By a Newsnet reporter
BBC Scotland bosses are at the centre of a row after it emerged the anti-independence campaign Better Together had used a studio at the broadcaster’s Pacific Quay HQ in order to film an advert attacking independence.
According to the Scotsman newspaper, the advert which was shown in cinemas across Scotland, was filmed using a BBC Scotland film crew.
The corporation has been accused of breaking several of its own guidelines by allowing the No campaign to use internal resources in order to produce the anti-independence video.
Former BBC Scotland presenter Derek Bateman has said the decision would be seen by many people as: “the BBC is working hand in glove with Better Together”, something, said the newspaper that BBC Scotland chiefs denied.
The newspaper has revealed that Better Together communications chief Rob Shorthouse was present as filming took place in April.
Shorthouse admitted he knew the filming would be carried out at the BBC Scotland studio: “I decided that I wanted it made in Scotland, not London – so I knew pretty early on in the process that the only option was the studios at the BBC.” he told the newspaper.
However Derek Bateman said the decision, coming on the heals of a row over the the corporation’s membership of the pro-Union CBI, was unwise: “The BBC helps parties make party political broadcasts at election times which is legitimate, but in a case like this, as with the CBI row, they’re walking a pretty tightrope.
“Anybody reading about it in the heat of the referendum debate will think the BBC is working hand in glove with Better Together. What on earth do they think the public are going to think about it?” he said.
BBC Guideline 4.64 warns that “the value and reputation of the BBC brand may be damaged if any part of the BBC is seen to be associated with inappropriate third parties”.
Another, Guideline 4.65 adds: “Any activity involving a third party that could potentially undermine the BBC’s editorial integrity must be referred, in advance, to the editorial policy department. Examples of such organisations include: political parties, government departments and foreign governments; lobbying organisations…”
A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust told the Scotsman: “We note BBC Scotland’s statement that there has been no breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines and correct policy was followed. The trust has no plans to investigate this.”
The revelation follows mounting anger over the role the broadcaster has played in the referendum debate with a growing number of people questioning its impartiality. Three academic studies have found BBC Scotland news coverage to be favouring the No campaign.
A protest against anti-independence BBC bias, planned for Sunday June 29th, has already attracted the support of 1400 people with thousands more being invited.
The National Union of Journalists has threatened strike action over the BBC’s refusal to end it membership of pro-Union organisation the CBI. The union is also angry at the treatment of senior BBC Scotland presenter Gary Robertson who has been told he is to be sacked due to cost savings.
Morale amongst staff at BBC Scotland is said to be at its lowest ever with many angry at the parachuting in of London based presenters, James Naughtie and Sarah Smith, to take over news and current affairs programmes.