Complaints force BBC Scotland to admit bank article claims were false

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
BBC Scotland chiefs are facing accusations of deliberate news manipulation after the corporation was forced to admit that claims it made in an online article about RBS and an independent Scotland were false.
 
The admission followed complaints over wording contained in an online article following an interview with Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in which she had been asked how an independent Scotland would have coped with the banking crisis.

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
BBC Scotland chiefs are facing accusations of deliberate news manipulation after the corporation was forced to admit that claims it made in an online article about RBS and an independent Scotland were false.
 
The admission followed complaints over wording contained in an online article following an interview with Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in which she had been asked how an independent Scotland would have coped with the banking crisis.

The SNP Depute leader said Scotland could have coped with the situation and explained that the countries within whose jurisdictions the bank conducted business, including Scotland and England, would have contributed to any bailout.

Here, for those unfamiliar with the exchange is what was said:

However, within hours BBC Scotland reported that Ms Sturgeon had admitted an independent Scotland would have “relied” on England in order to save RBS from collapse.  The article remained unchanged for two full days despite complaints from members of the public, it was eventually corrected on Monday 12th March.

Now though, in response to furious complaints by members of the public the BBC has admitted its claims were “inaccurate”.

In a response to people who complained, BBC Scotland has said:

“Thank you for your email regarding the Online report on Nicola Sturgeon’s webcast interview with Brian Taylor.

“We agree that the original headline was not an accurate reflection of what the Deputy First Minister said in the interview.

“The headline and relevant text of the story have been rewritten to take out references to ‘relied on’ and replaced with ‘worked with’ which is what Ms Sturgeon said in her interview.”

In the interview, conducted by BBC Scotland’s Chief Political Editor, Brian Taylor, Ms Sturgeon answered that an independent Scotland may have had in place an oil fund just as Norway has, that would have allowed the banking situation to be easily managed.

The Deputy First Minister also pointed out that jurisdictions in which any bank operated would be responsible for any losses incurred and cited Belguim, Netherlands and Luxembourg as an example of how different nations co-operated in dealing with the crisis when Fortis bank was bailed out.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland would have fulfilled its obligations and insisted that Scotland and England would have dealt with the collapse in a similar co-operative manner.

“In the real world people come together to stabilise banks, so the BeNeLux countries for example came together to bail out Fortis bank.

“The fact of the matter is RBS is a Scottish headquartered bank, about ninety per cent of its activity is in England.

“Nat West is one of the biggest English banks.  RBS have money from the US Federal Reserve, from the European Central Bank from the Australian Central Bank.

“In reality, Scotland and England would have worked together with Scotland paying its full way to stabilise RBS and the Bank of Scotland.”

“… We would have come together to work together on that.” she said.

However hours later the BBC published an article with a headline claiming Ms Sturgeon had admitted that Scotland would have “relied” on the UK to save RBS.

Within hours of the story taking its spot at the top of the corporation’s Scottish online news, staff were fielding complaints.

Despite this it took a full two days before anything was done, by then the online article had been read by hundreds of thousands of BBC online visitors and had become embedded in Google’s search engine.

Despite altering the wording and acknowledging that the original article was inaccurate, BBC Scotland has yet to publish a full and frank apology or correction.

The episode will fuel the debate over BBC Scotland’s coverage of Scottish politics and its ability to report the independence debate in an impartial manner.  It follows complaints by the SNP over the corporations behaviour and a dossier was recently handed to the Chair of the BBC’s Trust, Chris Patten.

Newsnet Scotland has also demended answers from BBC Scotland over how the article came to be published and why no public apology or correction has yet been issued.  We have also asked whether the article had been sanctioned by Brian Taylor, who conducted the interview and Tom Connor who is the Online Editor for BBC Scotland.

The BBC has responded by asking Newsnet Scotland to call it’s Press and Publicity Manager.  Newsnet Scotland has responded by repeating the four questions we initially put to BBC Scotland which are reproduced below.

1. Was the interviewer Mr Taylor aware of the wording in the original article prior to it being published and did he agree with it?
2. Did BBC Scotland online editor Mr Tom Connor sanction publication of the original article?
3. Who decided that the original headline and wording needed to be corrected and why did it take two days to correct it?
4. Why has no apology or correction been published by the BBC?

We will inform Newsnet Scotland readers of any developments in this continuing story.