Scotland ‘guinea pig’ for cuts as NUJ chief accuses BBC Scotland management of ‘major dumbing down’

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   By a Newsnet reporter

The head of the Scottish branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has accused BBC Scotland head Ken MacQuarrie of carrying out a “major dumbing down” of news coverage in Scotland and of targeting journalists.

Addressing hundreds of protestors in Glasgow at the weekend, Paul Holleran claimed that highly experienced and qualified staff had been targeted by BBC Scotland management who he said had agreed to use Scotland as a “guinea pig” for cuts.

   By a Newsnet reporter

The head of the Scottish branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has accused BBC Scotland head Ken MacQuarrie of carrying out a “major dumbing down” of news coverage in Scotland and of targeting journalists.

Addressing hundreds of protestors in Glasgow at the weekend, Paul Holleran claimed that highly experienced and qualified staff had been targeted by BBC Scotland management who he said had agreed to use Scotland as a “guinea pig” for cuts.

The NUJ chief highlighted the 16 per cent of cuts per year facing BC Scotland and said: “We have fought against compulsory redundancies and we believe that Ken MacQuarrie, controller at BBC Scotland, has agreed that Scotland will be the guinea pig for forced through compulsory redundancies.”

Mr Holleran also revealed that some of those targeted by the BBC are accusing the corporation of discrimination which, he insisted, the NUJ would be pursuing on their behalf.

The NUJ official revealed that BBC Scotland faced more industrial action unless further job cuts were stopped and accused management of not being “fit to run the BBC in Scotland”.

Referring to a recent judgement by the BBC Trust, which upheld a complaint that BBC Scotland management had distorted a news programme, he ended by imploring people to complain in a constructive manner whenever they came across examples of poor quality and news manipulation.

He added: “We would encourage you to put as many genuine complaints in as possible.

“…If there are distortions, we want the BBC Trust to know it.”

The head of the Scottish NUJ was speaking at a campaign event which sought to highlight the lack of balance and poor quality coverage of the referendum that currently exists in Scottish broadcasting.

BARD2014, is calling for a balanced, all inclusive referendum debate as we head towards the independence referendum in 2014.  The campaign is also calling for more women and more minority groups to be given a chance to take part in TV and radio debates.

The march and rally on Saturday attracted over two hundred people who braved atrocious weather conditions as they walked from Strathclyde University to St Enoch Square.  Also speaking at the rally was former MSP Tommy Sheridan who delivered a powerful speech.

Joining Mr Sheridan was Newsnet Scotland’s Lynda Williamson who praised the referendum coverage from STV but called for more opportunity for parties like the Greens and the SSP which she claimed were under-represented.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evGCCt4I1TU{/youtube}

Also speaking was Robin McAlpine of the Reid Foundation who insisted that we needed a positive story from the Yes campaign as well as balance from our broadcasters.  There were also claims that journalists’ copy was being altered in order to comply with an editorial line.

Other speakers included 21 year old Michael Gray from National Collective and John Paul Tonner from Labour for Independence.

Protestors endured almost monsoon conditions as forecasts of relentless rain proved accurate.

Campaign organiser Mark Piggott praised those who turned up, which included one person who had flown in from Spain and another who had travelled from Shetland.

Mr Piggott also thanked what he described as a first class array of speakers, each of whom brought something different to the rally.

He said: “Despite the truly appalling weather we still managed a small increase on our February rally.  I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who made the effort to get to Glasgow.

“I would also like to thank the speakers who raised the profile of our campaign considerably.  Some were new to public speaking but each one of them was very well received.”

Mr Piggott said further rallies and events are planned and called on volunteers to help grow the campaign.

He added: “We learned from our first march and from this second also.  However in order to really increase awareness of our campaign we need people to get in touch and volunteer.”

Mr Piggott urged anyone interested in helping the campaign to contact the team by using the contact form on the BARD2014 website.