By Mark McNaught
Living in France detached from the daily slugfest of the ‘Scottish’ media, attending the recent BBC protest in Glasgow really hit home the degree to which the media landscape has been so dominated by the BBC, the London-based newspapers, and commercial corporate colossus media.
After the protest I went down the pub with some participants, and upon leaving my company began canvassing a declared no voter. She was a perfectly intelligent woman who had studied law, but I was absolutely dumbfounded by her depth of cynicism and her belief in the lies that had been fed her all there years. It was as if she had been programmed by Alistair Darling.
She did not believe that Scotland was capable of governing itself, she thought North sea oil belonged to the Queen, and she was so disgusted with local government that it was if Scots don’t deserve independence. I was amazed that she had so little confidence in her compatriots.
But this is the equestrian faeces Scots have been fed for decades, by media who have no compelling interest in serving the Scottish people, and do have an interest in keeping Scots ignorant and subservient.
The broadcast media must radically change after a yes vote, so that Scots no longer have to pay to be collectively insulted and belittled. The BBC should play no role in a broadcast media in an independent Scotland.
The White Paper has suggested that an SBC should be created in cooperation with the BBC. In my view, cooperating with an institution which knowingly employs serial rapists for decades should not be countenanced.
The Scottish government should start from scratch and use the millions of pounds in licence fees to fund home-grown Scottish channels and programming. No one institution should dominate visual media the way the BBC has.
The Scottish government can begin by establishing a Scottish equivalent of the US cable channel cspan.org. This studiously neutral channel films and broadcasts virtually all congressional hearings, speeches, campaigns, meetings, and many other political events with no commentary. It also features many informative series on US history, the courts, and constitutionalism. It is popular among conservatives and progressives because it simply films what is happening, is studiously neutral, and the viewer can watch and make their own judgements.
In addition to the Holyrood government, a Scottish equivalent of cspan.org could also cover local politics. The constitutional convention could be live-streamed with audience participation. The entirety of city and local council meetings could be open to the public, live streamed, and archived for future consultation.
Scotland can create the most open and transparent political system in the world, and a citizen-run independent Scottish media can be an integral part.
In addition, individuals and small production companies can apply for grants to produce programming. What is essential is that an SBC not become a corporate BBC mini-me, as a corrupt and biased institutional monopoly. In addition to a democratisation of the political system, there must be a total democratisation of the media.
We already see the embryo of such a media. The website http://independencelive.net has been covering independence events throughout Scotland. They do on a shoestring budget what the BBC has failed to do: cover the referendum campaign without commentary and let the people decide. While they’re still getting on their feet technology-wise, think of what it could become with some state funding.
It is also imperative that a Scottish broadcast media be free from corporate influence. While there are good progressive shows in the US on the big networks, they still cannot properly cover certain issues, like fracking.
Oil companies are a big sponsors of these networks, so there are just places they can’t go, like investigating how much of the US water supply has been rendered poisonous and flammable because of fracking. The Scottish broadcast media must be free from political and corporate corruption.
Independence means Scotland if free to entirely revamp the media landscape, using technology and techniques unimaginable when the BBC was created. Media talent will no longer be second-rate has-been’s and never-were’s banished from London to Glasgow, but drawn on from the talents and creativity of the people.
For those Scots concerned about missing Dr. Who and Strictly Come Dancing, do you actually think the r-BBC will refuse to sell access to their content? In addition to its licence fees, the BBC makes profits selling its programming throughout the world. If they can sell programming in the US, maybe they’ll figure out an extortion-free way to peddle their wares in Scotland.