Bias by omission

The recent paper from the University of the West of Scotland on bias in the Scottish broadcast media has not been given any coverage in the media which is the subject of its study.  Scotland’s broadcasters don’t want their audience to know that they are biased, partial, and only covering one side of the story.

BBC Scotland’s management have mounted an extraordinary attack on the paper and its author, but undaunted the paper’s author Dr John Robertson has come out all guns blazing and has published the snotty letter he received from the BBC, together with his devastating critique.  Full details can be read on Newsnet Scotland.

There can now be no doubt that BBC management are deliberately downplaying the referendum and equally deliberately are favouring the No campaign.  However the report from UWS only covered stories which actually get airtime.  Dr Robertson pointed out in his reply that he had not studied the bias involved in story selection, and said that he believed that the Scottish media was also skewing its coverage of the independence debate by not giving airtime to many stories favourable to independence.

There was yet another example of media bias by omission today.  On Monday the Financial Times, no supporter of Scottish independence, published an article detailing the financial situation of an independent Scotland, using UK government figures.  The bottom line is that we’d be in the money – every man woman and child in the country would be almost £1400 a year better off.

There are reports on the article on the Yes International website and on Wings Over Scotland.  There’s little point linking directly to the FT as it is behind a paywall.

The FT showed that the Scottish government would immediately have some £7 billion a year on top of the existing Scottish budget of £64 billion – and this is under the assumption that the government of a newly independent Scotland would continue to spend according to UK priorities.  Even if we were daft enough to keep paying for Trident, and other “UK national” projects like London Crossrail, the High Speed Railway between London and Birmingham, and the London sewer upgrade, we’d still be in a much stronger financial situation than we are at the moment.

Neither do the figures account for companies operating in Scotland who currently pay taxes via head offices in England – taxes like Corporation Tax or VAT for example.  After independence these companies would have to pay taxes on their Scottish operations to the Scottish government, not the UK Treasury as they do at the moment.  It’s very difficult to quantify just how much extra this would bring in, but it’s certainly a substantial amount.

When we take all these other things into account, the financial situation for an independent Scotland looks extremely rosy indeed.  You’d think that this was important and relevant information for people who are making their minds up about how to vote in September, and that it would be plastered all over the Scottish media – especially since, as Dr Robertson pointed out in his reply to the BBC bosses, the Scottish media focus almost exclusively on the economic aspects of independence and seek to reduce the argument to one about pounds and pence.

But there’s been not a word about the FT’s report on Reporting Scotland – Scotland’s national news programme according to the BBC.  Today BBC Scotland chose to lead with a story on ecstasy.  There was not one single mention anywhere in our supposedly professional media of an important story which goes right to the heart of the independence debate on the very grounds that the media have chosen to present that debate.  The media in Scotland have chosen to reduce independence to economics yet when presented with clear evidence, from a Unionist source no less, that Scotland would be a far wealthier country as an independent state, they don’t report it.

As Dr Robertson noted in his reply to the BBC, the Scottish media almost entirely ignores the democratic or political reasons for independence.  There is little or no discussion on telly about the relative merits of a country choosing its own government, or having its government chosen for it by a much larger neighbour.  It’s not hard to see why the media don’t want to discuss that.  Equally it’s not hard to see why they have suppressed Dr Robertson’s report and don’t want to discuss their biased presentation of the independence debate.

Under the Union, Scotland is not a fully democratic country.  A free and fair media is not an optional extra in a democracy.  Without access to full facts and information, citizens cannot make principled choices about how they wish to vote.  The Scottish media does not allow Scotland to make principled and informed decisions, and that’s just the way they like it.  They only want us to talk about what they think is important, they are determined to shape the debate and direct it onto a Unionist path, they are not content with simply reporting.

The state of the Scottish media is now an issue in this independence campaign.  We’re not just campaigning for national independence, we are campaiging for the basic democratic rights that define any democracy – the right to access to information, and the right to have the full range of Scottish opinion represented.

If we want a media that truly reflects our nation, there’s only one way we’re going to get it.  Vote yes in September.

0 thoughts on “Bias by omission

  1. The FT also had this interview with the Spanish Foreign Minister who said Spain would not interfere in the internal politics of the UK but again seemed to leave the option open for doing so later. No doubt they will be slapped down by the Big Boys and their Fishing lobby?

    2 pro Scotland articles in one edition of the FT. OK it was a week-end edition, but.

    • I read about that in the Spanish papers and was planning to write something up about it tomorrow. Basically the Spanish Foreign Minister said that if Scotland gains independence legally and constitutionally, Spain has no grounds to object. Which is what I’ve been arguing in this blog for months. Not that the Scottish media pays positive indy news any heed though.

      BTW, the link you give takes you to the FT’s registration page and not to the article.

  2. In the eight months left we cannot hope to unstick the Beeb and force change in its institutional position on independence, but we CAN go far to ameliorating its toxic influence on the outcome of the plebiscite, by hammering home the message of its political corruption – using the BBC itself as the channel of communication.

    The issue of the BBC as the premier producer and disseminator of anti-independence propaganda must become a priority of the Nationalist campaign for the next 8 months, deserving of significant attention and apportionment of adequate campaign resources to counter it.

    When will the leadership of this campaign tackle the elephant in the room (media bias), and the 800lb gorilla that sits menacingly atop it (the BBC)?

    The issue of the media’s extreme partisanship should be addressed in every interview and debate. The BBC cannot maintain credibility without the tacit cooperation and complicity of Nationalists. We are accepting of the inequity, so why should they bother to change their behaviour?.

    Why a we are providing the Beeb with a veneer of impartiality?

    Why are we still agreeing to participate in debates and interviews where Nationalist representatives are outnumbered three or four to one?

    Why do we remain mute when interviewers are demonstrably hostile to the nationalist side, yet throw the Unionist representatives softballs?

    For goodness sake, when are the Nationalist political elite in Holyrood and Morningside responsible for the management of this campaign going to seriously address this issue?

    There should be zero tolerance of procedural inequity in the BBC.

    If the broadcaster’s institutional bias is raised in a respectful but firm manner by the interviewee/participant in a BBC interview/talk-show/televised debate, the BBC will have no choice but to air that criticism, and address it, since is has become a major component of the debate.

    What is the state broadcaster going to do – stop inviting representatives of the YES campaign onto programs about the campaign? Of course not – at least not if they want to preserve a semblance of credibility.

    Among the first things the YES campaign should do is issue a statement that in light of disturbing reports evincing extreme political bias in BBC programming, the Campaign policy shall be to refuse interviews or debates where the NO campaign representatives and/or other Unionist proxies, outnumber the representatives of the YES campaign. That kind of ganging-up is getting old.

    There must be an insistence on fairness and transparency in the structuring and application of the rules and procedures governing interviews and debates. That can be formalized and codified in a memorandum of understanding.

    Now the BBC’s Question Time producers among others have argued that their panels discuss a range of topics and that therefore any gross inequity with respect to representation on the topic of independence is a mere bagatelle – a local matter of little import. What arrogant nonsense.

    During that period when the QT panel (or any other BBC panel) discusses issues of Scottish independence, there should be parity in representation. Why is it that the YES side or the SNP are seemingly always the ones outnumbered?

    It should be emphasized that this is not a party political election campaign, but a plebiscite, with a binary outcome, and there there can be but two and only two sides equally represented in any interview or debate.

    Every BBC invitation refused because of a demonstrable procedural inequity can and should become an issue.

    The principals of the independence movement (including the leadership of the Scottish Government) and others of whatever political hue who believe in equality of access to the market place of ideas, should be prevailed upon to call for a public enquiry citing BBC violations of its charter and possible criminal wrong-doing WRT the misappropriation and misuse of public monies in furtherance of its political agenda. This should be augmented by promotion of a groundswell of popular support for the same (we can astroturf this is necessary but I doubt that would be necessary).

    The goal is not actually to hold an enquiry but to make it an issue in the public space, so that the focus on BBC bias is legitimized in the voter’s mind and becomes a real factor in the debate.

    Now many Nationalists have argued that seriously raising the issue of media propaganda in this way distracts from the positive message of independence.

    What positive message? We are not getting much in the way of messages positive or otherwise out to the people who matter – but the opposition are.

    We need achieve two goals.

    1) Minimize the effectiveness the propaganda by denying the BBC the fiction of its impartiality.

    2) Curtail its current unrestrained Unionist bias by openly calling them to account when they seriously transgress, and to do so in real time if possible.

    The BBC has gotten away with murder in respect of its antipathy toward the SNP and Salmond, and its utter disdain of the inalienable right of people of Scotland to decide their own destiny.

    Enough is enough, this is criminal, and it’s time to play hardball.

    You know, perp-walking a couple of executives out of Pacific Quay in handcuffs, on suspicion electoral law violations and fraud in the use of public funds and resources, would be a coming to Jesus moment for the BBC.

  3. The anti Scottish, anti democratic bias of the MSM Broadcasters etc. calls the fairness of the referendum into question and hence the spirit of the Edinburgh agreement appears to have been been compromised with or without HMG’s collusion.

    In the event of a NO win then the this leaves it open for another referendum to be called in a short period of time due to the manipulation of the information the Scots voters have been subjected to by the “ESTABLISHMENT”

  4. …… or take up Lesley Riddoch’s suggestion of buying the Scotsman ? If they’ll sell of course and how about crowdfunding ?

    • Buying it would only be the downpayment.

      To get that banger back up and running order would cost loadsa money.

      Great idea but to make a small fortune out of the Scotsman would require to buyer to be in possession of a very big one.

      Cheaper to heat you house by burning B of E £5 note.

  5. @christian_Wright If you were a BBC employee and believed the opinion polls for a NO, you would be anticipating bosses looking at your performance, post Referendum. Presumably as the polls change, so too will some of the emphasis.

  6. If a government is in threat of being overthrown the first thing they do is take over, fortify & defend the radio & tv stations to control the information the population are being fed, and close down all other sources of mass media.

    Well the ruling classes, HMG controls all the mass main info providers (voluntarily) and uses them to achieve the same end as above. They control the media with money and influence not with guns, much more effective and less messy.

    That’s how important the mass media is, you must get your message to the people.

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