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Now on BBC Scotland - The Great British Propaganda Machine

bbc scotlandBy G.A.Ponsonby

I gave up watching Reporting Scotland a few months ago.  It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened.  I simply got fed up with its grinding, non-stop negative portrayal of Scotland and its Pravda-esque handling of political news.

I used to watch it religiously throughout the independence referendum campaign.  I wasn't interested in the sport or the violence, but watched for blatant pro-Union referendum items.  There were many examples.

It's still manipulating political stories.  I record items if they they've been highlighted by someone.  But aside from that, I don't go near the programme.  It's the same with the late night Current Affairs programme Scotland 2015.  I don't watch it either.  Never have.

Great British Propaganda

BBC Scotland is part of a British franchise.  It's like McDonalds in that it can't make any serious alterations to its product.  It follows a recipe handed to it by its London HQ.  Its political news is baked in a Great British Oven.  It's a Great British Propaganda Machine.

This last few days has witnessed the propaganda heat setting being turned to full.  This happens every now and again.  I'm not sure why.  But it has the effect of highlighting the one sided nature of BBC Scotland's political coverage.  Even non-political anoraks can see the smoke.

On Wednesday the smoke wafted into my living room when I tuned into Radio Scotland's flagship morning news programme.  Good Morning Scotland was doing as it is designed to do and setting up the news for the day, when up popped the voice of political reporter Glenn Campbell.

Campbell was his usual melodramatic self.  Glenn is the sort of person who could make a bus being late sound like the scandal of the decade.  The BBC reporter didn't disappoint with a tale of millions of pounds being 'wasted' by Glasgow Caledonian University.

Glenn informed us that the university had invested £5.6m on a campus based in New York.  The campus had received endorsements from Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon but had failed to acquire a licence which would allow it to teach and award degrees.  An anticipated income stream was not yet materialising.

White Elephant

Right in the middle of the item was the unmistakeable voice of Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.  She slated the project.  It had been overambitious.  It was a "very expensive white elephant".  Baillie's 'concern' gave a subsequent BBC online article its headline.

Having listened to the broadcast which very clearly highlighted Salmond and Sturgeon's endorsement of the campus, I immediately inferred that the £5.6m project cost must have been cash from the Scottish Government - public cash.  Why else would two former First Ministers feature and a Labour MSP be given the opportunity to comment?  BBC Scotland's online page featured the story in the top spot.

But then I happened across a tweet from someone who pointed out that all was not as was being suggested.  It seemed that key information was missing from Glenn Campbell's Good Morning Scotland item.

The tweet referred to a TV news item that had been broadcast just before 07.00 am when most people were either still in bed, or - like me - wandering around rubbing sleep from their eyes.

The broadcast featured the story in question.  It contained a clip of someone called Professor James Miller who spoke on behalf of the university.

"I would invite the Labour party to come and speak to us about it, which they haven't done to date...

"I suspect that one of their concerns is 'are we using public funding to finance this arrangement?', which we are absolutely not."

His comments destroyed any suggestion that public cash had in any way funded the project.  You'll notice that Professor Miller didn't just clarify that no public cash was used, but that he also criticised the Scottish Labour party.  There can be little doubt that Professor Miller's on screen comments were highly relevant to the story, yet they did not appear in Glenn Campbell's news report.

Shortly after his appearance on Good Morning Scotland, Campbell amended the online article to include quotes from Jackie Baillie and images of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.  Also added were quotes from Professor Miller.  But missing was the criticism of Labour and confirmation that no public cash had been used.

Now I'm not saying the story wasn't newsworthy.  Five and a half million quid, whether public cash or not, is a considerable amount of money and in these austere times it's right to question the logic of the investment.

Twitter

But there's no doubt that Professor Miller's comments were as relevant as those of Jackie Baillie, yet they were stripped from Campbell's news reports both online and broadcast.  I posted a tweet to the BBC Scotland reporter asking him why Professor Miller's comments were missing.  My questions and the BBC reporter's first reply can be seen below.

my questions

campbell answer1

The article linked to, did indeed contain a reference to Professor Miller's comment on public cash.

'The university insists the project is entirely funded from its own resources and not from public money.'

But Campbell's tweet was as misleading as his initial news report and his online article.  The sentence had been added after I had highlighted its absence.

It wasn't the only change.  The headline on the online article had also been amended.  It no longer featured Scottish Labour ‘concerns' but instead focused on the lack of a degree licence.

When pressed on why his news report had not made clear no public cash was involved, he tweeted the following.

campbell answer2

So, according to Glenn Campbell the story wasn't about a possible misuse of public cash.  Nobody had made this claim and no such claim had been broadcast.  So that was clear.  That was until on that evening's Newsdrive the following news bulletin appeared.

What was going on?  Had Campbell gone back to Labour MSP Jackie Baillie to clarify what exactly she was claiming?  If so then this was odd.  Surely a BBC reporter would have been in possession of all the relevant facts and comments before going to air in the first place.  Who was driving the story, Glenn Campbell or Jackie Baillie?

I had been suspicious of the story from the moment I heard Glenn Campbell on Good Morning Scotland.  By the time Newdrive aired I was convinced he had deliberately fashioned the story in order to give the appearance of a misuse of public cash and to suggest Scottish Government involvement.

Viewers of the tea-time Reporting Scotland saw Jackie Baillie attacking the university.  They saw images of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon endorsing the campus.  They heard claims of millions of pounds being spent on a ‘White Elephant'.  But they were never given the opportunity of seeing Professor James Miller attacking Scottish Labour and explaining how the project had been funded.

Campbell's story was destined to be the top item on that Wednesday's Reporting Scotland until news emerged of the tragic death of a 16 year old young man following a stabbing at an Aberdeen school.  

Propaganda Heat

At the start of this article I referred to the ‘propaganda heat setting being turned to full'.  Over the last couple of days there have been several items on BBC Scotland that caused my inner alarm bells to start ringing.  I won't go into each in great detail, but I've compiled a list below that will give you a flavour of what I mean.

The Smear

On the same day as Glenn Campbell's university campus story was being looped on BBC Scotland news bulletins, another education related story was taking shape.  That afternoon the former board at Coatbridge College were giving evidence to Holyrood's Audit Committee.  

The story centres on controversial severance payments to members of the board.  Many people consider the payments to have been over-generous.

A summary of the session was being relayed by BBC Scotland reporter Andrew Kerr.  His report was unremarkable until he decided to try to link the story to the Scottish Government and an SNP MP.  Watch the clip below to see what I mean.

Do not be surprised if next week we see another media smear campaign waged against the MP named by Kerr.

EVEL

One of the biggest stories of the last few days has been the vote in the House of Commons that made English Votes for English Laws a reality.  The story broke on October 22nd at around 16:30 and quickly established itself as the top political story across the UK.

Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish MPs reacted angrily to the vote which had effectively rendered them second class.  There was unanimity amongst MPs from non-English constituencies.  The story though was reported by BBC Scotland in an odd way as you can hear from the clip below.

According to Bill Whiteford, “The SNP say their MPs are being made second class citizens.”

The problem was that the SNP had said no such thing.  The party had very clearly argued that ‘Scottish MPs' and not just ‘SNP MPs' had been rendered second class citizens.  

On that evening's main UK news it was even worse when the broadcaster's political correspondent described EVEL as providing the SNP with another grievance.

Did you know that despite EVEL dominating the news across the UK, that the story never featured as the top item on either BBC Scotland online or Reporting Scotland.  It was the third item on Reporting Scotland that evening.

Tax Credits

On Monday October 26th the House of Lords was presented with an opportunity to kill off the Tory Government's cuts to tax credits.  Lib Dem peers had presented what is known as a 'fatal motion'.  There was anger on social media when it emerged that Labour peers had abstained and had instead opted to back a second motion which merely delayed the cuts.

The abstention by Labour peers was all but ignored by BBC Scotland.  Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson briefly mentioned the failure of the Lib Dem motion at 06:20 am that morning.  It didn't feature again on the programme.

Later on the same programme SNP MP Stewart Hosie was interviewed by Robertson on the Lords vote.  The following is an excerpt from the interview

I'll leave it to readers to decide whether Robertson's questions were professional, insightful and designed to inform the listener or whether they were petty and puerile and an attempt at point scoring.

Police Scotland

On Monday October 26th the UK Treasury rejected a call from the SNP to allow Scotland's emergency services to join other emergency services from across the UK and enjoy VAT exemption.  Scotland is the only part of the UK whose police and fire services pay VAT.  It costs then £23m and £10m respectively.

On Tuesday morning Good Morning Scotland ran the story.  It included the following interview with Dave Watson from Unison.

The interview was one sided and little more than an opportunity for Watson to bash the SNP.  As Gary Robertson rolls softball question after softball question, the unfair VAT element of the story is essentially sidelined as the interview focuses on attacking the Scottish Government.  The interview was a joke.

SNP Bad

Finally here is what happens when a pro-Union journalist is invited on to a political programme to swap opinion of the SNP with a BBC Scotland presenter.  

Is this the misinformed leading the misinformed?  The claim by Gordon Brewer has been dealt with in a very comprehensive article by Wings Over Scotland.  The Wings article can be read by clicking here.

 

Thank you for reading this article.  If, like me, you believe that the BBC's reporting of Scottish politics is deplorable then please consider donating to the following appeal to make a documentary exposing the BBC.  The documentary will be promoted throughout Scotland.  CLICK HERE.

Comments   

# Ken 2015-10-30 19:10
People are posting on Fb "Save the BBC" and "We need an Independent BBC"
We needed an independent BBC we never got it.
I want to be independent of its license fee.
Abroad people cannot understand why the BBC demands money not just to watch them but to watch any TV and we need to pay or face jail .
BBC have got so used to broadcasting to the world they think Scotland will swallow the same guff.
Aunty Beeb more like Anti-Beeb it has an agenda to smear.
The Retarding Scotland program drip drip putting down the party voted for by the majority of Scots.
BBC is a Dinosaur, great for amusing kids, natural history and sci-fi but not for civilized impartial news or debate.
The same old faces favored from failed parties. WHY?
All its friends are fossils .
Reply
# Ponsonby 2015-10-30 19:31
Hi Ken

Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. I feel the same frustration as you do and hope that people will donate to the campaign linked to at the bottom of the article.
Reply
# Graham 2015-10-30 20:40
Always an insightful and forensic analysis. What I find most frustrating is that there is nothing the listener can do about it. Complaints are brushed aside and they seem impervious to audience figures.

(P.S. I have contributed to the campaign and hope it will go ahead)
Reply
# Ponsonby 2015-10-30 21:13
Thanks for donating to the appeal Graham. I know the producer appreciates this support.

It needs a bit of promoting though. Retweets and perhaps some mention on sites which allow comments.
Reply
# Prof Robertson 2015-10-31 15:49
As you know I've drawn attention to previous BBC scare stories but the Unis and internationalisation is dangerous for the SG. Iwrote to A Constance to whistle blow and got a minion's fob off, 6 months ago. This is on the SG's watch.
Reply
# Ponsonby 2015-10-31 23:19
Hi Prof

I read your article on Newsnet. Yes, I agree it is a concern and the GCU story has merit. However Glenn Campbell has over-politicised it and that is what I am highlighting [as I'm sure you know].

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post a comment.

GA
Reply
# Silver19 2015-10-31 19:49
It's a clever way the BBC Scotland operate.

1 - Find a SNPbad story and report it TV, Radio and Web with aid of SLabour Stooge.
2 - Missing out vital facts. on TV, Radio and Web reports
3 - Damage is done they got their SNPBad story out that exactly what they want to report for their agenda.
3 - Then amend the web report, But never update TV or Radio package.
Reply
# Cadogan Enright 2015-11-02 22:29
We need you to watch Reporting Scotland and the BBC on our behalf, and write about it and speak out about it.

Most people don't have your skills.

Please grin and bear it, as we need lighthouses of intellect like yours to navigate the gloomy water of the Corporate Media.

Not just for Scotland, but for people world-wide struggling against state controlled and corporate media.
Reply

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