Citizen appeal by Alan Knight
It’s a common refrain from Yes supporters when referring to media coverage of the independence referendum: “We would have won if it wasn’t for the biased media.”
There’s an element of truth in it of course. The No campaign wasn’t run only by the Better Together alliance, it was run by the media. Had the Yes campaign received equal backing from print and broadcast media then I’d wager we’d be nearing the end of our negotiations with Westminster.
Sadly the result didn’t go the way of Yes and we are currently at the mercy of a Westminster Tory Government, one of the most hard-right administrations in recent history.
My name is Alan Knight. This week I launched an appeal for £20,000 to fund a documentary based on a book which exposes some of the worst examples of the one-sided reporting that pockmarked the referendum campaign.
“London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum” was written by G.A.Ponsonby in the months following the historic September 18 vote. The book chronicles the deterioration in standards at BBC Scotland in terms of its political coverage, as the broadcaster struggled to come to terms in the rise in support for the SNP and the growing calls for Scottish independence.
In a review, writer and former BBC broadcaster Derek Bateman described it as a “searing scrutiny of the BBC’s role in the referendum – forensic, unforgiving and uncomfortable commentary on an institution that let the nation down…”a literary iPlayer of the worst of BBC indyref coverage that stands as a monument to broadcasting failure”.
Having read the book for myself, I couldn’t agree more. Like most Yes supporters I watched BBC Scotland’s coverage of the referendum campaign with a growing sense of frustration. It seemed like every anti-Yes scare story was turned into a high-profile news item. Every story that aided Yes was marginalised, even ignored.
The final two weeks were especially infuriating as the corporation focused on pledges from Gordon Brown and the so-called “Vow” from the leaders of the three main UK parties. We now know these pledges and vows were worthless. They were given credence by a corporation trusted by the millions who are compelled to pay for it. The public were duped.
The BBC was one of the key weapons deployed by the No campaign. The clue is in the corporation’s name “British Broadcasting Corporation”. There is really no such entity as BBC Scotland. In terms of the constitutional debate the BBC belongs not to everyone, it belongs to Unionists. It is controlled from and by London. To quote G.A.Ponsonby: “The BBC, in terms of political propaganda, is the Unionists’ supply line.”
When the second referendum is upon us, this entity will behave exactly as it did the first. Presenters and reporters, whether based at the organisation’s Glasgow HQ or elsewhere, will do as they are ordered. Jackie Bird will read out whatever is prepared for her to read out, as will Gary Robertson and others. Eleanor Bradford, Glenn Campbell and Douglas Fraser will report in the same way as they did during the first referendum. And we will be unable to prevent it.
So how do we combat such a behemoth? This is where the documentary comes in. The BBC’s power lies in the trust it enjoys amongst the general population. Give people reason to question their trust in the BBC and you remove a significant plank of any future anti-independence campaign.
My documentary will force people to question what they are being told by the BBC. Blind belief will be replaced by healthy scepticism. Once people begin to question BBC output then a significant number will seek to look behind the headlines.
Those of you who have read Ponsonby’s book will need no persuading as to the power of his research. London Calling explodes the myth of the BBC as an impartial messenger. Instead what it reveals is an organisation willfully abusing its power. As Derek Bateman says, the BBC let the nation down.
But how many ordinary people will get to read this book? How many, even holding a copy, will invest the time and effort to read each barnstorming chapter? The answer sadly is a few thousand. In order to increase this number we have to establish an additional medium of delivery.
A documentary will allow people to witness many of the example broadcasts referenced by Ponsonby, and more. The general public will be much more able and willing to digest each and every twisted story, manipulated video, misrepresentation and news blackout. The documentary will also be able to include interviews showing SNP figures being hectored and interrupted, something Ponsonby could not do in his book.
Those who watch the documentary will see experts examine the BBC’s output and deconstruct it. This will be blended with footage of relevant examples. There will be an interview in Barcelona with one of the Catalan TV stations to widen the perspective of what a nation can do when it has its own media. Would a fully devolved broadcaster which had at its heart the interests of the Scottish people have tried to block Scotland’s party of government from taking part in a televised general election debate?
If the appeal is successful and reaches its target, I plan to send the documentary on a tour of Scotland’s towns and villages where it will be shown on large screens in community halls and similar venues. There will be no charge for entry, but a voluntary collection will be held at the end of each showing. The tour, once established, could become self-funding.
Most observers estimate that the next referendum will be held no earlier than 2019. With production of the documentary estimated to take between three to four months, this would allow almost three years for promotion and tour. The documentary would of course also be freely available on Youtube.
Most of us thought that we’d see only one independence referendum in our lifetime. We’ve been given a second chance. Remember though, the BBC is not ours, it’s theirs and they will deploy this weapon again. We have to ready our defences. Please support this appeal.
You can donate to the appeal by clicking HERE.