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Would a 'Scottish Six' save the BBC in Scotland?

scottish six2By G.A.Ponsonby

It slipped under the news radar, not surprising given the dreadful events in Paris over the weekend, but BBC Scotland chiefs have lobbied London for a Scottish Six evening news programme.  Bosses at Pacific Quay are reportedly hoping a replacement for Reporting Scotland will bring the corporation more into line with devolution and address complaints about its handling of Scottish current affairs. 

The logic smacks of over-optimism.

Details of the plan are sketchy but what seems to have been proposed is a re-hash of the same plan that the BBC and Labour both blocked in the nineties.  Then, the new Scottish Six was set to replace both Reporting Scotland and the BBC's network evening news.

In 1998 the head of BBC Scotland news Ken Cargill said that a Scottish Six O'Clock news programme would eventually get the go-ahead.  At the time 61% of Scottish people were in favour of a Scottish Six with just 23% against.  Cargill was ignored by London.

Donald Dewar, who was the Secretary of State for Scotland at the time, agreed with the decision to block a separate Scottish news programme.  Believe it or not, eight presenters of BBC Scotland current affairs programmes had signed a letter in support of a Scottish Six.scottish six

Now it has returned.  Imagine BBC Scotland having its own foreign correspondents bringing latest developments into Scottish homes.  It would of course tie in with network BBC from time to time, but the overall thrust of reports and the analysis of the same would be tailored for us.  We would see the world through a Scottish lens.

So what's not to like?

Well it's around 20 years too late for a start.  In the intervening years since Labour killed off the original idea we have had the first SNP government, the first SNP majority and the independence referendum.  We have also witnessed the erosion of trust in BBC Scotland.

The BBC trashed an already fragile reputation during the independence campaign.  So one-sided was its coverage that the BBC brand is now toxic amongst most independence supporters.

The BBC in Scotland isn't just mistrusted; it is loathed with a passion.  For too many people it won't matter what clothes a new BBC Scotland news programme wears, it will still be seen as a pro-Union wolf shepherded by London.

There's also the question of who would produce and present such a programme.  There's hardly likely to be a diminishing of mistrust if the same people appear on screen.  Do BBC Scotland chiefs really think a new nightly news programme can maintain credibility if it's presented and run by the same people?

Last week we saw how BBC Scotland covered the Alistair Carmichael trial with news bulletins and items stripped of key facts.  The day the court case commenced, the thrust of the news report wasn't Carmichael's admitted misdemeanours, but rather a political attack on the trial from one of the Lib Dem MSP witnesses.

The clip above was one of three which were broadcast over the three days.  Contrast the low cost effort with the in-depth SNP bashing report when the BBC covered the Michelle Thomson issue.  

Note in the clip above how Nicola Sturgeon is confronted, something that never happened to Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie despite Carmichael's admitted lies which included deceiving his own party leader, if this account of his court case is to be believed.  It's double standards like this that has continued to erode confidence in BBC Scotland amongst pro-independence viewers.

Now we learn that the BBC's then political editor Nick Robinson held secret talks with David Cameron three weeks before the independence referendum.  Robinson was subsequetly involved in one of the most notorious episodes of the referendum when he was caught misreporting a key exchange with Alex Salmond after asking about media claims relating to RBS.

Below is what Robinson reported that evening.

A new Scottish Six would fall under the control of the self-same people who have already destroyed the BBC's reputation in Scotland.  Replacing Reporting Scotland is the equivalent of Labour in Scotland replacing Murphy with Dugdale - it's superficial window dressing disguised as significant change.  Both entities will still be controlled by London.

It isn't a new news programme that's needed but new management and a new governing structure.  BBC Scotland needs to be removed from London control and brought under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament.  Scots have after all given the SNP a democratic mandate for maximum devolution.

That of course won't happen.  The BBC in Scotland will carry on in the same fashion.  It will never adopt a balanced approach to Scottish current affairs as long as the constitutional issue remains in a high state of flux.


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GA Ponsonby is the author of 'London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum'.

Available to purchase in paperback or Kindle HERE.


# Graham Harris Graham 2015-12-16 11:56
The BBC is & always has been a propaganda channel working on behalf of the British Establishment in London. In the old days, it presented a world view through the prism of the British Empire when it attempted to protect its interests mostly abroad.

The recent demand for Scottish independence is no different from the Irish demand for independence except that so far, there has been no violence.

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to protect its power base & that of the British State by broadcasting pro British/anti Scottish rhetoric, propaganda & bare faced lies.

As long as it continues to use British legislation to enforce a License Fee funding model & retain its decision making in London, Scotland will always be served with puerile jingoistic propaganda.

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