BBC Demo – Group calls for balance in broadcaster’s Scottish news output

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By a Newsnet reporter 
 
Organisers behind a planned protest to be held outside the BBC’s Glasgow Headquarters at Pacific Quay this weekend are calling for balance from the broadcaster in the run-up to Scotland’s independence referendum.
 
The peaceful demo, scheduled to take place this Saturday between 11:00 and 3pm, follows an online campaign that has attracted support from hundreds of ordinary Scots.

The group behind the protest are calling on management at BBC Scotland to take action in order to address what they say has been a drop in standards in political news output and a tendency to load discussion programmes with Unionist leaning commentators.

They also criticised the axing of quality programmes such as Newsweek Scotland and have called for more Scottish Licence payers’ money to be spent on programming in Scotland.

Speaking to Newsnet Scotland, a group spokesman said:

“The campaign was triggered by our dismay at the quality and depth of coverage given by the BBC to a whole range of issues surrounding our constitutional future.  We felt that there was a lack of balance, openness and honesty in the position the BBC were taking.

“A major point was the closing of online comment on the Scottish political blogs, something which hasn’t happened in any of the other nations that make up the UK, we saw this as biased, detrimental to the debate, and disenfranchising.”

The spokesman said that the Facebook page which spawned the campaign had received around eight hundred messages of support, with many people angry at cutbacks and what they saw as a lack of fairness.

He said that a recurring theme of messages was the over-representation of Unionist parties and an absence of representatives of parties like the Greens in constitutional debates.  He contrasted the lack of opportunity for the Greens with what he claimed was the overrepresentation of the “fringe” Lib Dems who have only five Holyrood MSPs.

There was also a real sense of frustration at the BBC’s continued practice of top-loading debates and discussions with Unionist leaning commentators, journalists and politicians – sometimes outnumbering independence commentators by three to one – with the Devo Max voice all but ignored he said.

He added:

“The whole perspective of BBC Scotland’s political department needs to mature and deliver the debate that will allow everyone who will have a vote in 2014 to make a reasonably educated decision about the vote they cast.”

The spokesman said that Saturday’s demo would be an ‘organic’ peaceful event, the message he insisted was one of positivity.  He said he was hopeful of a fun day with face-painting, music, and some public speakers.

Newsnet Scotland was told that there is expected to be at least one main stream broadcaster covering the event and other smaller independent crews, the protest organisers have arranged for designated speakers to be interviewed if necessary.

The organisers have asked that as many people as possible come along and join what they have promised will be the catalyst for a series of similar events.  They have also asked that banners do not contain offensive slogans and that those in attendance do not bring alcohol.

There are already reports of people from outwith Glasgow organising buses in order to get there in numbers.

Organisers have asked that people try to arrive for 11:00, with a view to everything being in place for 12:30.  The demo will end at 3pm.

[Newsnet Scotland has invited BBC Scotland to comment on the planned demonstration and the calls for balance.  We have also asked for their response to claims that Unionist leaning commentators are over-represented on debate and discussion programmes.]