BBC ends Sir Ian Wood oil-challenge blackout following Newsnet Scotland complaint


  By a Newsnet reporter
The BBC has ended a news blackout that saw the broadcaster refuse to report counter claims to those from Sir Ian Wood after the former tycoon launched an attack on the Scottish Government’s oil estimates.
Following a near two-day refusal to report statements from a leading industry body and academics, the corporation has bowed to pressure and published a report containing comments in support of the Scottish Government.

This weekend Oil and Gas UK issued a statement in which it backed a figure of 24 billion barrels as a potential estimate of the amount of oil left in the North Sea.  The leading industry body told the Sunday Herald they “remain of the view that there could be up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas to recover.” 

The body issued the statement in response to an attack by Sir Ian Wood on the Scottish Government after it had used the same figure in its estimates.

In a separate intervention Alex Russell, the Professor of Petroleum Accounting at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, and Peter Strachan, Professor of Energy Policy at RGU, also joined criticism of No campaign claims saying figures used to attack independence were an ‘understatement’ and ‘ludicrously pessimistic’.

The respected academics described the potential of as yet unexplored areas of the North Sea as “a lucrative venture for the oil industry.”

The two academics also backed analysis by oil and gas expert Professor Alex Kemp who only days ago released a statement backing Scottish Government oil estimates.

Despite having given blanket coverage of comments made by No supporting former tycoon Sir Ian Wood who said the 24bn figure was a “distortion”, the BBC refused to report the counter claims from Oil and Gas UK and the two academics.

The situation was repeated on Monday when comments from yet another academic challenged Sir Ian over possible new discoveries.

Professor John Howell of Aberdeen University, an expert on geology, said massive reserves may lie close to Shetland.

Professor Howell said: “I certainly will not be surprised if major discoveries are made there in the next few years, totally changing the perception of the region and opening up a second major oil boom for Scotland.”

Despite the intervention of three separate academics and the leading offshore-industry body in the UK, BBC Scotland refused to report the statements.

However the broadcaster was forced to end its blackout when Newsnet Scotland complained directly to the head of its referendum unit John Mullin.  Within an hour of our complaint having been received, an article duly appeared on the BBC Scotland main news page.

Publication of the article followed growing anger and frustration on social media at the one sided reporting of one of the key issues of the independence referendum.  Hundreds of people re-tweeted messages from Newsnet Scotland calling for an end to the oil blackout.

Despite the comments from Oil and Gas UK and academics now having been featured on the BBC’s online news, there still appears to be no mention of the interventions on any broadcast news bulletins. 

The online article has been given far less prominence than coverage of Sir Ian Wood’s comments which featured in the top spot for over 24 hours.  Hours after the new article appeared as the fourth most important story it had slid down to ninth.

Sir Ian Wood’s comments, when made last week, also featured on every BBC Scotland news and current affairs programme – TV and Radio.  It is not yet known if BBC Scotland has ended the blackout of the counter statements across all platforms or just online.

Broadcaster STV has sadly refused to end its own news blackout of the statements challenging Sir Ian, despite it too having given widespread coverage to the former tycoon’s attack on the Scottish Government.

[Update: Sadly the oil story challenging Sir Ian Wood disappeared from the main BBC Scotland online news page just after 18:30 tonight.]