BBC Scotland alters ‘misleading’ Ryder Cup headline


  By a Newsnet reporter
BBC Scotland is today facing questions over a misleading headline that appeared on the corporation’s Scottish web site following a Labour party inspired story criticising a trade mission to this year’s Ryder Cup by First Minister Alex Salmond.
Newsnet Scotland has discovered that a BBC Scotland article highlighting attacks by opposition parties angry at the outlay, has been amended after it originally implied that Mr Salmond himself was responsible for the cost.

The story, which was the lead item on both the Scottish news and Scottish politics web sites, was headlined – Alex Salmond’s Ryder Cup trip ‘cost £470,000’.

The article, which was originally published just before 9 am, remained unaltered until just before midday when the misleading headline was then quietly altered.

At 11:38 am the headline was ‘corrected’ to – Alex Salmond-led Ryder Cup trip ‘cost £470,000’.

Newsnet Scotland was alerted to the change and immediately contacted BBC Scotland online news department to ask why the headline had been amended and who had sanctioned the original headline – as yet, we have not received any reply.

However, the apparent desire to implicate the First Minister in the cost of the trip, which was in fact £468,580, was not restricted to the original misleading headline. 

The original image that accompanied the story was also altered from one of a silhouetted golfer, to a picture of Mr Salmond apparently playing golf on the trip.

As far as Newsnet Scotland is aware, Mr Salmond did not play any golf when attending the official delegation to Chicago, which was an obligation of the Scottish government as Ryder Cup host country in 2014.

On the week long trip Mr Salmond met with business leaders and delivered a keynote speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Along with Sports Minister Shona Robison he also undertook a number of cultural engagements during his visit, including attending a performance of the traditional music festival Celtic Connections and fashion events showcasing the work of Scottish designers.

Today’s story, which was based on Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Labour party, has featured prominently in most Scottish newspapers and features attacks from Mr Salmond’s Unionist opponents. 

The original BBC Scotland headline – Alex Salmond’s Ryder Cup trip ‘cost £470,000’ – is eerily similar to a statement from Scottish Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson who said “Alex Salmond’s trip to watch the golf cost all of us almost half a million pounds”.

However, far from being out of the ordinary, the business delegation was entirely appropriate and expected.  Indeed the Welsh Assembly spent over half a million pounds on similar trips in order to promote the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

Three trips to Oakland Hills in 2004, Ireland in 2006 and Kentucky in 2008 cost £62,000, £201,000 and £267,000 respectively.  Visit Wales also spent £7.6 million on the 2010 event to maximise returns on then existing/current marketing activities and focusing on campaigns in USA.

The total public expenditure for the 2010 Celtic Manor Ryder Cup was a staggering £69 million.

The Scottish delegation to Chicago was promoting not just the Gleneagles 2014 event but was also dovetailing with the marketing of animation blockbuster Brave in order to maximise the benefits to Scottish tourism.

[Newsnet comment – This is not the worst example of news manipulation by BBC Scotland but it is similar to an episode earlier this year when remarks by the Deputy First Minister over the banking collapse were misrepresented in an online article.  On that occasion though the correction did not take place for days.

The decision by BBC Scotland to place a Labour inspired smear as the top political story will do nothing to quell growing unease at the ease with which Labour attacks are presented in uncritical fashion by BBC Scotland.  To have given the attack a very high profile meant it was incumbent on BBC Scotland to report honestly and factually – that they have decided to correct a headline suggests otherwise.

The BBC in Scotland is currently behaving with total impunity with regard to political reporting and not even the Scottish Parliament is afforded the respect of an attendance by BBC Scotland chiefs to answer criticisms and address concerns.

This evening [Thursday] there was more evidence of something very wrong at BBC Scotland when a report on First Minister’s Questions on Radio Scotland gave significantly more airtime to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont’s attacks than to the First Minister’s responses.

The item by BBC Scotland reporter Sarah Paterson contained references to attacks on Mr Salmond in relation to the Leveson inquiry, with one claim that he was the most criticised political leader in the report.  Not mentioned was the remarks by Lord Leveson who appeared to exempt the leaders of devolved administration parties from his criticisms.

He wrote: “I did not write to the leaders of the national parties of government and opposition in the UK devolved administrations in this way because, as I make clear in this Report, in my opinion the conduct of politicians of devolved government cannot reasonably be considered as part of the historical UK national pattern with which my generic conclusions are concerned.”]