By Sean Martin
Alex Salmond has criticised the BBC for the way the broadcaster has covered the Scottish independence referendum.
Speaking during an interview with Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Sunday, the departing First Minister was asked about both the protest against the BBC’s referendum coverage and his apparent decision to ban some journalists from attending his resignation speech at Bute House last Friday.
This led to Mr Salmond denying the accusation and discussing media coverage of events surrounding the referendum. It culminated in him voicing his opinion on the BBC’s role in particular.
“As far as the BBC’s concerned, they have fine, outstanding journalists and I’ll start to name them if you like – David Dimbleby, Brian Taylor and a number of others,” he told Guru-Marthy.
“But in terms of their performance during this referendum campaign, then I think there’s a huge difference between being a public service broadcaster and being a state broadcaster. And I’m not certain the BBC understands that difference.”
Mr Salmond also referenced the thousands-strong protest outside the BBC Scotland building in Glasgow prior to polling day, telling Guru-Marthy that there were more pressing concerns to highlight in the city recently.
“As for peaceful protests outside the BBC,” he said. “Since when is peaceful protest not a part of politics?
“What you should be concerned about is what happened on Friday night, when peaceful demonstrators, in a joyous demonstration, were attacked by a bunch of thugs.”
Last Friday night, the day after the referendum, hundreds of pro-Union thugs attacked Yes supporters who were attenting a peacful gathering in Glasgow’s George Square. The incident saw people spat on, punched and kicked and the Scottish flag burned.
The First Minister, who hosted a press conference to announce his resignation the day after the referendum result, said the suggestion he had banned journalists from the event was “just total nonsense”.
“Bute House has limited capacity,” he explained. “That was the issue. We tried to get as many [journalists] in as possible.”
Mr Salmond’s comments on BBC news output have been backed up by academic research which found BBC news was biased in favour of the Union by a factor of 3 to 2. The study which was carried out by Professor John Robertson, covered a full year of news output. A snapshot of the corporation during the final weeks of the campaign discovered that the bias increased to 2 to 1 against independence.
In the last few days of the referendum campaign, pro-Union stories and live speeches from senior Unionist MPs dominated BBC news coverage of the referendum.
Newsnet Scotland editor Lynda Williamson recently started a petition calling for broadcasting to be included in the promised package giving more powers to Scotland – attracting almost 21,000 signatures in just twelve days.
The petition asks both the UK and Scottish Governments to acknowledge the need for Scottish broadcasting to fall under the control of the Scottish people.
Leading academic Professor Sir Tom Devine echoed the call on Sunday when he said the Scottish Parliament should investigate the role of the BBC during the independence referendum.
“I think that, partly in order to keep the pot boiling, and more fundamentally to give people a resource to complain about this, this must be immediately debated in our Scottish Parliament,” Professor Devine told the Sunday Herald.
“The BBC does not scare easily,” he added. “But parliamentary inquiries do scare it.”
[Newsnet Scotland has started a petition to have broadcasting devolved and brought under the control of the Scottish people. The petition can be found by clicking HERE.
We would encourage everyone to sign this petition and make others aware of its existence. This is important now that Lord Kelvin has announced he will be taking input from Scottish organisations on further devolution.
Lord Kelvin has said he will present his recommendations on 30th November.]