BROADCAST NEWS 14: Immigration coverage is playing with fire

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Professor John Robertson says ‘Damn your Cold Heart, BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs Department’

March 6-10:

This is just awful. BBC Scotland interferes in the run up to the election with an unwanted survey on the attitudes of Scots to immigration. The willingness to fuel racism to influence the result of an election is the behaviour of a psychopath, in my view.

The March 7-9 broadcasts are reported in the second half of this report because they pale into insignificance with what happened on the 10th. I still can’t believe this is happening now. I didn’t think they’d do this. It’s not just anti-democratic, it’s fascist!

The Prof: now he's angry
The Prof: now he’s angry

March 10:  First SNP accused of arrogance, betrayal and centralisation then BBC take a step too far.

Scrape, scrape, scrape, Reporting Scotland almost falls into the barrel looking for something to smear the Scottish Government/SNP with. They had a real go with the NHS. Is anybody listening to that now? Tonight, it’s the transfer of the tiny Scottish branch of the British Transport Police force (200 staff) into Police Scotland.

It’s a Smith Commission recommendation so agreed by all parties. Reporting Scotland offered no evidence of problems, on the night, there were no tearful transport police officers nor the voices of members of the public opposed to the move. We got from the British Transport Police boss, last December, the warning that the takeover would be ‘unjustified and unjustifiable and it would be a betrayal of our members.’ Again we got no explanation of why this would be. Are they to be paid less? Will they have to wear horribly Scottish uniforms? Will they have to learn Scottish accents? Tom Harris MP (Labour but not described as such) rails (See what I did there?) against supposed SNP arrogance and centralisation as if the latter was a bad thing, always.

That these police officers are actually centralised in the UK at present and that transfer to Scottish control is decentralisation, seems to escape him. So, this is one of Reporting Scotland’s regular damp squibs, but wait till you hear what’s.

Scrape, scrape, scrape, Reporting Scotland finds only a battered little bag of smelly fears, right in the bottom of the barrel and previously overlooked in ‘Project Hit SNP With Anything’. The pro-Labour project is in crisis. They’ve used all the NHS ammo for the moment, Eleanor Bradford’s having therapy for a bad case of cognitive disonance, and putting Jim Murphy on-screen every night is leading to complaints from the mothers of nervous weans. We can only imagine News and Current Affairs Supremo, Bossman, calling a meeting.

BBC News Scotland: Immigration agenda?
BBC News Scotland: Immigration agenda?

Bossman: What can we stir up now? Think!  
Newly appointed graduate (BA German History):  Sir, what about immigration? The SNP are in favour of that. We could stir up fears of being swamped by immigrants and suggest the SNP will be to blame.
Lucy: Sir, aren’t the other parties soft on immigration too?
Bossman: Yes, but we don’t have to mention that.
New graduate: It worked well in German elections in the 1930s
Lucy: Sir, one big problem though is that we’d be doing something quite unethical just to help Labour.
Bossman: Your point is? Just get on with it.

And the results are in:
‘Nearly two thirds of scots believe immigration should be reduced with women and older people feeling most strongly.’
According to a poll commissioned by the BBC, Scots are almost as negative about immigration as the population in the rest of Britain.’

BBC canvassed opinion in multi-national Govanhill
BBC canvassed opinion in multi-national Govanhill

Hooray! Hip hip hooray! We’re no better than the English so stop this talk of breaking away. Why did the BBC do the research? It’s because immigration ‘will be a big issue in the election’? Says who? No one other than the BBC. UKIP will be pleased though with their special invite to 2015.

This is just awful. BBC Scotland may pay a very heavy price for this mistake. Let’s hope the rest of us do not find ourselves witness to acts of violence against our good friends in Scotland’s minority groups. This is the most emotional I’ve been since September. Damn you BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs Department!

Meanwhile, in other news…

March 6: Labour Conference in Scotland: Are they worried?
Depends who you watch. The ‘pressure’ to rule out any deal with the SNP is picked up by BBC Reporting Scotland, as the central issue even if UK Labour leadership want to concentrate on conflict with Tories. The ‘vote SNP get Tory’ mantra is repeated, pushing out concerns about Labour’s problems from the debate.

Labour representatives are given time to present a preferred message around their opposition to poverty and Tory cuts, reminding the viewer that only Labour can do this. So rather than looking at Labour’s problems (see STV below) this report offers a soft focus evaluation with the following numerical characteristics based on quite a narrow account:
Pro-Opposition/Labour:   5
Pro-SG/SNP:                0

STV’s coverage was a bit fuller and more analytical with Ponsonby, in particular delivering some quite cutting assessments. In particular, we hear more of the ‘acute anxiety’ and there is a final assessment that Labour look ‘clapped out. Time is given to Labour to make the case for them as the champions of the fight against poverty and Murphy is given six statements building up the ‘Vote SNP, get Tory’ climax but remarkably cut off before he can deliver it.  Arithmetically it looks like this:
Pro-Opposition/Labour:   24
Pro-SG/SNP:                14

Certainly, Labour are given a more than fair allocation of time but some of the critical assessments of their performance and the refusal to allow the parroting of ‘vote SNP get Tory’ line produces greater balance that the numbers suggest.

March 7: Sticking it tae the bloody SNP!
Reporting Scotland get right intae conference season with a hoarse old warrior shouting: ‘Let’s get out there and dae it. Let’s stick it to the bloody SNP!’ My dear chap this the BBC don’t you know? I thought STV News did the voice of the working chap. They missed this one. Ed Milliband gets eight statements to not mention the SNP pact and and BBC’s Glenn Campbell a further 8 to suggest it. Overall, Labour get plenty of time on this one:
Pro-Opposition/Labour:   22
Pro-SG/SNP:                0

STV go for a fairly bland descriptive manner after Bernard’s sharp-shooting the previous evening. It’s the Labour Conference, let them say what they want seems to be the thinking as we get:
Pro-Opposition/Labour:   42
Pro-SG/SNP:                4

March 8:  More of the same?
Reporting Scotland take the opportunity to respond to Labour prompting to keep them in the audience’s mind every night using an interview with their MP Ian Murray to justify a main news report opening with the ‘If you want Labour, you have to vote Labour’ line and featuring 12 statements unchallenged or followed. So:
Pro-Opposition/Labour:   14
Pro-SG/SNP:                0

March 9: Alex Salmond becomes poster boy for Conservatives
Neither STV News or Reporting Scotland make much of this story, being unable to identify any real evidence of pressure on leaders though Reporting Scotland does manage to find time to share a negative image of Alex Salmond. They’ve clearly missed this game.

Professor John Robertson, University of the West of Scotland, 11th March 2015