BBC Scotland and the Doosan story

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By Martin Kelly
 
Yesterday BBC Scotland decided the biggest news story was the postponement and possible complete withdrawal of £170m worth of investment in Scotland’s renewable sector by Korean company Doosan.
 
The story was based on the fact that the company announced it was shelving the plans in December last year and the Scottish Government had not announced the business change despite citing Doosan as an investment success story.

By Martin Kelly
 
Yesterday BBC Scotland decided the biggest news story was the postponement and possible complete withdrawal of £170m worth of investment in Scotland’s renewable sector by Korean company Doosan.
 
The story was based on the fact that the company announced it was shelving the plans in December last year and the Scottish Government had not announced the business change despite citing Doosan as an investment success story.

It was picked up by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who sought to make political capital out of the emerging story – quite acceptable in the rough and tumble of politics.

That should have been that, with claim and counter claim being reported together with the facts of the matter.

To be fair to Labour they have a point when it comes to the Doosan investment being used by the Scottish Government to highlight the success of their renewables drive and the apparent reticence of the Scottish Government when it came to publicly acknowledging the probable loss of investment.

However, claims of deliberate suppression are nonsense as are claims that this has anything to do with the referendum debate.  And let’s acknowledge that no matter what the reason for the investment withdrawal, Doosan’s decision would have been cited (falsely) by the usual suspects as an example of referendum uncertainty causing harm.

There is though one organisation that stands accused of manipulating this story.  This organisation leapt on the story when it ‘broke’ yesterday morning and then used it in order to attack the success of Scotland’s fledgling renewables sector.

It also tried to conflate the pulling out of Scotland’s offshore wind sector by Doosan with claims of referendum uncertainty – a lynchpin of Unionist attacks on the SNP’s referendum timetable.

The attacks, there is no other word for them, on the Scottish Government and a sector that is attracting inward investment despite the current economic crisis, and a very lacklustre approach from Westminster, started at dawn when Good Morning Scotland highlighted an article in the Telegraph newspaper.

The article headline was read out by BBC Scotland’s Gary Robertson in what is now a ritual on Good Morning Scotland.  The headline was from the ultra-Unionist newspaper the Daily Telegraph.  It conflated the Doosan decision with so called ‘uncertainty’ over the independence referendum and with that BBC Scotland’s manipulation of this routine business decision was off and running.

In an item that followed, listeners were told that the Scottish Government’s renewables plans had “apparently suffered a setback”.  It was also claimed that the Doosan announcement will have “big implications” for Scotland’s renewables sector.

Throughout the day the same key phrases were hammered home – referendum uncertainty, blow to the green energy sector and Salmond suppressing the news.

On Radio Scotland’s evening show ‘Newsdrive’ the three themes were again repeated.  An interview at around 5pm witnessed one BBC Scotland presenter interview another BBC correspondent.

The rehearsed set piece witnessed loaded questions elicit the desired answers as the actual reasons for Doosan’s decision were all but jettisoned.  Prompted by interviewer Mhari Stewart, an English BBC correspondent regurgitated the discredited Citigroup report in a further attempt at conflating the investment loss with independence.

Before continuing, it’s worth taking a look at Doosan’s actual reason for shelving their investment plans:

“In light of the European sovereign debt crisis, Doosan Power Systems reluctantly decided in December 2011 to postpone its plans to enter into the offshore wind market and subsequent investment in offshore assembly plants in the UK.

“The uncertain economic situation in Europe has created general liquidity issues, as well as sapped market confidence – putting a question mark over the future development of the offshore wind market.”

No mention whatsoever of independence or the referendum.  The claims that the referendum might have influenced this decision came from BBC Scotland.

But what of claims that the story was ‘new’ and had only just emerged?  Here lies another piece of misrepresentation by the BBC.  On yesterday evening’s Reporting Scotland, BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor Douglas Fraser claimed that “We’ve only just been told”.

Mr Fraser’s language on the piece to camera was, to say the least, less than positive.  Phrases like “money is tight”, “technology is daunting” and linking jobs is “tough going”, there’s “financial difficulties”, “not fully committed”, subsidy “uncertainty”, “energy market in flux” and “no guarantee that Scotland’s natural resource will plug into a bright economic future” peppered the item.

A brief interview with a PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman hears the interviewee talk about “sufficient uncertainty” and a “lack of confidence”.

The item was less about honest journalism and more about using a four month old story in order to advance an agenda, that agenda was that renewables is damaged.

But what of the Reporting Scotland presenter’s claim that the Doosan story had “only just emerged”.

Well, that was perhaps the BBC’s biggest error of judgement in this item.  The story hadn’t in fact “only just emerged” nor had people “only just been told”.

For Douglas Fraser knew of the story four days ago as he made clear when interviewing John Swinney last Sunday when he asked the Finance secretary about Doosan’s decision to pull out of the £170 investment plan.

But that wasn’t the first time the story had been reported, for contrary to Douglas Fraser’s claim that we had “only just been told”, the story was in fact reported by industry leader reNews on its front page two months ago, on 9th February.

Newsnet Scotland asked reNews how they managed to obtain the story that the BBC is only now beginning to report.

The answer was simple – “good old fashioned journalism” said the editor, who explained that the magazine had simply called Doosan after they felt that there had been little movement following the initial announcement almost one year earlier.

And there lies the nub of the problem – journalism, good honest journalism.

If the BBC had simply regularly contacted each of the companies who had announced investment in Scotland’s green sector then they would have an up to date status of the sector and could report honestly and factually.  How much does a phone call and an email cost?

Instead, what BBC Scotland do is to pounce on press releases and reports such as those provided by Citigroup, SSE and CBI Scotland.  Invariably these tend to ‘support’ claims that the referendum is causing uncertainty and investment is suffering.

BBC Scotland appears to have been waiting for any chink in the renewables armour in order to launch a broadside.  That this story is four months old and involves only one firm hasn’t prevented them from predicting doom for Scotland’s renewables sector – a contrived anti-renewables campaign is now up and running.

Mr Fraser turned up on Newsnight Scotland warning that profits might “disappear outside the country” and there is “no means guaranteed that Scotland will get the manufacturing jobs” from our enourmous renewables potential.

The final chapter of this latest manipulation of news will be complete when a Unionist politician appears on the BBC citing Doosan as an example of the damage caused by ‘referendum uncertainty’.

The irony is that the person tasked with challenging the claim will probably have been partially responsible for propagating the lie in the first place.

 

Image courtesy of reNews – http://renews.biz