The BBC, Scotland’s public self-serving broadcaster

Yesterday we witnessed another article appearing in the mainstream media to tell people who are not fairly represented in the mainstream media to stop complaining that they’re not fairly represented in the mainstream media, because the mainstream media is quite properly doing its job of not fairly representing people outside the media mainstream. And can I get a guest slot on Scotland 2016 now please?

The article was of course a defence of the BBC against the criticisms of independence supporters that our public service broadcaster isn’t properly serving the public of Scotland. 50 years ago there were many British institutions, the great nationalised companies such as British Coal, British Steel, British Rail, and British Telecom, but one by one they were broken up and sold off into private hands. It shouldn’t be a great surprise to anyone that as the institutions and organisations that belonged to the people of Britain as a whole were sold off and broken up by the British establishment that a sense of Britishness and a British identity has grown weaker. Now the apart from the UK parliament itself, the only remaining British institutions are the monarchy, the armed forces, and the BBC.

I’m sure that somewhere in a philosophy class someone will be asking whether it’s possible for an organisation whose goal and aim is foster a sense of a British identity and present it to the world can accurately represent the large segment of the Scottish population which doesn’t want to be a part of the British state. It’s all the more difficult to achieve when the organisation in question is the last civil institution self-consciously maintaining a British identity in an increasingly diverse UK. Asking whether the BBC can fairly represent the Scottish independence movement is a bit like asking whether a religious publication can fairly represent a group which its religion considers to be heretics, and indeed if you look at some coverage of the independence campaign on the BBC you could be forgiven for believing that we sacrifice chickens to the god Alicsammin.

Because the viewpoint of the BBC is that Britishness is the established norm, and independence is the deviation from that norm, the BBC is unable to distinguish between the mainstream independence movement, and fringe groups. This results in the spectacle of the BBC sending a reporter to sit in on a court case involving the antics of a small group of protesters in an independence camp outside Holyrood, and the episode occupying a significant proportion of an episode of Reporting Scotland. It was an invitation from the BBC for us all to ridicule the independence movement as a whole. The BBC would never conflate the fringe activities of pro-Unionist groups like those behind the violence that erupted in George Square in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum vote with mainstream Unionism, yet it regularly conflates fringe nationalism with mainstream Scottish nationalism. The reason it does so is because the BBC starts off from a British perspective.

The media in general in this country is overwhelmingly biased against the Scottish independence movement. It’s also overwhelmingly biased against left wing politics as supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have been discovering. In the absence of laws demanding media diversity and subsidies for newspapers affiliated to particular parties, such as you get in some other European countries, the British media is viciously right wing and grossly unrepresentative of the political views of the population. That’s true in Scotland too, where despite having the sustained support of a good half of the population, all but one daily and one Sunday newspaper in Scotland are opposed to independence. Lacking its own investigative reporting, the BBC typically follows the agenda of the print media, compounding the sense that the organisation is also biased.

This means that certain stories are likely to be chosen as newsworthy, whereas other stories are not given the same prominence or are overlooked entirely. A good recent example of this is the supposed Spanish veto threat against an independent Scotland which is constantly a feature of reports in the Unionist media about Scotland’s potential accession to the EU as an independent state. Last week, as reported in this blog and in my column in the National, there was a major new development when the Spanish foreign minister stated that he expects Scotland to become independent within a few years and put a second indyref into the context of a UK being dragged out of the EU under the influence of the political extremists of UKIP. There was no whiff or suggestion of any Spanish veto. Yet there was silence from the Unionist media and likewise from the BBC. It was a perfect example of bias by omission.

Bias isn’t a conspiracy. It’s not a group of men and women in business suits sitting in a room and plotting, then sending down secret instructions from on high. Bias is a point of view, a perspective. Bias is subjectivity and as such we are all biased. Bias in an institution like the BBC is knowing what stories your bosses are going to prefer, and working accordingly. It means ignoring other stories that they won’t like so much. If the BBC reporter has a choice between a story praising the royals and a story attacking them, it doesn’t take a genius to know which of the two that management is going to prefer.

The difference is that the BBC has a legal obligation to be neutral, and we all have to pay for it. It’s one thing to thole the bias of the print media, but we are not obliged to pay an annual tax with threats of criminal prosecution in order to financially support it. That’s why the perceived bias of the BBC sticks in the craw in a way that newspaper bias, or even bias from the other broadcasters, does not. If you don’t like the bias of the Daily Record, you don’t buy the Daily Record. Not buying the Daily Record does not bring with it the threat of criminal prosecution. Not paying for the BBC does.

All this occurs in the context of a BBC which fails to serve Scotland across the board, not merely failing to represent the breadth of Scottish political views. Scotland contributes over £300 million a year in licence fees, but only a small fraction of that is returned to Scotland for Scottish programming, and the proportion spent on Scottish programming has been declining in recent years. This is despite the fact that Scotland has its own parliament, its own legal system, its own educational system, and its own distinctive political traditions, its own language and culture. None of these are fairly represented in a BBC which is more concerned with portraying a fictive Britishness which is increasingly seen by Scots as an imposition.

The Unionist establishment continually tells us that Scotland has the most powerful devolved parliament in the world, but Scotland remains without a public service broadcaster of its own. The reason for that is because the British state intends to use the BBC as a means to shore up its crumbling rule in Scotland. The Scottish independence movement is not only justified in its criticisms of the BBC, it is imperative that we continue to keep making them and holding our public self-serving broadcaster to account.

Audio link to this blog post, courtesy of @lumi_1984

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0 thoughts on “The BBC, Scotland’s public self-serving broadcaster

  1. Pingback: The BBC, Scotland’s public self-serving broadcaster | speymouth

  2. When you put it like that, would it be possible to argue these points in court to explain refusal to pay the licence fee?

  3. Life is easier without the Jackie Bird Britishness warble. Once September payments for IPlayer come into force that will be getting dumped too. It will be no loss

    • Ach I stopped watching that tosh ages ago. It is really just a short leap after you stop watching the idiot box, to stop watching the methadone version.

      Get yourself some DVD’s from the library, or from Amazon. Read again. Waste your life on blogger sites. Youtube has some good stuff on it. Go stroll around your neighbourhood. Deliver some fliers for a political party. Catch a band in a local pub. Talk to your partner! You have found £145 a year in your ents budget.

      Binning the propaganda tax is so liberating. Life has so much more to it than sitting being drip fed, like some battery hen. Stopping it was the most liberating thing I can remember doing since voting Yes then joining the SNP.

      Cancel it. Don’t watch it. Free your mind, and free your country. F#ck the BBC.

      • Yep, Netflix is good, and we watch many youtube vids, vlogs. My son watches loads about other countries, like people from say, Canada living in Japan, it is fascinating, informative and entertaining. There are also so many vlogs with film reviews, crazy innovative inventions as they happen, and how to, vids. So much choice in fact, god knows why ppl restrict themselves to narrow minded, dumbed down pap via bbc and stv etc. No thanks,

  4. Thankfully I don’t suffer from boiling blood since I threw the BBC out. At first I found it annoying that I was unable to watch other channels but not any more. I look forward, however, to the day when we have a broadcasting service of our own.
    Excellent piece, Paul.

  5. The next problem with the BBC is that come September the UK government is changing the law relating to the TV licence so that you can no longer say that you only watch Iplayer or equivalent in order to avoid paying. The only way to avoid paying will be a declaration that you watch nothing!!

  6. The bbc is a disgrace of course. Don’t pay the bbc tax. Let britnats pay for britnat propaganda.

    I’d like Holyrood to pass a law in September saying no-one in Scotland would be prosecuted if they refuse to pay.

  7. I often wonder how these so called reporters and media reporters who are born and bred in Scotland feel at night when they go to sleep. The BBC news editors should be scrapped and replaced with chimpanzees then we could get a more balanced opinions instead of psychological bias claptrap drip, drip, dripping with poison pen and reports onto Scotland’s endeavours. The money Scotland pays every year into the BBC bottomless pit would finance a complete news studio in every large Scottish city with a full staff – what is going on in our country? why are we accepting this bullS%£t?

    • Don’t pay it. Give the fechin’ licence up. Let the yoons pay for their bulls..t propaganda.
      You don’t need TV. I thought the family might miss it, but they don’t. They are glad it is gone.
      When we are Independent, then we can re-assess.

  8. Two of the three British Institutions that are left BBC and the monarchy need and should be broken up and sold of. If only one newspaper would report unbiased they would find there sales soaring well above there imagination, take not Daily Record, once the best paper in Scotland many years ago and was the reason i switched from the Daily Express to it, but now i don’t buy any Newspapers.

  9. The EBC (English Broadcasting Corporation) is exactly like their masters in the English parliament. They are both a sewer full of overpaid liars, crooks, cheats and charlatans, and we should aim to get rid of them all, along with their German monarchy, as soon as possible.

  10. In the same way the Metrapolitan Police were found guilty of institutionalised unconscious racism….the BBC by dint of selecting like minds at the interview stage for employees, continues its bias against Independence.

  11. Absolutely nailed it Paul.

    The media in all its forms has seen fit to vilify, demonise and alienate the independence movement with impunity and leave the supporters of the independence movement without means of redress. They appear however to take criticism of these actions poorly and get downright grumpy when we either laugh at them or simply ignore them to the point of irrelevance.

    Here’s the thing and it shouldn’t come as a shock to the meeja. If I don’t like what someone is saying about me, I reserve the right to withhold my financial support, my attention, complain as loudly as I like, or hold in contempt as I see fit. Simple as that really.

    You don’t speak to me. You don’t speak for me. I basically owe you nothing.

  12. My problem with BBC journalism is that it isn’t journalism anymore.

    There is no attempt to deal equally with both view points. So often one side is given freedom to put across their view unhindered whilst the other side is constantly interrupted or talked over.

    They only ever seem to offer equality of view in situations where clearly they shouldn’t (e.g. when 99% of experts think one thing and 1% disagree each view is given equal weighting which is patently non-sensical).

    There is no real attempt to properly fact check or scrutinise claims made by one side whilst every utterance of the other side is dissected to the nth degree.

    They create a narrative then set out to seek views or examples to back up that narrative.

    They constantly hassle stressed and stretched public bodies and services with FOI requests until the find something negative to try and undermine these services.

    Yesterday we had a good example. They trawled for information on locum payments to NHS Consultants and then presented it as a failure of an out of control NHS.

    The reality is of course different. There are currently 162 consultant vacancies in NHS Scotland. The health boards are trying to recruit and the Scottish Government are encouraging them but the doctors just aren’t out there.

    But it’s just as bad if not worse in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

    It’s certainly not SG’s fault.

    And as BMA Scotland pointed out almost all the money spent on locums is the money not being spent on 162 Consultant salaries, so no real net financial loss to the NHS.

    But the BBC made no attempt to portray it that way. Instead they gave air time to opposition politicians branding the whole thing as another example of SNPBad. Not once were they questioned about where they would find 162 consultants to fill the gaps needing to be covered by locums.


  13. I was meeting a friend in St Enochs SQ the day a breathless BBC journo proclaimed that chaos had hit the streets of Glasgow. Looking down from my vantage point I could see the usual sea of labour placards to hide the fact that no one was listening. It was a small group, I reckon that there were more journalists there than labour campaigners. And later read that Sean Clerkin and 3 more people turned up to shout at renta-gob Jim Murhpy.

    This was the day I realised that the BBC had started to editoralise news rather than report what happened. I knew there was bias – all news media is biased. But the BBC were supposed to be better than this. They take money in the form of a tax from everyone in the UK, including Scots who want to leave the UK – they’re not supposed to take sides on any issue. When the penny dropped and the scales lifted from my eyes so to speak, I cancelled by license.

    I have also stopped consuming UK news media, either on TV or Print. When I see it now, usually by accident or in a piece written by Wings, WGD or Scotgoespop – I feel like I am seeing news content from a foreign country. Its one of the reasons I have no interest in a Scottish Six – the people in charge of it are the same people we know to be actively hostile to Scottish independence, why would we trust them now?

    I fear the day Scotland gets a MSM free of the UK is when Scotland itself is free of the UK.

  14. As usual, Paul, right on the button.
    The weather map used by BBC Scotland is rendered unrecognisable, particularly to young viewers. It wouldn’t do to show Scotland in its true form, a nation as big as England, and close to out Northern European neighbours, would it?
    Scotland seems to run from Ullapool in the East to North Berwick in the West and Northern Ireland lurking in the shadows ‘below us’. The impression, quite deliberate in my view, is to distort the map of these isles, with the aid of an areal shot of the UK taken from possibly Riec-sur-Belon in Brittany, looking ‘upwards’ whereby Kent seems to be ten times the size of Scotland which is shown as a tiny isthmus somewhere in the distant North on the UK weather slot,with the cropped version of this optical illusion used by BBC Scotland in the two and a half minute TV news broadcasts during 3 and a quarter hours of English hegemony every morning.

    England versus Pakistan, the new English football boss, education, health, crime, in ‘England and Wales’ , ‘the news where we aren’t’ beamed North to the Colony.

    The latest exhibition at the V&A, the Chelsea Flower Show, Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race, and so on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.
    Scotland has a right to its own broadcasters, just like Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Iceland, and Denmark.
    There is nothing we can do about it of course.
    Magnusson, Bird, Kerr, Brewer, Fraser, Campbell, and the woman on BBC Jordanhill who chairs their laughable radio phone in but whose name escapes me and will continue to do so, are bought and paid for Unionist State Broadcasters.
    Nothing is going to change that.

    Indeed when Indyref 2 gets underway, Sarah Smith, and James Naughtie will set up camp Up Here, and Marr, Neil, Wark and Kuessenberg will don their Bacofoil Caps and spout right wing BritUnion claptrap from the bowels of Westminster yet again. SNP is Bad Bad Leroy Brown, and we are all Nazi brainwashed anti English subsidy junkies.
    It is not merely a State controlled Broadcaster. It is owned by the English Establishment. Royalty, Nobility, Belted Earl Land Owners, the City, the obscenely wealthy, the bosses , the 1%, run the Corporation, and determine what the Great Unwashed are told. BBC bosses are drawn from this class FS.
    You can’t get any more Brit Establishment than the journalists and presenters setting the agenda at Pacific Quay. Fact .
    STV/ITN are no better, and SKY is well, US Today.

    • Calm doon, Jack – even on the BBC’s maps, Ullapool is still in the west and North Berwick in the east. Mind you, it makes little difference because it’s only Scotlandshire, so a few mistakes here or there don’t really matter – those who know where to shoot their grouse, stalk their stags, dash their White Sergeant can still find their way back to Bakeoffia. Jockies lie down – to paraphrase. It’s comin’ yet for a’ that.

  15. Great article but factually incorrect…”Not buying the Daily Record does not bring with it the threat of criminal prosecution. Not paying for the B.B.C does.” I am not threatened with criminal prosecution for not paying for the B.B.C – I don’t watch T.V. Get your facts right.

    • Bill MacLeod says:
      July 29, 2016 at 12:58 am
      Great article but factually incorrect…Get your facts right.

      Once upon a day my father-in-law possessed a TV. When he died, the TV went, and since then there has been to TV in the house. We have received quarterly letters asking for repeated confirmation we’re not watching TV; many of these have threatened visits from the TV van; from bailiffs who would have right of entry to the house; or that we’d be taken to court for non-payment. If I reply to them the letters go away for a short period then they start up again. Most people would fail to understand that things would only get to court if there was a working TV in use in the house.
      The licensing authorities apply undue pressure to anyone who once had a TV. The WGD has his facts exactly right.

      • Oh I stopped reading those letters years ago. Far too stressful. They just get burned immediately unopened.

        We´re probably too off the beaten track I imagine to ever get a visit, although I fantasise showing the inspector an empty neuk somewhere in the house and saying, ¨that´s where we don´t have our telly¨. Surreal, but how do you prove a negative?

    • Really? I know someone who is being harassed since he decided to ditch the bbc and the other pap being piped into living rooms day in day out. His letter clearly states that he will face ‘criminal prosecution’ if he does not pay up and/or contact the license mafia. The ‘law’ that the letter sites, is nothing to do with Scottish law, in fact not even sure it is anythjng to do with english law, can’t remember exact words, but is purely designed to scare the person into paying up as they have done for years, but now want to be free of the bbc.

  16. Yes but what is to done now about this issue?

    I hear and share the frustration of those individuals who stop paying the licence fee, but we will need also an overall structural plan to tackle this tricky but vital institution if we are to have any chance of winning independence.

    I wish I knew the answer. Does the Scottish government have one?

    • For me it would need to be an aggressively pursued policy of rebuttal. Too much of what was passed off as news was simply allowed to pass unchallenged. The YES campaign was far too nice and laid back. It also needs to be far more joined up with Scotgov to ensure that it can challenge the BS effectively.

  17. God I wish we could just replace them on mass with a ‘scottish’ channel 4 news. Their reporting is excellent with great investigative journalism on subjects you won’t hear otherwise. Jon snow often gives interviewees hard time – he skewered a politician last night on hinckley point – don’t catch bbc upsetting their masters like that. Also other night reported on massacre of kurds- nowhere to be seen or heard on bbc.
    Roll on indy and SBC properly funded with our own licence fee.

  18. Great article, thanks. I think the bit about men and women not sitting in a room, conspiring is interesting though Paul. Sometimes, sentences like that get me thinking, ah, but that is exactly what they are doing. The opposite of what we are told, and some! I suspect it is more likely that the psychs are working behind the scenes, propaganda has to be planned and orchestrated to be effective.

    Oh and we have not watched tv for years, never looked back. Last letter from them, I just said we would not give them a penny, and told them why, pointing out the ‘bias’ during the indy ref.

    And, like the Wings Over Scotland facebook share button, it comes up as a blank page saying, ‘error, something went wrong’. Funny that. Will copy and paste from the browser instead, but might be worth checking this out as lots of people see this site if shared on fb etc.

  19. Remember, in any interview on bbc tv, the interviewer has an ear piece, they are taking instructions from above as the programme is aired. ‘Live’ tv can be edited as it is aired too.

  20. Once you becomes sensitised to the deficiencies if the BBC’s output, the deficiencies become alarmingly obvious. News it treated as a form of entertainment. There is minimal amount of actual news in any one news program, especially on TV news, little detailed analysis, and we are well aware of BBC Scotland’s tendency to hurry through headlines and get on with the real news of the sports soap opera and reading out text messages. Then, of course, there is the perceived bias / lack of balance / lack of impartiality (take your pick) which is detailed in greater detail elsewhere on the Internet – the Glasgow University Media Group have been doing this for many years.

    Quite obviously, if you don’t like the product, stop paying for it, as (probably) many people, such as myself, have done – or so I assume by the number of web sites there are detailing the harassment received from BBCTVlicensing ™.

    Yes, not being legally able to watch (presumably one can still listen since listening doesn’t require a license) the iPlayer will be marginally inconvenient, but I am sure we will survive having to wait for Sherlock to appear on Netflix. Or go and babysit where there is a thing on the wall on all the bloody time. The money saved is spent on the Netflix and the occasional DVD – which can be resold on e-bay. And we read a lot – political blogs of course.

    However, quietly doing so doesn’t bring any significant pressure on the BBC. Even having a rant here has, probably, minimal effect – fun though it may be. Better minds than mine may have some thoughts on how effective pressure can be brought on the BBC to adopt a less partisan view of Scotland. But, until Scotland is an independent nation, I don’t hold out much hope.

  21. I agree with everything you say Paul about the BBC. Unfortunately I get the feeling that on your blog and in the National you’re preaching to the converted. But how do people convince the Scots who believe the Daily Mail or The Daily Record. You might think that there not many of them left but there’s worrying numbers left getting more entrenched in their isolationist unionist, xenophobic anti-European views by the day. None of go near your blog or read the National or ar in any way affected by online opinions or Indy marches. Things have become very polarized. How can we hope to reach so may closed minds who still trust our biased national media over their fellow countrymen?

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