When Alex met Rupert and the dangers of unprotected texts


by G.A.Ponsonby

What a week it’s been.  The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) had a spot of ‘premature education’ and sent out texts containing exam results a day early.

The First Minister published documents detailing meetings and correspondence he has had with News International figures.  Scotland got through both these devastating events, but only just.

Premature education

The sensationalism that accompanied the news that SQA text messages had been sent out a day early was quite incredible.  A blunder yes, but surely the news that thousands of students had received the correct results a little earlier than expected merited some sober analysis instead of the frenzied nonsense that only served to whip up the already frantic teenage Facebook hysteria.

Instead of presenting the facts in context and allaying fears, the BBC joined the cacophony of din and helped transform a minor administrative error into a full blown national crisis.

Students who were already confused by the breaking news, poorly-informed gossip and scare stories suggesting an advantage in gaining university clearing places for those in receipt of the early results, weren’t helped when BBC Scotland itself decided to feast on the rumours.

It at least provided a moment of unintentional hilarity when Radio Scotland’s Gary Robertson asked about those poor students who may have suffered as a result of ‘having been alone when they received their results’.  A clear case of the dangers of unprotected texts.

The puzzlement over the highlighting of the concerns by BBC Scotland was that that SQA had actually launched the text service last year and the big selling point then was the fact that students could access their exam results a day early.  At last year’s launch BBC Scotland had presenters in place as excited students waited for their mobile phones to bleep.

Planned or unplanned, if an early result service didn’t raise concerns over unfair advantage last year then why would it this time?

It’s academic now but the contractor (AQL) responsible for sending out the text messages has now admitted culpability for the early release.  Unfortunately a little too late to prevent the ritual stoning of SQA.  If only SQA had released former Labour MP Jim Devine early instead of a few exam results then the BBC may have ignored the story.

When Alex met Rupert

The famous scene from the movie ‘When Harry met Sally’ sprang to mind on Thursday tea time when news of the First Ministers media documents publication hit the airwaves.

There was near orgasmic excitement at Pacific Quay as Radio Scotland presenters repeatedly stated that Alex Salmond was on first name terms with Rupert Murdoch.  Just like Meg Ryan in that café scene the uncontrolled spontaneity was evident as the ‘multiple bulletins’ became ever more intense.  Rupert called Alex … Alex and Alex called Rupert … Rupert – sensation!!

It wasn’t long before the reasons for the ‘first name’ angle became apparent – there was nothing damaging in the documents and the BBC, as well as the opposition, were trying to contrive something – anything.

The story would and should have faded but for Labour’s decision to let off both barrels right into their own feet.  Boom, as Iain Gray was allowed to play with a microphone live on air and attacked the SNP leader for doing, well, much the same thing as every Labour politician of note had been doing for years, only Alex Salmond hadn’t done it quite as often.

Boom, as Johann Lamont – the Tasmanian Devil to Iain Gray’s Elmer Fudd – launched another round of ill prepared verbal grapeshot with a memorable appearance on Newsnight Scotland.  Lamont met the BBC’s silent assassin, and nationalist pin up girl, Isabel Fraser who smiled as she spit roasted the hapless Labour politician over the hot coals of hypocrisy.

The Scottish papers though aren’t ones to let facts get in the way of a good anti-SNP smear and promptly picked up on the Labour spin and off they went to apply the magic potion to the ever enlarging bald patch known as dwindling readership numbers.

Groundhog Day

Sticking with the movie metaphors, this is Groundhog Day as the old Trump tactic is employed all over again.

Here’s how it goes. Take a disclosed meeting with a tycoon, add a vague allegation of wrongdoing from a unionist politician or two, then have friendly journalists run with related smear stories like the Gathering and there you have it – Trump 2.

The best though is how Labour and their media chums have dealt with the release of the correspondence between Mr Salmond and Mr Murdoch – the only political leader to do so.

In most western democracies this would have placed the ball firmly back in the Labour court and pressure would have been turned on the Labour accusers to release their own correspondence covering the same four year period.

Not so here in Jockistan where Labour have responded to the First Ministers upping of the ante by simply demanding that HE reveal even more correspondence.

In cities the length and breadth of the UK posters are appearing on bill boards advertising the forthcoming pantomime season.

In Scotland it’s already here.


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