By Lynn Malone
Morale at BBC Scotland is at an all-time low and some individuals have been “damaged” as a result of the Glasgow based management’s pursuit of forced redundancies, the head of the NUJ in Scotland has said.
Paul Holleran spoke out after revelations from former BBC Scotland presenter Derek Bateman threatened to blow the lid on an organisation accused of allowing the Labour party to influence political content and of having targeted experienced staff for redundancy.
In what are some of the most serious allegations ever levelled against the BBC in Scotland, Mr Bateman has claimed that its head of news and current affairs tried to influence the editorial decisions on political programmes after being contacted by Scottish Labour special adviser Paul Sinclair.
Sinclair, who is the special advisor to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, is said to have been able to contact Boothman directly, often complaining about the content of political programmes.
According to Derek Bateman, who worked for the BBC for 25 years, Boothman and Sinclair developed a friendly relationship through their shared links with the Labour party.
The former broadcaster claimed the relationship became unhealthy, with the BBC Chief giving the impression of being at the beck and call of the Labour official.
“But what I didn’t like about Sinclair-Boothman was the informal and insidious way it developed, so instead of old pals, it became almost one of master and servant.” wrote Bateman.
“Sinclair seemed to assume the right to call the BBC head of news to account. It was going on right up to the final weeks before my departure.”
Mr Bateman also claimed that Boothman had, on more than one occasion, questioned him about the political content of his own radio programme after receiving complaints from Sinclair.
In his latest blog in which he gives his account at the goings on at BBC Scotland, Bateman has revealed a broadcaster riven with bullying, with staff hounded until they eventually cave in and accept redundancy.
Writing, Mr Bateman described how John Boothman used his power “ruthlessly” … “ending the careers of friends and colleagues”.
He added: “The personal testimony of staff put through an agonising process of accelerated redundancies when the rest of the BBC was deploying natural wastage, is hair-raising and distressing.
“If this were any other public organisation, the BBC would set its investigation team on BBC Scotland to expose the heartless and ruthless staff selection and eradication process used and which is still threatening to cause a UK-wide BBC strike over one member of staff they refuse to redeploy.”
Mr Bateman’s latest claims were backed by the head of the National Union of Journalists in Scotland, Paul Holleran.
In a statement given to Newsnet Scotland, Mr Holleran echoed the former presenter’s words, saying:
“Derek Bateman’s blog shows exactly the strength of feeling surrounding the redundancies at BBC Scotland over the last two years.
“A lot of damage has been done to individuals, also to the morale of staff at the BBC. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to restore relationships.”
Contacted by Newsnet Scotland yesterday, a spokesman for BBC Scotland refused to confirm or deny the allegations levelled against its head of news and current affairs.
In a statement, the spokesman said: “Editorial decisions are made according to our guidelines on impartiality, fairness and accuracy.”