over an institution that is so poorly run that it is held in contempt by an increasing number of Scottish licence payers, many are refusing to pay what they now see as a London controlled colonial broadcaster. 

Less than a year to go until the referendum and the corporation has lost many of its most experienced reporters.  In the wings wait 15 trainees on a one year contract worth less than twenty grand – “We are more concerned with your talent, potential and passion to achieve great things rather than your academic background.” says the BBC Scotland advert.

Bad as things apparently are, it wasn’t poor management that caused eyebrows to be raised but Bateman’s revelations surrounding Head of News and Current affairs John Boothman.

Bateman’s description of Boothman as the ‘servant’ in a relationship with a Scottish Labour special adviser ‘master’ Paul Sinclair, were sensational.  According to the reporter, the BBC Scotland chief regularly fielded calls and emails from the Labour man whereupon he then attempted to influence the content of political programmes.

Had the claims been made south of the border they would have resulted in headline news with DG Tony Hall fielding questions from journalists and demands from non-Labour politicians for an explanation.  The coalition government would be seeking its own answers and it’s likely that resignations would now be being discussed with the head of the BBC Trust Lord Patten.

But this is Scotland, where allegations of political corruption aimed at the head of news at BBC Scotland merited not one column inch.  The closest was an article by Robbie Dinwoodie that mentioned Boothman’s “links” to Labour, but avoided the specific claim that he had tried to influence political coverage at the behest of Labour.

You’re not likely to see the Herald’s political editor Magnus Gardham jump on the claims against Sinclair, who the Herald hack enjoys a rather cosy relationship with.  Gardham and Sinclair are regularly found in ‘Kilderkin’, the pub opposite the Scottish Parliament.   This usually occurs on Wednesdays and immediately after First Minister’s questions on Thursday.

Indeed such is the state of Scottish journalism that few even bothered to acknowledge Bateman’s revelatory blog at all, although the Scotsman did contrive to report on one of Mr Bateman’s more light hearted observations surrounding BBC interview techniques and spectacularly missed the point of the satirical piece.

BBC Scotland is slowly crumbling.  Staff are leaving and unions are threatening strike action.  Licence fees are being wthheld and protest marches have already taken place – all conveniently ignored by Scotland’s blind, deaf and dumb media.

BBC Scotland is incapable of covering the independence debate in any meaningful way – a refusal to evolve as Scotland regained its parliament in the nineties left it out of kilter.  The more power Scots sought the less power BBC Scotland wanted and the less the institution reflects us.

Walk into the BBC’s HQ in Glasgow and you walk into a time warp where devolution never happened and Scottish Labour is still a credible force.

Bateman denied any anti-independence conspiracies, but in an institutionally corrupt environment where Brit-Scots rule, there is no need for a conspiracy.  Those seeking advancement know that they have to please London, which means pleasing Boothman and MacQuarrie.

In such an environment Glenn Campbell knew when he held the SNP manifesto up to camera in 2007 and casually ripped it up live on Reporting Scotland, that the act would advance his career.  Gary Robertson knew when he interviewed Alistair Darling days after the Ian Taylor donation revelations, that the subject was better left alone.

The corporation is now all that stands in the way of Scotland’s natural progression from Devolution to Independence.  Twenty four years ago I sat beside a Czech flatmate in London and we both sat wide eyed as we witnessed the Berlin wall, like the biblical wall of jericho, crumble and fall.

That started with one hammer and one loosened brick.  Bateman has just applied the first real blow to the BBC’s hegemony in Scotland.

We heard the ensuing crack loud and clear … like Berlin and Jericho before it … the walls are coming tumbling down.

 

[Newsnet Scotland relies heavily on the generosity of its readers in order to exist. We are grateful for each and every donation and would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have placed their trust in us. We would encourage those who can to please donate in order to ensure we continue to provide an alternative news service that is now enjoyed by over 100,000 people each and every month.]