A leading academic has criticised what he described as Reporting Scotland’s diet of “murders and football” in a debate over the future of the BBC in Scotland.
Professor Lindsay Paterson was speaking on BBC’s Newsnight Scotland on the role of the broadcaster following the scandal that has engulfed the corporation over failures in the UK Newsnight paedophile investigation.
The Edinburgh University academic was scathing of Reporting Scotland and gave as an example last Wednesday’s US election that saw the re-election of President Obama.
He said: “There has been a very surprising and sudden upsurge in US interest in the forthcoming referendum in Scotland.
“What we were desperately in need of on Wednesday night was an informed discussion from Washington about what the implications were of that election result for the future of Scotland and the US involvement in that.
“What we got was some murders and football, that’s parochialism at its worst.”
He also claimed that most outlets on BBC Scotland were offering an increasingly parochial output whilst London tended to ignore the devolved regions, which made it “almost impossible to have a proper democratic dialogue across these islands about the future of the constitution.”
Professor Paterson was joined by broadcaster and journalist Lesley Riddoch who questioned why so much money was spent on the BBC whilst programming remained stale.
“If the BBC’s been given extra cash to do something extra then it has to bring so much more to the game. It has to make this a sparkling, radiant, vital conversation with diversity that reflects the whole of Scotland and the best of us.”
“Otherwise, then we begin to wonder why is there a kind of reserved and protected amount of cash going to the BBC when everybody else is having difficulties doing that serious journalism.”
Media analyst, Robert Beveridge insisted that a more federal BBC was needed, whether Scots vote for independence or not. “Decision making needs to be devolved” he said, and added “We need Devo Max for the BBC”
Mr Beveridge said that BBC Scotland should have control over all of the licence fee raised in Scotland, and also full control over schedules and be allowed to opt in to UK output rather than having to opt out. Mr Beveridge said that the BBC had “fallen behind devolution”.
Also critical was Professor David Hutchison of Glasgow Caledonia University who highlighted what he called the “catastrophic declines” in newspaper circulation and added that both STV and the BBC were, as a result, very, very important to the referendum debate.
He warned that the shoddy journalism now known to have occurred within the BBC over the Newsnight scandal could in fact be cited as proof of poor journalism and “shoddy standards” over reporting in Scotland in the run-up to 2014.
However Professor Hutchison claimed not all of BBC Scotland’s output was bad, and highlighted Derek Bateman’s Saturday morning Radio show as an example of excellent outward looking journalism.
[Newsnet comment – There is no doubt that improvements need to be made in the way BBC Scotland handles news and current affairs, and the studio discussion in the video above was a refreshing change. Devolution of broadcasting powers would be a positive move, however equally important is a review of editorial decision making and the process used to decide which items are deemed worthy of high profile news coverage.
Yesterday saw several news stories published and broadcast by BBC Scotland that were quite clearly politically motivated. They ranged from Labour claims that the SNP were anti-Aberdeen; more Unionist accusations that the referendum question was biased and similar claims that the Edinburgh Agreement could be legally challenged.
The evening ended with a quite outrageous Newsnight Scotland studio discussion that saw accusations levelled against Education Secretary Michael Russell with absoutely no evidence offered to back them up, with once again a Labour MSP at the helm. A clearly angry college head, who had resigned after admitting making a secret recording of Mr Russell, was allowed free reign to make fantastic allegations, including one comment claiming that Scotland was now being run like Syria.
BBC Scotland must learn to differentiate between disgruntled former employees allied to politically motivated MSPs and real news – the two are not the same.]