SNP fire first volley at ITV Border in broadcast news election war


By a Reporter

An SNP MSP has lodged a complaint over ITV Border’s TV News coverage of the Lord Ashcroft poll on Scottish constituencies last week.

The move signals the start of growing pressure on broadcast news operations in the build-up to the UK general election in May, as parties begin skirmishing over fair coverage issues.

Television will be the focal point of pressure from all sides, and especially SNP and Labour, in Scotland. The mooted “leader’s debate” is only the highest-profile example of pressure behind the scenes between news producers and the party spin doctors.

Joan McAlpine MSP
Joan McAlpine MSP

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine, a former journalist who continues to contribute a column to the Daily Record, was among several politicians to be interviewed by ITV Border after the Ashcroft poll indicated that two local seats are vulnerable to the SNP on May 7.

McAlpine seems to have good cause for complaint, unless ITV Border can come up with a viable explanation for the report on last Thursday’s edition of its politics programme Representing Border.

Her complaint stems from an extensive edit that left the SNP with only 18 seconds’ coverage within an eight-minute news package (see foot of story).

“I was invited to contribute to a package on the Ashcroft poll last Thursday which lasts 8 minutes,” said McAlpine.

“Of that 8 minutes, the SNP – who have quite a large part to play in the Ashcroft story – got an 18 second slot in total.

“That was against 1 to 1 interviews with Jim Murphy, Kezia Dugdale, Willie Rennie and Jackson Carlaw defending their position in south of Scotland, plus archive campaign footage of sitting MPs Russell Brown, Michael Moore and David Mundell.

“In their interviews Murphy, Rennie and Carlaw got an opportunity to prais the record of their local MPs by name. By contrast our SNP candidates were not named and no campaigning footage of the SNP was used.

“I gave a lengthy interview to Joe Pike, only 18 seconds of which was broadcast. Among the sections cut were those in which I named our candidates Richard Arkless and Emma Harper who Ashcroft says are poised to become MPs.”

The Ashcroft poll predicted SNP gains in the constituencies of Dumfries & Galloway and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale.

The MSP added: “Even if my interview had been used in full, the piece would still be unbalanced, given the extensive archive footage given to every party except the SNP and the naming and praising of sitting MPs. Compared to this 18 seconds out of 8 minutes is unacceptable.

“In addition the interviewer failed to inform me that the package covered Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. I was told to comment on the poll, which of course did not cover that constituency.

“I am interested to hear how ITV Border justify editing the Ashcroft piece the way that they did.” asked ITV Border for comment, and if forthcoming it will be added here. UPDATE: ITV Border’s response is now in a separate report here.

This report was edited at 11.40pm to add the original ITV Border report…