Broadcast News: First Minister’s China trip is all about the ‘R’ factor. Really?

BBC reporting Nicola Sturgeon's trade mission to China

viewfromthearmchair_02Newsnet’s armchair viewer Professor John Robertson is on the trail of Reporting Scotland once more

‘The First Minister’s trade trip to China is dominated by questions surrounding a second independence referendum’

Jackie Bird leads with the above statement three minutes into the BBC News headlines at 1pm on Monday 27th July 2015. It’s repeated 17 minutes later and then becomes the lead story for Reporting Scotland at 1.30pm. In the latter, the story takes up most of the time available.

The first issue which was raised in the main report was that “there have been calls for the FM to clarify SNP policy on a second referendum”. Where the calls come from is not clarified. The viewers probably know by now that they are only coming from one or more of the defeated unionist parties. I suppose if Jackie had something less partisan and more credible like a university economics department or from a business leader, she would have named them straight off. We find out later, of course, that it’s only “Dodgie Dave” Mundell of the Scottish Conservatives and that quite likeable guy from Scottish Labour’s Gorgie Road team whose name escapes me.

The next topic is women’s rights in China and globally, which Nicola Sturgeon gives a speech on, in China. It sounds quite inspiring and maybe even, a wee bit courageous. Leader of a wee country isn’t so desperate to get trade that she ignores ethical matters?  Could that be a headline story, perhaps? Jackie, you’re a successful woman. Sisters, eh?

Later on, the reporter in China, Martin Patience, tells us about a “slew” of trade deals and some job creation. What is a “slew”? This sounds like one of Brian Taylor’s words. I can hear him now – “a ssslooo of sssausssagessss!” It’s either from the old Irish, “sluagh”, meaning “a lot” or the past tense of “slay”. Either way, was this a possible headline story, then? Clearly not.

Before that, sadly though, the reporter in China chills our mung beans with:

“This was supposed to be about putting Scotland on the world stage and bolstering economic and cultural ties with China but instead the start of this visit has been overshadowed by comments back home.”

Has it though seriously, our man in China? To overshadow events in China, it would have to, logically, be in the Chinese media, wouldn’t it? Does Reporting Scotland have a big audience in Beijing or Shanghai? Note it’s a soft “j” in Beijing. It’s not like the “j” in “jings crivens and help ma boab”. So, in the Chinese media, what was the story?

Well, no sign of a shadow at all. CCTV, China’s biggest station with about 2 billion viewers, don’t mention it at all. They do however mention: “Scotland-based artists mount Shanghai exhibition. ‘The Poster Club’, a group of five artists based in Scotland, and they’re now exhibiting their collaborative works of art at a Shanghai museum. Visitors can make their own posters too!” Pretty cool I’d say. China View has nothing at all but then, third in my search, China Daily. has this today. It’s so positive I’ve listed the full report so you can enjoy both its optimism and try to find the shadow of another referendum in the text:

Sino-Scottish deals worth £43m announced

Updated: 2015-07-27 19:47

By Zheng Xin(

China and Scotland announced new partnerships in Beijing on Monday estimated to be worth £43.15 million to the Scottish economy with 70 new jobs created.

The agreement was signed during Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s trade mission to improve links between the two countries while promoting Scottish businesses.

“Scotland is well placed to benefit from China’s strategic focus on innovation, with our longstanding expertise in sectors which have been identified as essential for China’s future prosperity,” said Sturgeon during her inaugural visit to Beijing.

“Our world class universities and research base and an ever-growing base of innovative Scottish companies across energy, life sciences, technology, financial services and entertainment fits well with China’s long-term investment plans for these sectors”.

Julian Taylor, executive director Asia Pacific, Scottish Development International, said the deals are in accordance with the growing demand in China for Scottish expertise and quality products.

“International trade and exporting is one of the most significant ways in which companies can grow and many Scottish companies already have long-standing, profitable partnerships in China,” he said.

“These are significant opportunities for many Scottish companies to realize the benefits of expansion into the market”.

According to the first minister, the value of Scottish food and drink exports to China went up 12 percent to £85million last year, and China has become one of Scotland’s most important trading partners with the value of food and drink exports to China ballooning 83 percent since 2007.

Emerging markets such as China are growing more interested in Scottish produce and the figures reveal that Scottish produce is well sought after, she said.

The first minister has undertaken cultural and educational visits during the trade mission, and also announced an extra 21 Confucius Classrooms will be created in Scotland to teach primary pupils Mandarin to boost their language skills while meeting 80 Scottish school pupils during a summer learning exchange program in China.

Supporting Scotland’s 1-2 languages policy that allows children to learn two languages in addition to their native language as of 2020, the program is meant to better prepare students for life and work in an ever multi-cultural and global marketplace, in which Mandarin has become one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, said Sturgeon.

More than 200 schools and 20,000 pupils in Scotland learn about China and its language, including those who learn through the 14 Confucius Classrooms in secondary schools across 18 Scottish local authorities.

At the same site there’s a fantastic piece about Scottish fish exports. Both the urls are at the bottom of this report.

Jackie Bird
Jackie Bird

Now, Reporting Scotland, surely this is shameful, incompetent and frankly stinky! There is clearly a very good news story to tell here and you either ignored it or missed it. WTF is the man in China doing there? Another referendum is not a story for the Chinese so it can’t overshadow anything there. As far as I can see on these same sites they’re a lot more anxious about us pulling out of Europe.

What about back in the UK, Jackie? Did you mean it is dominating things here? That’s not really what the  headlines suggested. However let’s see if the wider UK media are of the same view? Well STV reported only on the trades deals and in a positive light. They don’t seem to have found the next referendum dominating things back here.

Here are the newspaper headlines:

Scotsman: Nicola Sturgeon to take human rights message to China

Herald: Sturgeon in China: FM announces in Beijing that primary school children in Scotland will learn mandarin

Daily Record: Nicola Sturgeon hails partnerships worth £43 million for Scottish firms in China

None of these reports mentions the referendum. The Independent, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian do not report at all on the trip. The only obvious shade anywhere on their front pages is that under Lord Sewell’s belly.

Best of all, readers, but not for Jackie, is my final search for domination by the referendum on the BBC’s own UK reports. Here they are:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon leads China trade mission

Nicola Sturgeon makes women’s rights plea in China – BBC …

Fund to target whisky connoisseurs in China – BBC News

What are the reports like? Warm-hearted, encouraging, inspiring, no mention of the referendum but full of ideal headline statements like:

‘Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s programme director in Scotland, said: “The first minister has made a significant statement of support for equality and human rights in Beijing, and we trust that she will continue a dialogue on these issues throughout her time in China.”

Look Jackie and whoever is writing your stuff (Kelvin McKenzie?), even your pals in London can be decent toward the SNP and recognise their achievements. It’s over for Labour in Scotland. Stop fighting a dirty rear-guard revenge action on their behalf. Your weird coverage of Mhairi Black’s inspirational speech, to your much-vaunted 500 000 viewers, matters little in the light (and it is light) of her 10 000 000, and climbing, Youtube hits. Appropriately, Confucius had good advice for all the surviving unionists in Pacific Quay, determined perhaps to somehow get revenge on the SNP: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Professor John Robertson, University of the West of Scotland, 27th August 2015