Media 34: study finds BBC favours campaign opposing Scottish devolution

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 Media Lens’ ‘Amazing Litany’ Of BBC Bias summarised:

 Coverage of the Scottish independence referendum, due to be held on September 18 this year, is a compelling example of the deep establishment bias of the corporate media. Some critics have characterised the BBC’s coverage, in particular, as though Scotland is merely a region or a county of the United Kingdom calledScotlandshire‘.

Findings of a year-long study conducted by a small team led by Professor John Robertson (University of West Scotland) summarised:

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Professor Robertson told Media Lens that there was also: ‘undue deference and the pretence of apolitical wisdom in [official] reports coming from London – the Office for Budget Responsibility and Institute for Fiscal Studies, for example; but, also, Treasury officials [were] presented as detached academic figures to be trusted.’ (Email, March 18, 2014) . . .

He added that: ‘the conflation of the First Minister’s wishes with the YES campaign seems a classic case of undermining ideas by association with clownish portrayal of leading actors [in the campaign]’.

This media performance was, he said, reminiscent of past corporate media demonisation of former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and Labour leaders Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot. The Scotsman also wrote an article in this vein.

Finally, Professor Robertson noted that there was a strong ‘tendency to begin [news] reports with bad economic news for the Yes campaign […]. Reports leading off with bad news or warnings against voting Yes were more common than the opposite by a ratio of 22:4 on Reporting Scotland (BBC) and a ratio of 20:7 on STV.’

So how did BBC Scotland respond to Professor Robertson’s documented evidence of clear bias in its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum?

Amazingly, BBC Scotland sent a 6,000-word letter to Professor Robertson in an attempt to demolish his study and undermine his credibility, copying it to the professor’s principal at the University of West Scotland. This unprecedented move seemed deliberately calculated to intimidate the researcher. In a careful and detailed response, Robertson rebutted the BBC criticism of his one-year study, and he concluded:

‘I think I’ve answered all the questions needed to contest these conclusions. […] The BBC response is a remarkably heavy-handed reaction. Why did they not report the research, let their experts critique it on air and then ask me to defend it? Instead we see a bullying email to my employer and a blanket suppression across the mainstream media in the UK. I’m shocked.’

Following Prof. Robertson’s solo appearance before the Parliamentary Committee, BBC Scotland put up a four-man panel to counter him. Prof. Robertson hailed the Committee Chairman’s ‘dogged extraction of the fact that the BBC had never mounted such a campaign against a piece of research before, ever.’ Prof. Robertson also noted that the Committee had exposed the BBC’s ‘failure to record and organise criticism of their performance’.

We asked Prof. Robertson to expand on what had been the response to his study from academia, including his own colleagues and management. He told us that at his institution, the University of West Scotland, there had been: ‘strong support for me at all levels, including the Principal, for my right to expression of intellectual ideas. Otherwise, a disturbing silence with no leading academic in politics, history, media theory prepared to protest the suppression of my report.

The Telegraph reports that a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC’s coverage of the Scottish referendum debate has been fair and balanced and we will continue to report on the story without fear or favour.”


Posted on March 31, 2014, in Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Government, Media, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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