By GA Ponsonby
Did you watch Question Time this week? It was broadcast from Dundee. Not the one on the east coast of Scotland, but some other mythical place inhabited by people who have never looked over the River Tay.
It was billed as ‘Scottish’ edition of Question Time. These days applying the word ‘Scottish’ to any BBC current affairs show usually means it’s going to be an SNP bashing exercise. That’s exactly what this edition of Question Time was.
Suspicious audience members, who turned out to be former Labour party candidates, posed as ‘concerned’ ordinary members of the public. SNP MSP John Swinney faced a pincer-like attack from a panel rigged to favour Unionists by a ratio of two-to-one. Despite being broadcast from Dundee, there was nary a local accent to be heard.
It led to an eruption of anger on social media.
The programme has been dealt with in depth by Paul Kavanagh on his Wee Ginger Dug blog and by Stuart Campbell on his Wings Over Scotland website. The BBC is, as you read this, fielding complaints. They’ll be brushed off.
Question Time was broadcast on Thursday evening. It took place over twelve hours after another equally one-sided programme was broadcast. That programme was the Kaye Adams show.
Have you ever listened to the Kaye Adams show? It’s a phone-in programme broadcast between 9am and midday. At its best, the show is banal and forgettable. At its worst it’s a political bigot-fest with some of the most ill-informed people you have ever heard, revelling in their own ignorance. More often than not, these people are anti-SNP.
Listen to Adams’ phone-in when the subject is political and marvel at the amount of politically motivated misinformation that can be broadcast over BBC airwaves. Speak to most independence supporting listeners of the show, those that still tune in, and they'll all say the same thing. It’s a Unionist love-in with the host playing cupid.
On Thursday morning her phone-in was based around the GERS report. GERS, for those who don’t know, is an annual look at the accounts of Scotland. The report was created in 1992 by Tory MP, and then Scottish Secretary, Ian Lang. It was propaganda, created in order to convince Scots that they really were too poor.
Adams introduced her Thursday morning show in typical fashion by regurgitating a raft of pro-Union newspaper headlines.
The pro-indy National received a quick mention, but only after the host had created a north sea oil-painting of Scottish debt and doom. Almost immediately we were introduced to the studio guests in the form of pro-independence journalist Martin Hannan and Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.
Listen to the following clip in which Adams invites both to put forward their arguments.
If you listened to the whole clip you’ll have heard the BBC Scotland presenter interrupting Martin Hannan no less than seven times. When not interjecting, Adams is very clearly signalling frustration at Hannan - she is poised throughout his contribution. By contrast, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie is allowed to speak completely unhindered.
I switched off there and then. I had already heard enough.
Adams is one of a small group at BBC Scotland who always seem to be at the centre of complaints involving the corporation’s coverage of Scottish politics. Only Glenn Campbell, Eleanor Bradford and perhaps Douglas Fraser have attracted similar critical attention.
During the independence referendum I analysed a full episode of her phone-in show from start to finish. Her attitude towards Yes supporters was markedly more aggressive than her attitude towards their Union supporting counterparts. Interruptions peppered her exchanges with callers who backed Yes.
I recall one exchange with a Yes supporter that ended with an exasperated Kaye Adams quoting comments and headlines from a list of pro-Union sources as justification for BBC news reports which promoted the myth that Alex Salmond had lied on the issue of EU membership.
In another notorious broadcast during the referendum campaign, the same presenter falsely claimed statistics published that day showed a rise in anti-English attacks. Scottish Government statistics actually showed a decrease in such attacks.
Kaye Adams is a symptom of what I have consistently referred to as institutional corruption at BBC Scotland. It’s a corruption that can be traced all the way back to the late nineties when devolution arrived but the BBC refused to adapt.
It’s a corruption that continually allows people with known links to pro-Union parties to be presented as though politically neutral. It’s a corruption that leads to an over-representation of Unionists in debates and discussions. It’s a corruption that presents pro-Union newspapers and their journalists as politically impartial and moulds a news agenda around stories harmful to the SNP.
So outdated is the BBC set-up that the SNP success is still seen as an aberration. Labour is still viewed as the natural party of power. Last year’s general election campaign witnessed a quite extraordinary exchange between Kaye Adams and Nicola Sturgeon.
Adams is symbolic of a BBC that simply cannot handle the rise in support for the SNP and the emergence of a more confident Scotland. I’ve said many times that BBC Scotland doesn’t reflect our emerging nation, it tries to pretend the political evolution isn’t happening. Pacific Quay is the broadcasting equivalent of a British embassy. It is a colonial outpost with its own governor general in the shape of Kenneth MacQuarrie.
On Sunday morning Radio Scotland replayed what it described as a review of some of the week's news highlights. The clip below was the first one played.
Last week’s Question Time caused quite a stir amongst Scotland’s chattering classes. But it shouldn’t have. This is how the BBC has been behaving for years, and how it will continue to behave. The corporation will not change because it is the biggest weapon in the British establishment’s armoury.
The SNP had a successful conference this weekend. Watch what stories make the headlines on BBC Scotland next week. I’ll lay odds the SNP will find itself under attack.
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