BBC Scotland referendum output set to be monitored


  By G.A.Ponsonby
BBC Scotland coverage of the referendum is to be monitored for four weeks, Newsnet Scotland can confirm.
In what is believed to be a first, a crowdfunding appeal has successfully raised funds to allow an academic study to take place into referendum news output from the broadcaster.

The appeal, which sought to raise £6,500 over eight days, reached its total after only two days.  The study which will begin in April, will monitor referendum related news coverage from one of five BBC Scotland news outlets.

The five include:

  • Good Morning Scotland
  • Newsdrive
  • Morning Call
  • Newsnight Scotland
  • BBC Scotland news online

Commenting, a Newsnet Scotland spokesperson said:

“From the moment the SNP won its landslide election victory in 2011 BBC Scotland should have put plans in place to ensure the highest standards of impartiality in its news coverage.

“Instead we have been subjected to appalling imbalances and news management which culminated in the broadcaster’s own watchdog finding BBC Scotland guilty of breaking its own guidelines.”

The guilty verdict followed a year-long pursuit of BBC Scotland following an item broadcast on Reporting Scotland.  The reporter responsible for what the BBC Trust described as a “misleading” broadcast resigned from the corporation days before the investigation was confirmed.

The broadcaster has faced a string of complaints over its presentation of Scottish politics and the behaviour of several of its presenters.

  • Shortly after the SNP’s 2007 election win, BBC Scotland presenter Glenn Campbell ripped up the party’s manifesto whilst presenting a live item on Reporting Scotland.
  • The broadcaster’s business and economy editor Douglas Fraser once compared the SNP to a North Korean dictatorship.
  • Radio presenter Gary Robertson’s hectoring of SNP guests during interviews, in contrast to a far gentler approach with Labour politicians, led to scores of complaints from licence payers.

Former BBC reporter Derek Bateman has also revealed attempts were made to influence the political content of his radio programme by Head of news at BBC Scotland, John Boothman.

The Newsnet Scotland spokesperson added: “We aren’t about to pre-judge this research.  Indeed a recent study by an academic found that BBC Scotland TV news output had improved in February.

“However we would hope that BBC Scotland management do not react in the same way as they did when a recent year-long study was published, by attacking the credibility of the academic.”

The results of the research will be made available to management at BBC Scotland on completion of the study.  They will be invited to critique the findings and conclusions and also offer a response.

Newsnet Scotland will carry a full report on the findings together with a report from the academic in charge of the study.