By a Newsnet reporter
It’s hardly a surprise to find that the British Broadcasting machine’s Scottish outpost has kicked into full war mode when the future of the United Kingdom is under threat, this after all is what state broadcasters do.
The first ‘law’ of broadcasting during any war is to provide as much ‘news’ as possible to ensure the man (or woman) in the street keeps faith with your side.
Downplay your opponents gains and exaggerate your own is the rule.
The war of course is the independence referendum, the WMDs (weapons of mass distraction) are words and the foot soldiers are the ‘reporters’ of BBC Scotland - well some of them.
The publication of the report that details Scotland’s fiscal health has confirmed that Scotland is subsidising the UK. There’s really no other way to portray the figures contained in GERS.
Well, not unless you are BBC Scotland who yesterday provided yet more evidence to the growing list of incriminatory episodes that are fast leading to the conclusion that there is a corrupt element at Pacific Quay.
In the introduction to last night’s News at Ten, Jackie Bird trailed the Scottish slot with the following statement: “The official figures that show how much Scotland relies on oil money to pay the bills if it became an independent country”
Scotland apparently produces nothing at all – save for some oil and gas near our shores that is volatile and running out, it’ll be gone the day after we vote for independence.
The late night introduction ended a particularly bruising and brutal day for those of us who longed for the days of honest journalism. It began with a carefully contrived ‘leak’ of a document that set the tone for how BBC Scotland would approach the release of official figures that demonstrated the relative wealth of those Scots who pay their wages.
The leaked document was timed to deflect attention from the GERS report, as was the ‘downgrading’ of the Scottish economy by the Fraser of Allander Institute, the Mystic Meg of economic forecasters.
In any war, the propaganda vehicle must diminish the ‘gains’ of the enemy whilst embellishing positive news for its own side. Thus, BBC Scotland’s role yesterday wasn’t to report on the GERS report in a factual manner, it was to diminish the effectiveness of the figures and blunt what was certain to be a considerable boost for the Yes campaign.
The Reporting Scotland tea-time news item witnessed former Herald Political Editor Douglas Fraser dispense with any pretence of journalistic integrity as he sought to turn good news about his own nation into bad.
The introduction from Jackie Bird was always expected “Can we afford independence? … the Government are spending a lot more than Scots are paying in tax”.
Fraser’s job as the Business and Economy Editor ought to have been restricted to the report itself and an explanation of the figures. Indeed it is acceptable to highlight the deficit if it is clearly explained that this is the norm for countries and that Scotland’s deficit as a proportion of GDP is a sign of rude good health.
But alas what we got was a mixture of the BBC ‘leak’ and a prediction of doom from a think tank that has well documented links to the Labour party. The mixing of three different subjects allowed Fraser to dilute the effectiveness of the GERS figures and introduce all kinds of politically motivated rhetoric. Good news thus sounded bad when all three were mixed and conflated.
Douglas Fraser on Reporting Scotland
It’s worth pausing to look at the downgrading of its forecast of Scotland’s economic performance by the Fraser of Allander Institute – deemed of such importance by the 'Fraser of BBC' that it was included along with the GERS figures (well some of them). In November last year, this same think tank - headed by one Professor Brian Ashcroft – downgraded its prediction for the Scottish economy insisting it would shrink in 2012. In fact the Scottish economy grew by 0.4% in 2012.
Also popping up later that evening on Newsnight Scotland just in time to pour cold water on any thoughts that Scotland would be better off unshackled from Westminster was the CPPR in the form of Jo Armstrong - another think tank with links to the Labour party. The same key words, “oil” - “volatility” - “rapidly depleting” that marks out the Unionist mindset were all there.
Finishing off the trio was the OBR – a think tank created by UK Chancellor George Osborne – and another forecast of oil doomdom. When facts harm your argument then predictions from three Unionist leaning think tanks come rapidly to your aid.
This is Unionism and journalism meeting head on and the desperate day ended with Gordon Brewer confronting Derek Mackay with headlines from pro-Union newspapers who were claiming another ‘leaked’ report showed the SNP were planning cuts to welfare in an independent Scotland. Such reports and articles are routine whenever a big story emerges that damages the case for the Union.
The sham was complete when Brewer cut off Mackay’s response which sought to highlight the McCrone report - the biggest scandal of all and one that remains under-reported.
How Newsnight Scotland covered the GERS report
The days careful reporting of the GERS report by BBC Scotland was shocking, even by Pacific Quay’s standards and is a signal of intent from the station.
It followed news that yet another Foreign Minister had claimed comments made by his office relating to Scottish independence had been misrepresented by the broacaster.
The alleged culprit was Glenn Campbell who had reported Luxembourg as apparently “warning” against independence.
Campbell’s track record in the handling of politically sensitive issues is less than boastful and his ability to allow his political leanings to infect his news reports and interviews is legendary. Indeed this morning on Good Morning Scotland he popped up again covering the headlines promoted by Brewer the previous evening and astonishingly refused to confirm if the leaked report actually contained the cuts claimed by the Unionists.
BBC Scotland refused to change when Scotland embraced devolution, they are even further behind as the nation moves forward again and gears up for the 2014 referendum.
What we are witnessing now is a self-policing broadcasting machine that has morphed into a colonial broadcaster unable to check itself. Unionism is eating away at its soul and a lack of accountability is allowing a minority to indulge their prejudices.
The aforementioned presenters - it’s becoming increasingly difficult to call them journalists - probably aren’t aware just how obvious their behaviour has become, they are too close to the problem.
Not all at BBC Scotland are this journalistically corrupt – is there any other phrase to describe what’s going on? - but those who display these tendencies are allowed a significantly higher profile than those who genuinely do report in a professional and non-partisan manner.
It’s probably why people like Derek Bateman and Isobel Fraser are consigned to weekend morning slots where their excellent journalism will have minimal impact.
Their reputations are being sullied – they, and a great many others, are being tainted by a hard core minority. The Catholic Church in Scotland is evidence of just how a few rotten eggs can taint a whole institution if no-one acts to curtail inappropriate behaviour.
The independence referendum is too important an issue for the good and honest to remain silent, they really must speak out.