BBC Scotland’s new year – part 1

28
1957

By a Newsnet reporter
 
The first full week of the New Year is over and it’s been back to work for most.  Resolutions have been made and paths to hell are currently being paved with good intentions.
 
Regular readers of Newsnet Scotland will know that from time to time we like to take a look at our Glasgow based public service broadcaster to find out how the political news is being reported.

By a Newsnet reporter
 
The first full week of the New Year is over and it’s been back to work for most.  Resolutions have been made and paths to hell are currently being paved with good intentions.
 
Regular readers of Newsnet Scotland will know that from time to time we like to take a look at our Glasgow based public service broadcaster to find out how the political news is being reported.

Not surprisingly, BBC Scotland has started the new year in much the same way as it behaved throughout 2011.

In this mini-series of articles we will look at some examples from BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs offerings from this first week.

It includes an ‘out of date data’ press release, a land deal that was barely mentioned and a rather unseemly episode that saw the Stephen Lawrence murder used in order to link the popularity of the SNP with an apparent rise in anti-English sentiment.

As you read them, remember one thing; these are not examples from a full year of broadcasting nor are they even from a full month – these items are from the first week, or to be more precise the first five days of 2012.

Jackie Baillie and the NHS infections story

This story was one of the first covered by BBC Scotland in the New Year.  On Monday 2nd January viewers and listeners heard Labour MSP Jackie Baillie accuse the SNP of presiding over an NHS that was top of the European infection league tables.

The broadcasts featured Ms Baillie herself making the accusation as she demanded more action from the SNP government. 

The bulletins also included a BBC Scotland reporter telling viewers and listeners that the SNP “claimed” the data used by Ms Baillie was out of date.

Anyone listening would have been under the impression that Labour’s accusation had some merit.  Surely BBC Scotland would have checked the figures to determine which claim was accurate before allowing a Labour MSP to make such serious accusations. 

The way the story was packaged most people would have been left with the impression that the SNP were doing what politicians always do – denying a justified, albeit political, attack.

However this particular accusation was indeed claptrap.  The data on which the attack had been based was collated in 2005/6, a period when Jackie Baillie’s own Labour party were in power.

Furthermore, the report that placed Scotland joint top of the Euro infection league table (with Sweden) was compiled in 2008 using that same data.  In fact barely three months ago the Scottish Government published the latest statistics showing that infection rates had decreased to historic low levels.

So how does a politically motivated attack, using out of date data and out of date reports end up being broadcast by the BBC?  Especially when BBC Scotland reported in October 2010, and again in 2011 that infection rates were falling to record lows. 

Moreover, why did BBC Scotland run the story despite being informed fully two days prior to the broadcast that Labour’s claim was based on old data and old reports?  You see the Labour press release was embargoed for at least two days before the media reported it, ample time for the BBC to check its veracity.

To add to Labour and BBC embarrassment, the ‘bogus’ story was picked up by Straight Statistics, a pressure group whose aim is to detect and expose the distortion and misuse of statistical information, and identify those responsible.  The group was formed by a group of legislators, statisticians and journalists and is chaired by the Labour peer Lord Lipsey.

As you can see from the link, Straight Statistics is rather less than complimentary about BBC Scotland and the Scotsman newspaper who reported the story as fact without any reply from the SNP.

The other interesting aspect of the story is that since it has been exposed as a, shall we be generous and say ‘blunder’, it seems to have disappeared from media view.  Quite a relief for Jackie Baillie who may have been forced to issue an apology if the media had decided to give the same level of coverage to the facts behind the accusation as it did to the accusation itself.

Newsnet Scotland contacted Jackie Baillie’s parliamentary office the day the ‘story’ broke offering to publish, in full, any response she may have had to our original article exposing the flaws in her press release.  To date, save for an acknowledgement of receipt, we have had no reply from Ms Baillie.

Tomorrow – Glasgow Council land deals versus The Gathering

Related story: http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-politics/4007-pressure-mounts-on-labour-msp-after-nhs-infections-blunder