Why is BBC News allowed to express on air its opinions as facts?

FOLLOWING Sarah Smith’s remarks on BBC News at Ten two days ago, I raised a complaint through the normal BBC procedures under “personal opinion disguised as news”. What follows is my letter of complaint: “I am actually shocked to discover that the BBC, which prides itself on supposedly fair and balanced coverage, finds it appropriate to allow a Scotland editor to voice her personal opinion without caveat, right to reply or anything else.

“Sarah Smith stated absolutely clearly, with no qualification of any kind, that ‘it has been obvious that Nicola Sturgeon has enjoyed the opportunity to set her own lockdown rules’.

“Only a fool would ‘enjoy’ anything about Covid-19, and only a fool would express such an opinion or attribute it to anyone else.

“I understand that Ms Smith’s role involves researching, verifying and collating evidence and information to support a story using relevant information sources such as the internet, archives, databases, etc.

“I do not see anywhere on the BBC website a reference to editors being allowed to present their clear personal opinions as fact during a news segment.

READ MORE: Sarah Smith sorry for report on Nicola Sturgeon’s virus strategy

“You will be aware that trust in the BBC is much lower in Scotland than in any of the other nations. Such clear biased opinion presented as news does nothing to persuade anyone that this is not so.

“I now understand that Ms Smith has indicated she misspoke and meant embraced rather than enjoyed. That is irrelevant. It is still her personal opinion, it is not fact.

“I await your response which I would hope will include suitable action being taken against this individual.”

I have now received an email response from the BBC: “Following complaints received on remarks by Sarah Smith on Monday evening’s news bulletins, Sarah has since clarified her remarks, acknowledged where there were errors and has apologised to the First Minister, who has accepted those clarifications and has indicated that she regards the matter as now closed.”

READ MORE: Councillor says Sarah Smith should tell First Minister to ‘f*** off’

I, however, do not consider the matter closed because it would appear that the BBC has indicated that its editors do indeed have carte blanche to express personal opinion as fact. The use of “enjoyed” or “embraced” is irrelevant; this is still Ms Smith’s opinion.

This smacks of the BBC trying, urgently, to take the heat out of the situation. I, for one, will be pursuing the question of whether, without any evidence to back up allegations, BBC editors do indeed have the absolute right to express their own opinions as fact.

Jean Dunlopvia email

THE attempted defaming of our First Minister by Sarah Smith has caused fury amongst most of the Scottish population. This insult was especially felt among many in the small community of Portnahaven on Islay.

Sarah Smith’s grandfather, Archibald Leitch Smith, was the headteacher in our local school. Archie Smith only served two or three years as headteacher at Portnahaven School. As an extreme disciplinarian he was not universally liked by pupils or indeed their parents.

Since before the Great War the headmaster was Hugh MacDougall, a Gaelic-speaking Islayman and very popular among all the locals. He created many notable scholars. The sea-going community of Portnahaven and its twin village of Port Wemyss produced more sea captains than any other small community in Scotland – thanks to the teachings of Hugh MacDougall who even taught his pupils among other disciplines navigation.

As regards my own family, one of his pupils was an uncle of mine – Charles MacArthur – who was a brilliant scholar. Hugh MacDougall approached my granny to impress on her to send Charles to university. As a widower she said she could not afford the cost, especially bringing up a family of eight. Hugh even told her that he would pay for Charlies’s further education from his own pocket. My granny refused, being too proud to accept charity.

It must be remembered that the language in the playground was Gaelic during Archie Smith’s term as headteacher. As a staunch Unionist, Archie held the Gaelic language with disdain. And even punishing pupils for speaking their mother tongue.

When John Smith (born in 1938) was a toddler, he was apparently a delightful child. The many incidents regarding John’s childhood – eg, he would occasionally toddle into the main classroom when his dad was next door in the infants’ room.

John was like all toddlers, up to childish antics much to the annoyance of his dad.

The older girl pupils used to take John for walks in his pushchair The girls were heartbroken when John was taken away to Ardrishaig when his dad took up the headteacher post there.

All these stories were related to me by former pupils many who have now passed on.

Seumas MacArthurIslay

BROADCAST guidelines state that news must clearly be separated from opinion and corrections should be made where appropriate. A tweet won’t cut it. We’re waiting…

Barry ChalmersDundee

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