So where shall we go today on our journey to independence? There’s Jeremy Paxman and his conviction that we’re only considering independence because we hate the English, UKIP’s Scottish MEP for Kensington Jibberjabber the Hutt has been jibberjabbering about getting a Yes vote overturned because he’s in love with neverendums, or it’s tempting to have a bit of a dig at the BBC’s favourite archaeologist who’s been making windswept claims that Scottish people are sleepwalking into independence – when in fact we’re paying attention to the independence debate, it’s just his programmes we sleep through.
But the news today is news that the Scottish media, particularly its Pacific Quay branch, has decided hasn’t happened at all. On Sunday there was a demonstration outside the BBC’s Scottish headquarters at the end of what can only be described as a disastrous week for the Mickey Mouse McCorporation and its McDonaldsification of the referendum debate.
The new flagship news and current affairs programme has bombed after a launch that was hyped as much as the London Olympics. Sadly it didn’t get a gold medal, or even a bronze. It was left at the starting block and limped off for medical assistance in the first qualifing heat. Almost 90,000 people tuned in to view the first edition of Scotland 2014, but by the end of the week that figure had plummeted to a mere 22,000, approximately the same number of people in Scotland who gave a shit about the Royal Wedding. There are more readers on this blog than that, and this comes to you without £5 million quid of your money being spent on it. Mind you, if someone wants to give me £5 million quid, I wouldn’t say no. I’d spend it on bribes in exchange for a yes vote and suborn dog owners with doggy chew toys in the shape of Labour’s devo-nono policy. That died without a squeak too.
Not that I’m bigging up the blog or its site stats, 29,000 unique readers and 110,000 page views last month isn’t that huge or influential. This is not a national daily newspaper. (Although it gets almost three times the readership of the Guardian in Scotland. Ha ha Severin.) This is not Wings Over Scotland, Newsnet Scotland, or Bella Caledonia, just a quiet and quirky wee corner of the interwebbies full of Scottish political jokes – like the entire output of Vote Nob Orders – self-determination toilet humour, and the occasional foray into Iberian politics, Scottish languages and Glesca Corpie trams. Of course the numeric comparison is not exactly comparing like with like, but it does serve to illustrate an important yah-boo-sucks-to-Ken-McQuarrie rhetorical point.
This is just a wee pisstaking blog devoted to pouring a urine bottle of nasty smells over the Scottish media and Better Together and going HA! It is written by a full time carer during breaks between emptying urine bags and not a highly paid media professional with experience on UK national telly. Moreover this blog makes no effort to promote itself, yet it still gets more readers than BBC Scotland’s flagship news and current affairs programme gets viewers. That alone tells you that there is something seriously wrong in the Scottish media. When viewers lose faith in a broadcaster, they seek alternative sources of information. Even Scottish referendum news junkies like me have switched off Scotland 2014 in disgust.
The failure of the programme comes as members of the NUJ at Pacific Quay have making rumbling noises about taking strike action, a political earthquake far more significant in Scottish terms than anything achieved by the ubiquitous Nigel Farage. Nige is never off the telly. After the European elections and the English local elections he’s now billed to make daily appearances on Bargain Hunt where he’ll scour antiques markets looking for 1950s social attitudes he can try and sell to the public at inflated prices. Then he’ll be presenting the One Show as the cosy sofa based face of how very dare you call me a racist, and making guest appearances on the three programmes per day with Great British in their titles. So at least he’ll be on the telly slightly less often than he has been of late.
The BBC has largely avoided any mention of its own difficulties, but the ramifications will be more significant in Scotland than anything from Nige or his pal Jibberjabber the Hutt. The staff and (most but not all of) the presenters at Pacific Quay are not the problem with BBC Scotland, they just produce and front the programmes and take the flak for the public manifestations of policies originating from BBC management. It’s their professional reputations which are being trashed by Ken McQuarrie and John Boothman, and quite naturally they’re not happy about it.
The NUJ had already forced BBC management to concede that the headline round up at the end of current affairs programmes was hopelessly biased because the papers are hopelessly biased, so online media headlines were included too. We have the NUJ and the professionalism of ordinary BBC staff to thank for that, not BBC management. Reeling from cuts and demoralised by poor leadership, staff disaffection was already crystalising around the issue of the BBC’s membership of the CBI and the arrogance of management in refusing to recognise that there was any issue at all. Threats of industrial action were already in the air.
And then as the week ended, its new flagship programme gone the way of the Mary Rose, its rotten timbers sunk in the mud off Pacific Quay, BBC’s management demonstrated yet again that they have the lightness of touch of an elephant on a steroid rampage, and the tact and diplomacy of Attila the Hun after he’s trapped his bollocks in his saddle.
You do not have to be an admirer of the collected oeuvre of Gary Roberston to recognise that if any BBC employee has slogged his wee guts out on behalf of the Corporation, it’s Gary. He’s pulled long shifts and fronted radio shows in the morning and tv shows at night, all because BBC management have taken a lawnmower to their own grassroots staffing. And for his pains, Gary‘s getting his jotters because his bosses would prefer to bring up expensively paid journos from London who are clueless and out of touch with what’s been going on in Scotland since they high tailed it south in search of career prospects. We’re all being short-changed. One Isabel Fraser is worth 3000 James Naughties.
Yesterday Gerry Hassan tweeted that Gary’s sacking was “directly linked to outgoings of six fig salaries of Jim Naughtie & Sarah Smith. BBC Scotland management in deep crisis.”
He’s got that right. BBC staff are up in arms. There are calls for strike action, and the BBC itself is now very firmly centre stage amongst important referendum issues despite the careful efforts of management not to report on the Corporation’s own newsworthiness. Boothman and McQuarrie are in for a shock, far more people care about the BBC than care about currency unions, or watch the intelligence insulting Scotland 2014.
The people who should be getting their jotters are John Boothman and Ken McQuarrie. They couldn’t even write a successful blog, never mind run Scotland’s national broadcaster. It’s not the staff or the presenters, not even the most biased amongst them, who has brought this about. We’re all biased, the fact that some BBC presenters allow their biases to show is the fault of poor management. But far worse than that, BBC management have brought the organisation to the brink of strike action during the most important referendum campaign in Scottish history, a campaign which could have profound implications for the BBC. That is management failure of the most spectacular kind.
At this juncture in Scottish history, above all others, BBC management should have been keeping its eye on the ball, unfortunately Ken and John think that keeping your eye on the ball meant they should give us mair fucking fitba instead of intelligent news and current affairs analysis.
Keep Gary. Sack John and Ken.