The campaign for a Balanced All inclusive Referendum Debate … the next step

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  By Mark Piggott 
 
Last month almost two hundred people gathered in Glasgow at 10:30 on a freezing Saturday morning to call for a balanced and all inclusive referendum debate from our broadcasters.
 
Those who braved the cold marched behind a lone piper, they walked from Strathclyde University to St Enoch Square.  A banner displaying the BBC’s quote “we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no” was displayed.  The public who witnessed the march were generally favourable and sympathetic to our cause.

  By Mark Piggott 
 
Last month almost two hundred people gathered in Glasgow at 10:30 on a freezing Saturday morning to call for a balanced and all inclusive referendum debate from our broadcasters.
 
Those who braved the cold marched behind a lone piper, they walked from Strathclyde University to St Enoch Square.  A banner displaying the BBC’s quote “we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no” was displayed.  The public who witnessed the march were generally favourable and sympathetic to our cause.

As was to be expected, no one from the Scottish media showed the least bit of interest in the rally.  There were no mainstream reporters or cameras there that day and news bulletins ignored the march completely.
 
Perhaps the fact that we completed the application process required for any marches and rallies in Glasgow City Centre hindered the rally in terms of newsworthiness.  A few weeks later, a group of football fans managed to grab headlines, and the attention of Labour MSPs, by attempting a march for which they had no approval.

Perhaps there were insufficient numbers?  But the protest at Iain Duncan Smith’s Edinburgh visit was much smaller. 

In truth it was none of these reasons, the fact is that the media doesn’t want to raise the profile of any group which is highlighting inadequacies in their referendum coverage.

However, the lack of media interest has only increased our determination to highlight what we believe is a deficit within the Scottish media, and our next rally application has already been submitted to Glasgow City Council for approval.
 
Taking the same route, we are hopeful that Saturday May 18th will see a larger turnout than that which we attracted in February.  We are also hopeful, that given the orderly manner of our first rally, our request for a start time of 12:30 in the afternoon will be approved.
 
This rally will also have a focal point at the St Enoch Square end-point with stalls and speakers greeting marchers as the rally ends.  We are pleased to announce that Mr Tommy Sheridan has confirmed he will be addressing the rally – other speakers will be confirmed in due course.
 
This campaign is important if we are to ensure that our broadcasters treat the referendum debate with the respect it deserves.  Both STV and BBC Scotland must ensure that the Scottish public are provided with objective reporting, mature analysis and fair and inclusive debates and discussions.
 
BARD2014 has already acknowledged the investment made by STV in its excellent Scotland Tonight current affairs programme.  However it can do more, and we would urge those in charge of the station to consider expanding its current affairs programming to include prime time debate shows that focus on independence issues.
 
STV of course is a private company and forces no-one to pay for its programmes.
 
The same cannot be said for the BBC which compels those of us with a TV to pay a licence fee of £145.50 per year, yet at the same time in Scotland is actively pursuing a cuts agenda with journalists being made redundant at a time when it should be investing more in Scottish programming.

Recently, members of BARD2014 joined the picket line at Pacific Quay arguing against job cuts and calling for more of the Scottish licence fee to be spent in Scotland.  Currently two thirds of the money raised here leaves Scotland and her economy, and flows south into the £3bn central BBC budget.
 
There are many who believe that this campaign should focus on a perceived bias at BBC Scotland.  Whilst there are certainly issues with BBC Scotland’s political output, to accuse them of bias could result in any campaign failing to persuade the Scottish public who, to a large degree, still believe the BBC do a decent job.
 
Our campaign seeks to secure more Scottish spend from the BBC in order to improve the quality of output, and to ensure we do not get a continuation of the current poor quality of programming.  We recognise that there are elements within BBC Scotland, mostly at management level, who are almost certainly pursuing an agenda, but quality debates, mature more varied analysis and balance can counter such politically motivated content.  This can only be achieved with greater investment.
 
Cuts will only ensure that those who are currently in charge at BBC Scotland can continue in the same vein, with quite possibly even less analysis than we see at present.
 
The secondary aim of the campaign is to persuade more people to scrutinise output from our broadcasters for themselves – people will slowly notice if debate and discussions allow more input from one side than the other.  If the campaign fails in its bid to improve standards and ensure objective balanced analysis, then our leafleting and rallies will certainly ensure that more people are inclined to question the absolute truth of claims emanating from TV, Radio, and the wider MSM.
 
The May 18th rally is an opportunity for anyone who cares about Scotland’s democracy to help ensure we receive the standard of debate the historic referendum in 2014 deserves.
 
Between now and the rally, we will provide regular updates on the events that will take place at St Enoch Square.  Until then, please spread the word and make as many people aware as you can.  We plan to have a day of action in the lead up to the rally.  The form and scope this takes will to a large degree depend on the response to this article.
 
Our website www.bard2014.com is nearing completion.  It will act as a hub to promote our aims, our events and our campaigns.  We plan to distribute leaflets and talk to the public in towns and cities the length and breadth of Scotland.

To achieve this will require both money and volunteers.  We will have a donate button that will allow those who can, to donate to our campaign fund which will ensure we can maximise exposure and exert pressure on Scotland’s broadcasters.  We will have a contact page for any ideas, offers of help or anything else related to our campaign.
 
The campaign is for a Balanced, All inclusive Referendum Debate – who could disagree that we deserve one?

Visit us at BARD2014.com – Join us at the next rally in Glasgow, Saturday May 18th 2013, and help us grow the campaign for balanced broadcasting.