Media Watch 16: One week to go, and apparently we’re not better together


Reporting the Run-up to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in 2016: STV and BBC Scotland News: Dr John Robertson continues his analysis of TV news coverage of the Scottish election campaign

Thursday 21st April to Wednesday 27th April

BBC Reporting Scotland have continued to report unfavourably toward the SNP Government in this last week though reporting on the Clyde Frigate Betrayal has unavoidably led them to offer reports that can only favour them. I’ll write, separately, a short piece summarising and discussing the data from the 8th of January 2016 until the 27th April.

Dr John Robertson
Dr John Robertson

Thursday 22nd April 2016:

‘Death of a Prince in Paisley Park!’ BBC Reporting Renfrewshire

Ooops, I meant the Prince I heard was found dead in a Paisley park, not a prince. I don’t know which Paisley park it was….my favourite, Robertson Park, up Gleniffer Braes?  My subconscious is clearly attempting a coup these days. Seriously though, I think, in the light of this sad loss, it would be inappropriate for me to be celebrating any 90th birthdays today no matter how well-funded by my taxes.

So back to the election and this from a young voter, in Holyrood High School, on STV News:

‘If you’re just shouting at each other we’re no gonnae….we’re just gonnae be like…ccchhh…shut up!’

These were wise words for, like, Holyrood and, even more so, for, like, Westminster.

Reporting Scotland followed Willie Rennie to Duns, birthplace of medieval philosopher, John Duns Scotus and…! Duns Scotus wore a conical hat to capture and to focus God’s wisdom intae his brain. He was well ahead of his time (1290s) and may have influenced whoever came up with the idea of keeping tomatoes fresh under a wee pyramid. Later, the conical cap became the Dunce’s Cap. This is all true. I’ve gone off on a tangent here. What was I talking about before? Oh aye, Willie Rennie.

In Dumfries, Nicola got off her exercise machine, no sweat, to say:

All of the evidence says that when you put head teachers and teachers and communities in control of the life of the school that you get the best results.’

If it’s good enough for Eleanor Bradford to have to use evidence properly, it has to be good enough for Nicola too so, Nicola, wrong, wrong, wrong! If you (you, not Nicola) read No.15, last week, you’ll have seen my shameless display of elitist career experience over more than 30 years, in schools and in teacher education and my umpteen high-falutin qualies so, really, I know more than my party does on this (educational change). Spend most of the money, instead, on reducing income, housing, transport, communications and other basic inequalities (see the book Spirit Level) and you’ll achieve far more than pouring money into schools. The majority of head teachers and teachers have a vested interest in producing superficial evidence of improvement, battered into them by HM Inspectorate and the media. Few, in positions of power, can be trusted to try anything remotely radical (smaller schools, middle schools, less exams, gender segregation) which is likely to change the system for the better.

And, anyway, there is no easily accessed (progressive as opposed to cloning) training for teachers because the in-service role of teacher education and of the local education authorities was shrunk to nothing by the 1990s.

There was good news from Sally about Scottish industries. Seventeen of them got ‘Queen’s Awards’. It was particularly cheering to hear, on the day that Prince died, that Freddie Mercury’s legacy is still with us….we are the champions of the…………….

April 22nd:

‘Riding High! A new poll suggests the Tories could edge ahead of Labour…’ STV

They just don’t care at STV. It’s not right to keep upsetting Kezia. I’ve stopped now. Big John McKay said the above against the background of Ruth riding a buffalo. At first, I thought it (the buffalo) was Gordon Brown making an intervention again. You have to say, Alex Salmond, she’s no feart. It was a big beast. Nicola was shown in a school, apparently making shoogly wee structures with sticks and with marshmallows for joints. She was, really! Was this a not-so-subtle wee dig at the Labour PFI schemes again? It does tie in…unlike the Edinburgh school walls. Leave Kezia alone Nicola! That’s just cruel.

Bernard Ponsonby says: ‘The Weber-Shandwick Seats Predictor gives the SNP 70 seats.’

I want one of those. Is it in Switzerland too with that large hard-on accelerator thingy? Can you use it to get a good seat anywhere? I was late getting tickets for Neil Young and will be right at the back. Actually, Bernard mispronounces in a way Brains Taylor will sssurely not. It’s pronounced ‘vaibber’ as in Max Weber. It’s German innit?

Anyhow, back to John McKay – Riding High? The Weber-Shandwick Seats Predictor gives the Tories only one more seat than Labour with only 1% more of a share in the list vote and….49 less than the SNP! ‘Riding just a wee bit higher but well behind the pace?’ Again, stop teasing Kezia!

Big dizzy – Brian Taylor doesn’t take The Weber-Shandwick Seats Predictor Enunciation Test and RepScot don’t mention that Labour might fall to third place or that the Liberals might fall to fifth. As a former teacher, I commend their decision to protect the feelings of sensitive children. That kind of trauma could lead to feelings of despair and erratic behaviour which is in no one’s interest.

It was good to see the Greens progressing, especially after a bad week, losing a big game to their rivals, and a manager, to boot.

The STV report of alleged financial misconduct at North Lanarkshire Council was a masterpiece of careful language. It was long but almost entirely free of the word ‘Labour’ with just one wee mention, quietly muttered in the middle (It’s near Parson’s End in Cambridgeshire). I couldn’t wait for the Reporting Scotland version.  How disappointing, it was much shorter so the ability to not say the L word was less of a challenge. All this reminds me of the debate with Tam Cowan over the name of the new Airdrie Stadium, years ago. You’ll remember that Airdrie folk were complaining because Coatbridge was getting all the facilities, such as more bus-stops per capita, less time for amber traffic lights, the hospital and the Time Capsule. One caller suggested that, given Airdrie’s reputation as a hard-tackling fitba team at the time, that it might be well-named, ‘The Injury Time Capsule!’ You might have noted, on STV News, that it was an Airdrie councillor making the accusations about a lack of open-tendering for contracts. I’m saying nothing about sectarian criteria being used. I’m happy to slag the CIA, MI5, MI6 or even the Editor, before I’d say anything about that….or ISIS for that matter.

As expected, RepScot had a bit to say about the falling tax receipts from North Sea oil, but Sally clearly wasn’t going to sink so low as to offer the usual ‘told-you-so’ to those naïve Yes voters. However, we did get a reminder, passed on from Liz Cameron of the Scottish Chambers of Comedy, that higher taxation would drive away talent and investment. The message there might be that the SNP should think again about not giving George Osborne’s gift of an increased allowance for those paying 40 per cent tax.

I suppose, for many at the BBC and for members of the Chamber of Horrors, this cruel cut could have a devastating effect on their ability to pay for school fees, for health club fees and for holidays abroad. I can see them all rushing south to England, where they don’t have jobs or markets for their businesses and where they’ll have to pay University and prescription fees. Makes you think doesn’t it? Like, ‘On ye go then. Try it. Go on. We dare ye.’ Edinburgh Schools made another short entry, impeccably Labour PFI-free, to keep some of us wondering if the Scottish Government might be to blame for this crisis – nearly every night for weeks now.

The Crisis on the Clyde reports started and no matter how they’re presented, the SNP can only benefit from them. This is almost impossible to spin in the way the Edinburgh Schools Saga has been, to protect Labour.

Finally, here’s a trivial wee question- ‘Is Labour Deputy Leader, Alex Rowley, Gary Tank Commander’s dad?’ I’m not saying it would be a bad thing if he was. In fact, I’m sure it would boost the Labour vote.

Monday 25th:

Talking of Gary Tank Commander (above), he interviewed all the party leaders and got big coverage from a happy Jackie Bird. They all came across as quite likeable, ken? Are Scottish Tories more human than English Tories? He did clearly spot Willie’s deep strangeness and lack of ability to relate normally to over 5 year-olds. He (Willie) has been filmed being good with them, recently. He got the UKIP guy to admit his was a party for ‘bams’. That might improve their vote too.

Gary was brilliant, I’d say. Come on BBC. Have him oan again, daeing the Deputy Leaders, eh? I can see him with Alex Rowley now. Big Alex leans over and skelps Gary’s ear saying: ‘Stoap coapying ma accent, like, ya wee bam!’

I can’t ignore, either, the BBC at 6 news report on the Liverpool flats which refused to be demolished. They were built before the PFI schemes when local authority building control officers were tough. Can we get the contractor’s name, BBC, and pass it on to Edinburgh Council? While you’re at it, pass the details to the governments in Japan and Ecuador.

‘Claims that the UK government betrayed workers on the Clyde…!’ Reporting Scotland

We’re (media) all on board now (pun intended) with the shipyard workers. They were ‘betrayed’! As above, this story cannot be spun to do anything other than favour the SNP. The only way to downplay it is to not mention it at all.

I haven’t talked about this much before, but the BBC doesn’t like the Tories either. They want a return to those happy, well-funded, New Labour days before Tony lost it, when you could pretend to care about the poor but not really do anything about them and still be comfortable with your personal wealth. Times when you could be really unfair to the SNP yet still keep your job and your personalised holidays with McConnell Travel. Nice Wark (not a spelling mistake Ed, leave it!) if you can get it.

Finally, for today, Jackie Bird interviewed Patrick Harvie, half-leader of the Greens. He’d already laughed loudly at everything Gary Tank Commander said and came across, as he always does, very well. Goodness knows why the UK Greens replaced the equally electable (Can I say delectable too, Ed?), Caroline Lucas, with an un-smiling, whiny-sounding, alternative leader. Anyway, Jackie clearly liked him, too much to want to hurt him. Why won’t she try to do Nicola later in the week? They show boxing don’t they?

Tuesday 26th:

I did not believe it! I do not believe it! Jackie Bird just said, to a stunned Willie Rennie:

‘But during that time were you not dealing with PFI Schooling and has that not..emm…come home to roost with recent problems?’

Willie: ‘Of course there’s (sic) been issues around PFI and that’s why we need to have a thorough investigation into what’s gone wrong with this specific contract. I think the model of finance is probably unrelated to this particular issue.’

Jackie, quickly, grinning snidely: ‘I think it’s very much related!’

Did I hear that? Hasn’t Douglas Fraser already insisted there’s no evidence for that at all, Jackie? Will Kezia get that same comment later in the week? I’m stunned. What is going on? Do explain, dear readers. Not only did Jackie say something the SNP would like to hear, but Eleanor Bradford did a politically harmless piece on pollution inside our houses. Nearer the end, Jackie did remind us of Scotland’s ‘flagging economy’ in a short piece on new industrial initiatives but, otherwise, the election coverage, on both sides was pretty balanced. Disappointingly, Brian Taylor missed the opportunity to answer Johann Lamont’s pleas for more money for Glasgow with ‘Do you want a something-for-nothing-culture? Is that what you really really want……now?’

Wouldn’t that have been fun to watch?

Wednesday 27th:

‘Poll position, as Labour launch their manifesto, the Tories look on course to beat them in the battle for Holyrood.’ STV

Look STV, I know it’s just ‘news values’ to you, but people have feelings. Stop encouraging Ruth. It was funny at first but, for all their faults, most Labour folk are not really Tories! It’s time for peace and reconciliation now, Nicola. An amnesty for all but the big beasts and the offer of  a free six-months-trial membership of the SNP is the mature thing to do. Kezia isn’t one of the big beasts so offer her a dignified transfer to a role in government. It’s what Nelson Mandela would have wanted.

RepScot returned to the Clyde frigate story with what was a ‘balanced’ report, so that’s good isn’t it? As I’ve said many times before, crude balance based on giving equal time to all parties can still be misleading. This story is a very difficult one to spin in the interests of the Union but RepScot gave it a go by allowing David Cameron’s assertion that Scottish independence would have meant no MOD contracts for the Clyde, to finish the report, with no contradiction at all.

You get the point don’t you? We’ve only cut your rations so just accept that or it will be nothing at all. Could the report have been more meaningfully balanced, accurate and fair if we’d been reminded of the £450 million contract for Royal Navy supply tankers going to Korea? I know, they’re not complex warships and maybe they’re too big for the current yard but BAE Systems makes massive profits and could easily invest in improving the yards, to do that kind of work, keep UK taxpayer money here, competing with Korean yards and attract such work from elsewhere. Oh, BAE Systems are not really British and must put their share-holders first? I see. Well surely the MOD is British, first and foremost, and could show support for our workers?

‘While Rosyth waits for orders, MoD stumps up £5,000 bill to fly admiral’s wife to South Korean yard and name a new Navy ship’ The National, December 6th 2015

Jackie interviewed Ruth Davidson, after another chance to see her (Ruth) mount a buffalo, but gave her an easier ride than the buffalo had. Jackie, as with Patrick Harvie, seemed to quite like this apparently genuine, cheerful young Tory and gave her none of the hectoring, interrupting and sneering that Alex Salmond used to receive. She even seemed to empathise with her as she imagined Ruth despairing at the constant failures of her Westminster bosses to ‘get’ Scotland and the many ‘Eton Mess’ obstacles they callously throw before her.

Ruth does seem nicer than Dave or George or Michael, or any of them, but here’s the thing: Her function is to somehow persuade the Scottish voter that she can moderate all of this nastiness and so get them to vote for her. And maybe she has. One in five of them look like doing so. Her willingness to sell her useful persona of ‘a caring Conservative’, makes her worse, morally, than they are. At least those hard soulless beings are true to themselves. She needs to read Glasgow psychiatrist R.D. Laing’s ‘Divided Self’ before the gap in her mind has widened so much that she can never become whole again. That way madness lies. I’m serious. She will hurt herself.

One week to go and the polls suggest more evidence of the Reverse Propaganda Model Theory whereby the more they are criticised by the mainstream media, the more popular the SNP become. Kind of makes me redundant though? (Yes. Ed).