BBC Scotland refuses to disclose political guest info as concerns grow over balance

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Concerns over a possible political agenda at BBC Scotland have increased after the broadcaster refused to disclose the names of guests who have appeared on politics programmes.
 
A Freedom of information Request made on behalf of Newsnet Scotland has been refused after we requested the names of all guests who had appeared on high profile BBC Scotland political programmes since the turn of the year.

  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Concerns over a possible political agenda at BBC Scotland have increased after the broadcaster refused to disclose the names of guests who have appeared on politics programmes.
 
A Freedom of information Request made on behalf of Newsnet Scotland has been refused after we requested the names of all guests who had appeared on high profile BBC Scotland political programmes since the turn of the year.

Newsnet Scotland had asked the Glasgow based broadcaster for:

“the names of all guests and debate panellists, along with political affiliation where appropriate, who have appeared on the following BBC Scotland programmes over the period beginning 1st January 2013 up to and including today, Wednesday 8th May 2013”

We listed the following shows:

  • The Sunday Politics Show
  • Politics Show (Wednesday and Thursday programmes)
  • Newsnight Scotland
  • Brian Taylor’s Big Debate
  • Shereen
  • Saturday Good Morning Scotland
  • Sunday Headline Review
  • Good Morning Scotland

However, according to BBC Scotland Head of Public Policy & Corporate Affairs, Ian Small, the request was rejected because the information is held for the purposes of “journalism, art or literature.”

In his reply, Mr Small wrote: “The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’  The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion.

“Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature’.  The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.”

The refusal of BBC Scotland to release the names of guests who have appeared on political programmes in Scotland will fuel speculation that the information supports accusations that pro-Union contributors vastly outnumber their pro-Independence counterparts.

The decision follows a rally that took place last weekend which saw hundreds march in support of a campaign for balanced broadcasting.

The refusal to provide the information comes days after BBC Scotland bosses caused anger with a decision to downplay comments made by former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey.  The Labour peer admitted that the Labour government of the seventies had deliberately hid the true worth of North Sea Oil from Scots in order to thwart support for the SNP.

Despite the explosive nature of the admission, the issue was barely reported by BBC Scotland, with managers reducing it to a 15 second sentence on the flagship news programme Reporting Scotland.

Suspicions of an anti-independence agenda increased on Wednesday when Reporting Scotland producers gave bizarre prominence to a story based on remarks from one of their own regular pundits, Professor David Bell of Stirling University.

The item, which originally appeared in the pro-Union Scotsman newspaper, claimed that Scottish students could be forced out of Scottish Universities in an independent Scotland due to the SNP’s free tuition pledge.

The item originally appeared in the newspaper under the title ‘Scottish independence: Scots students could suffer’.  It was published on the same day that it emerged elite Universities in England had urged the UK coalition to cut funding for poorer students.

Commenting, a spokesman for Newsnet Scotland said: “To try to classify as somehow relating to ‘journalism, art or literature’ – a list of people who have appeared on political programmes is clearly ridiculous.

“Each guest is identified at the time of broadcast and by merely recording each programme, a list would be obtained.  Such a decision makes a mockery of the rules surrounding Freedom of Information that are there to protect the integrity of real broadcast journalism and programme making.

“It raises suspicions that the information may well suggest the scale of pro-Union favouritism is even worse than most people believe.

“We will be appealing this judgement and would hope that those in charge at BBC Scotland reflect on their decision and start to realise that it is we, the licence payers, who pay their wages.”