SNP calls on BBC to address ‘serious concerns’ after report questions news coverage

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  By Martin Kelly

The SNP has called on the BBC to set out detailed plans for how it intends to address issues raised in a new report published by the Audience Council Scotland.

According to the report, BBC Scotland needs a “thorough reassessment” of its news output with viewers north of the border questioning the broadcaster’s impartiality over its covering of the independence referendum.

Yesterday the BBC Trust’s advisory body raised concerns after it revealed audiences in Scotland feel important Scottish issues and stories, “continue to be underexposed on network news”.

The report also stated that “members noted a long-term issue for the BBC about how accurate and impartial it was to broadcast programmes reflecting the political culture of one nation across the whole of the UK.”

The report added: “Some in the audience felt the analysis could have been pushed further, others that the balance was not always maintained.”

The SNP has previously expressed concern that job losses and cuts at BBC Scotland could adversely impact the quality of the corporation’s output – and lead to a poorer product for BBC viewers in Scotland.  Only last week the BBC announced plans to cut another 415 jobs by 2016/17.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said the report was a “timely reminder” of the corporation’s responsibilities to viewers in Scotland.

Mr Maxwell said the report raised, “a number of serious concerns which the BBC simply can’t ignore.”

He added: “The BBC Trust has already said it will work with the BBC to address the issues raised by the Audience Council – but these issues are too important to kick into the long grass.

“The BBC should come up with detailed plans on how it intends to address these issues – and ensure that viewers in Scotland get the first-class public broadcasting service they deserve.”

The report is published just days before a third peaceful protest is scheduled to take place outside the BBC’s Scottish HQ.  This Sunday will see hundreds of people gather at Pacific Quay in protest at what they say is the BBC’s one sided coverage of the independence referendum.

Speaking to Newsnet Scotland, a spokesperson explained the reasoning behind the protests.

She said: “This will be our third protest in as many months and we have watched them grow from just over two hundred to at least 1500 at the last event.

“The two previous events have been good-humoured and incident free.

“We have consulted Police Scotland, who have been fantastic, and this third event will see male and female stewards present.”

On BBC Scotland’s handling of the independence referendum, the spokesperson added:

“Only yesterday a report from the Audience Council highlighted concerns at BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs output.

“Management continually claim everything is all right and they are doing a great job broadcasting the referendum, but time and again we see examples of news manipulation and suppression in favour of the No campaign.

Referring to online media, she said: “BBC Scotland refuses to include any pro-independence news outlets in online and radio news previews, yet we are bombarded with headlines from right-wing Unionist newspapers like the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

On news she said: “Last week a Better Together press release, which followed a speech from new EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, made it onto Reporting Scotland despite no basic journalistic checks being carried out.  It later emerged that the EC President was not even referring to Scotland.

“On Sunday we learned that a researcher on the BBC referendum debates has been sending private emails to Better Together to give them a ‘head start’ in getting supporters to attend the debates.”

The spokesperson insisted the demonstration was necessary and highlighted a ruling by the BBC’s own Trust which found BBC Scotland guilty of having broken editorial guidelines on accuracy.

She added: “Despite having been found guilty by their own watchdog, BBC Scotland has still to apologise for misleading the public over the Lucinda Creighton episode – and that offending broadcast was a year and a half ago.

“Nobody else is going to challenge this institution, so we have to do it ourselves.”

Sunday’s demonstration will hear from speakers including Maryhill Foodbank volunteer Julie Webster, Indy Cyclist Mark Coburn and Socialist Tommy Sheridan.  There will also be music from Citizen Smart, Fifty Shades of Blue, and others.

The peaceful protest against ‘BBC Bias’ will take place between 2pm and 3:30pm on Sunday 27th July next to the IMAX.