The National has published the results of its fourth study of BBC news coverage of political stories and found, yet again, that the Corporation grants markedly more favourable treatment to the Conservative Government in Westminster than the Scottish Government at Holyrood. One third of the political stories on Reporting Scotland about the Scottish Government were negatively framed while just 20% of the political stories on the BBC’s flagship News at Six were negatively framed towards the Conservative led government at Westminster.
Between 18 and 22 October this year, there were 15 political stories on the News at Six, of which five had a neutral framing of the UK Government, three stories were positive about the UK Government and just three were negative. There were no political stories about the Scottish Government on the News at Six on BBC1 during this period, reflecting the general lack of interest in Scottish affairs in the UK-wide media.
Meanwhile there were 12 political stories on Reporting Scotland, over the same period. Three fewer heavyweight news stories than the UK-wide news, as is typical for a programme which is famously obsessed with sport, crime and human interest stories, or as it is often put – fitba, murrdurr, and a wee cute kitten.
One of Reporting Scotland’s political stories was neutral towards the UK Government, one was negative and two were positive. However when it came to the coverage of the Scottish Government, three stories were neutral, four were negative and not one was positive.
This is the fourth time in recent months that The National has carried out this study, and it’s the fourth time that the newspaper’s researchers have identified a clear bias, the supposedly neutral and unbiased publicly funded national service broadcaster is decidedly more critical of the SNP led Scottish Government than it is of the Conservative UK Government. The consistency of this pattern of harsh treatment of the Scottish Government compared to the indulgence granted to the British Government and the fact that it has been identified over a protracted period, both by The National, and by other researchers such as Professor John Robertson before it, can only be because this pattern of Conservative favouritism versus the demonisation of a Scottish independence supporting government at Holyrood is not due to coincidence or chance, rather it is a deliberate policy on the part of the Corporation’s management.
The BBC’s evident pro-Conservative bias becomes even worse when viewed in the context of the wider media landscape in Scotland and the UK. The British print media is predominantly pro-Brexit and Conservative supporting. Of course as privately owned companies newspapers are perfectly free to take whatever editorial line they please. Equally members of the public are perfectly free not to support those publications with digital subscriptions or the purchase of print copies. However everyone in the UK who has a device in their home which is capable of receiving live TV broadcasts and who watches live TV or the BBC’s iplayer service is legally obliged to contribute financially to the BBC.
It’s one thing to be forced to pay for entertainment programming which you don’t necessarily watch yourself, it’s quite another matter to be forced to pay for the production and broadcast of pro-Conservative propaganda which is directly antithetical to your own views and interests and which promotes a mendacious and corrupt political party with distinctly authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies which is currently trying to unilaterally undermine the devolution settlement without any mandate from the people of Scotland to do so and which is trying to deny the outcome of the recent Holyrood election.
As a public service broadcaster the role of the BBC ought to be to act as a corrective to the bias that exists in the privately owned media. Instead the BBC amplifies and propagates that bias, by refusing to challenge the Conservatives or report negatively on them. All too often the Corporation is happy to meekly follow a news agenda determined by the right wing press. In the process the BBC is skewing media representation even further to the right, and depriving critical voices on the left, and those in favour of Scottish self-determination, of equivalent platforms.
When we have a Conservative government in Westminster which is determined to undermine the devolution settlement and which is eager to by-pass Holyrood in order to exercise direct Westminster control over devolved areas of government and which is doing so without any mandate from the people of Scotland, the BBC’s reluctance to challenge the Conservatives becomes dangerous to the very future of democracy. Moreover the Conservative are currently shamelessly lying to and gaslighting Scotland with the aim of negating the outcome of May’s Holyrood election which produced a Scottish Parliament with a cast iron and indisputable mandate for another independence referendum. Yet the BBC continues to facilitate and give credibility to the blatant lies of the likes of Michael Gove and Alister Jack instead of challenging them as it should.
This is all the more dangerous in a state like the UK where there is no written constitution and no clear demarcation and distinction between the powers of the different branches of government and one legislature is filled with unelected political appointees and the other is elected using a voting system which gives a crushing majority to a party which has not secured a majority of the popular vote. Under such circumstances, a fearless media which is not afraid to speak truth unto power and to challenge the party which controls the government with few effective checks or limits on its power is even more essential in order to guarantee the probity of government and the maintenance of democratic standards.
You only need glance at the serial scandals, the constant sleaze, and the corruption, chaos and incompetence of the Conservative government of Johnson to see that this is a party which has lost any fear of ever being held to account. Just a few days ago the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries heavily criticised the broadcaster, and expressed her anger over political correspondent Nick Robinson telling Boris Johnson to “stop talking” during a Radio 4 interview. Yet the BBC meekly acquiesces as it is bullied by a government minister.
Naturally the BBC refuses to acknowledge that it could ever be in the wrong, the Corporation is as unaccountable as those Conservative ministers that it is so reluctant to criticise.
I have a physiotherapy appointment tomorrow so there won’t be a blog piece as I am always wiped out afterwards. It is definitely helping however, my mobility is slowly improving.
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