BBC’s fixation with balance does not include indy-supporting papers

It is unfortunate that the Good Morning Scotland Sunday newspaper review does not maintain the BBC’s standards of impartiality, it does not reflect Scotland at all, does not reflect Scottish views and does not meet the BBC’s normally very high standards of journalism. It decides that Scotland, its politicians, its people and its economy should be viewed through the eyes of the London newspaper world.

On November 8 in the review, Scottish-based papers were hardly mentioned at all, indeed there were three “English-only” stories: English lockdown, a story of real, national importance (ie landowners building swimming lakes in their English country estates!!) and a “chatty rat” leak. The only paper to support Scottish independence is not even mentioned once, not even its headline.

I would argue that to meet impartiality requirements, 50% of the reviewers’ time should be spent on newspapers and websites that support Scottish independence. Surely also the superlatives which were frequently used on this programme in connection with the English-based press and journalists (“fantastic front page”, “particularly interesting”, “fascinating little piece “, “great coverage today”) should also be used in connection with independence-supporting titles.

If individual journalists are mentioned from English and other newspapers, surely some from the indy-supporting titles are worth a plug? American papers were actually mentioned much more frequently than the only newspaper which reflects 58% of the political views of Scotland. The total mentions for the English-based press are 33 times compared to Scotland’s 11 times. Only one-thirds of the programme time was spent on Scottish based newspapers and 0% of that time was spent on Yes titles.

But much of the Scottish coverage is based on one of the reviewers lamenting how poorly funded the Scottish press is (“this is an absolutely sad day for the Scottish press”) and not actually analysing any of the coverage. Aspects of the Scottish economy are also covered through the London press.

There was excellent coverage of the American election in the Sunday National that day, by its multi-award winning journalist David Pratt.

I also struggle to believe that there were no other articles in the Sunday National which would have been of interest to the wider Scottish public, such as an SNP MP set to run for Holyrood (p4), millions of the self-employed left with little support (p6), new Plan B backed by Cherry (p5), virus concern over Denmark strain (p7), FM pressure on Ferrier (p10), Priti Patel’s immigration strategy (p13).

That is just the first 13 pages of The National.

When I listen to Radio Scotland I want to hear about the Scotland that I live in, fully represented and fully recognisable in this programme. That is not the case at the moment.

Requests to the BBC:

•That two prominent Yes journalists are appointed to do the news review for the same amount of time that David Leask and Pennie Taylor have been employed up to now, and in future there is a fair rotation between Yes and No journalists.

• That all panels of politicians and journalists which appear on any BBC Scotland channel are divided equally between Yes and No, as that is the fault line in Scottish society, not on their party political allegiances. Even if the panels were split on party allegiances then the SNP should still have 50% representation on the panel, as currently it is polling above this figure for Scottish parliament elections.

•That the only newspapers reviewed are those published and printed in Scotland, as the English-based newspapers are fully covered in reviews on UK BBC Radio and TV and these shows never, ever seem to cover Scottish, Welsh and Irish newspapers .

• That other sources of news are quoted, as Radio 4 does, such as websites from the wider Yes movement.

•In order to help the public understand Scotland more fully, a series of programmes on the economics and wealth of Scotland, by a Yes economist or think tanks such as Business for Scotland, is commissioned.

•To help the Scottish public understand how more than 50 countries in the British Empire attained their independence, a series on the Yes movements and referendums in the British Empire in the last 70 years.

John SchofieldDumfries

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