BROADCAST NEWS: View from the armchair Part 3

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Scottish TV News and the General Election 2015: Part 3: January 19th-21st

Prof John Robertson
Prof John Robertson

It continues, but only on BBC Reporting Scotland, this time. STV’s Scotland Today, in sharp contrast, build on their strong performance in previous days to offer some very good quality journalism – to the point, accurate and informative.

ITV have little to say of relevance and BBC1’s wily Nick Robinson seems keen to show that he can be better.

So, to inject a bit more positivity than my first two reports, what did STV do so well? Well, focusing on the more eventful 21st, they covered their new IPSOS-MORI poll and then the property rate cuts by the Scottish Government.

Remember how, on the 18th, BBC Reporting Scotland had joined in with the inane chanting of “U-turn” on the latter issue? They clearly enjoyed it and can’t let it go, as we will see.

The IPSOS-MORI poll shows a continuing dramatic lead for the SNP. They do let Jim Murphy play his “Don’t let Cameron in by accidentally voting SNP” card without judgement, at the end, despite the obvious opportunity to ask if that’s all he has. However the report begins with a frank account of the situation, Murphy’s negative (-4) rating and the apparent lack of any positive “Murphy Effect”. They’re too kind to wonder whether there had actually been a negative Murphy Effect and that we were seeing it now.

On changes to property rates, the STV report is, again, accurate and informative despite the time constraints which commonly reduce the informational quality of TV news. The story is cast as one of reduced taxes resulting from a reasonable reaction to George Osborne”s actions. Conservative and estate agent representatives make quietly supportive comments.

“Opponents have dubbed changes the fastest U-turn in history!” we hear on Reporting Scotland on the 21st, though as before, credit is not given for this wonderful line, to any lucky individual. Through tears of laughter, those of us who have completed primary schooling remember umpteen better examples….from history.

Just before this howler, we hear the worrying news that the changes mean that “expensive houses” will cost more than in England. They go on to maintain the focus on the top-end of the market by speaking to the owner of a house worth around £300 000. Bear in mind the average price is just under £200 000 and that this figure is distorted by particularly high prices in a few areas, so Reporting Scotland are directing this negativity at a very small percentage of their audience.

We hear, dramatically from the seller, that “It”s gonna stop ye buyin houses” and that the Scottish Government had to act to avoid “punishing Scots”. The report continues with Swinney allowed to explain quite fully, but finishes with the Tories worried about “damage to the market overall” and, somewhat out-of-context, Labour calling for more spending on the NHS.

The Nick Robinson story of the SNP voting on legislation directly affecting the English NHS had the potential for scaremongering and indignation, given his previous. However, the report is balanced and respectful toward the First Minister if a little thin on information about knock-on effects on the Scottish NHS. This is only an impression, but is Nicola a more difficult target than Alex was, especially for the London media? Does she come across as a likeable, capable young woman, with no affectations and a bit of cheek but not too much?

So Reporting Scotland, that’s three bad reports in a row. I want you to watch STV and try to work up to their standard. Think about it. First stop parroting what the Labour Party says. They’re upset and emotional and not a reliable source. Talking of sources, stop saying “some people” or “opponents” and try to remember who said it.  Thirdly, start identifying with the majority of your viewers on middle and lower incomes who can’t afford houses even if they only cost £300 000.

You can do it if you really try. I’ll be watching.

Professor John Robertson, Primary 7 Supply Teacher, 21st January 2015