BBC Scotland under pressure over online blog censorship

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
BBC Scotland’s online department are coming under increasing pressure to explain their decision to suspend comments from political blogs.
 
Alone amongst BBC broadcast regions the blogs of veteran editor Brian Taylor and Business correspondent Douglas Fraser have been closed down to comments from the general public for months.

By a Newsnet reporter
 
BBC Scotland’s online department are coming under increasing pressure to explain their decision to suspend comments from political blogs.
 
Alone amongst BBC broadcast regions, the blogs of veteran editor Brian Taylor and Business correspondent Douglas Fraser have been closed down to comments from the general public for months.

Last week, media watchdog programme ‘Newswatch’ highlighted the decision by BBC Scotland’s news online editor, Daniel Maxwell, to remove the comment facility from the Scottish online blogs.

Appearing on the show was one of the people who had complained about the decision, John Thomson. 

Mr Thomson echoed the views of many others when he complained that as Scotland was entering one of the most important periods in the nation’s history the opportunity to engage in debate was being closed down by a publicly funded body.

Mr Thomson claimed that commenting on blogs was very often the only way to correct what many people believe to be one sided and sometimes inaccurate political content.

However despite a request to appear on the show to address the complaints, Mr Maxwell refused – sending in a pre-prepared statement instead.

The statement read: “BBC Scotland has decided to disable the capacity for public comments to be regularly appended to both the Brian Taylor and Douglas Fraser online correspondent pages; the pages will, however, occasionally be opened for comment.

“We believe that by determining which particular issues might best be explored by the inclusion of public comment online, we will allow a more flexible and a more adaptable approach to be taken to how we cover the main issues in Scotland.”

The statement itself has prompted fears that BBC Scotland are attempting to corral debate.  Recent items open for online comment have been national in nature which has resulted in Scottish input being diluted.

Prior to the closing down of comments, BBC Scotland came in for strong criticism regarding the moderation of its Scottish blogs.  At one point any mention of Newsnet Scotland resulted in comments being barred and accounts of posters being closed.  In at least one case Newsnet Scotland is aware of the personal details of one independence supporting poster were released to a third party organisation – possibly breaching data protection laws.

The station’s coverage of news and current affairs has also led to complaints from many viewers unhappy at what they believe to be a strong Unionist bias with TV and Radio debates and discussions often heavily loaded with Unionist leaning commentators and politicians.