BBC Scotland under fire after ‘Top Ten’ referendum broadcast provokes outrage


  By a Newsnet reporter
BBC Scotland Chiefs have come under fire after a programme broadcast on BBC2 as part of a series on the independence referendum provoked outrage.
The programme – Scotland’s Top Ten Battlegrounds – featured a host of what the BBC described as “independent” experts and a panel of BBC Scotland presenters each giving their views on what the broadcaster claimed were the ten most important issues of the independence debate.

According to the programme billing, it promised a politician-free zone, calling on the country’s leading academics and experts, to give straight answers to the key questions.

However the tone and content of the so-called documentary has prompted an angry backlash online with many viewers tweeting and posting messages expressing anger at the patronising nature of the programme.

Within moments of finishing, hundreds of messages of complaint had been posted with many claiming the programme’s style benefited the anti-independence campaign.

On BBC Scotland’s own Facebook page responses were overwhelmingly critical of the programme.

One message read: “This program is making a mockery of the whole question of independence. All the arguments are as clear as mud and not at all helpful.”

Another said: “Given that broadcasting is one of the issues on the referendum, one would have thought the BBC would have made a reasonably good program. This was terrible on many levels. Poor visuals, inconclusive arguments and really boring. Had to give up. Hopeless advertisement for BBC Scotland.”

Many suggested the broadcaster was favouring the No campaign, with one saying: “The BBC’s coverage of this is so ridiculously one sided and full of scare mongering propaganda it is farcical.”

Narrated by John Gordon Sinclair the documentary claimed it would explore the top-ten issues of the referendum debate in reverse order of importance.  The issues had been determined by a BBC Scotland poll which had taken place in early January.

However many of the issues were not explored in detail with some highly questionable contributions from so-called independent experts, and BBC Scotland presenters, going unchallenged.

There were also question marks over the so-called independent background of pundits and claims that one had expressed views on the issue of North Sea Oil that were contradictory to views the same academic had already expressed in public.

Reaction to the programme follows a difficult start to the year for the broadcaster with the BBC Trust publicly announcing in January it had found BBC Scotland guilty of breaking accuracy guidelines after a broadcast on Reporting Scotland challenged the EU membership stance of the Scottish Government.

The ruling was compounded after a University academic produced a study which showed BBC Scotland and STV had both favoured the No campaign in early evening news coverage of the independence referendum.

Meanwhile, the BBC is this morning at the forefront of an attack on the Yes campaign with claims it has been briefed by the UK Government over the issue of a currency union.

Reports emerged last night that Tory Chancellor George Osborne was preparing to formally rule out a currency union with an independent Scotland and that sources close to the Chancellor had privately spoken to the BBC.  The development will add to suspicions that the BBC is now allowing itself to be used by the Westminster establishment as a tool against the Yes campaign.

The move followed news that the head of Barclay’s Bank had dismissed suggestions that a Yes vote would harm his company’s business.  Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins said the bank “can make it work” if Scotland votes for independence.

The comments, which are extremely damaging to the No campaign, have been wiped from today’s news agenda by the as yet unconfirmed briefing given to the BBC by the UK Treasury.

The decision by the BBC to place, at the top of its news agenda, a story that has yet to be confirmed but has very clear political ramifications, will cause grave concern to those who rely on the broadcaster to report only confirmed facts in an honest and impartial manner.

This morning on Good Morning Scotland it emerged that the UK Treasury and the Scotland Office had refused to discuss the matter.