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Showing posts with label bias at the BBC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bias at the BBC. Show all posts

Monday, 30 January 2012

The BBC – its role and its future. The SBC?

The title of this blog is too grand, and appears to signal a major analysis, when in fact it is just a brief comment. But perhaps I’ll get around to more …

One of the many classic Isabel Fraser interviews with Alex Salmond. The Nationalist BBC bashers tend to ignore the vital contribution of the BBC to democracy by giving regular exposure to the FM and the nationalist viewpoint.

So interviewers sometimes press politicians on points that they think are relevant, and act as devil's advocates? That's their job - searching for the truth, however elusive. Even Paxman - perhaps especially Paxman - in his blundering, hectoring, hostile, patronising style has made his contribution. That's democracy - that's what a free media should aspire to.

The BBC is not perfect, and can never satisfy the needs of any political party - nor should it. It is still the finest public service broadcaster in the world, and it now faces the greatest challenge in its history - the independence of Scotland and the constitutional changes it will bring to what is left of the UK, of the Britain as described in its name.

Can it still be The BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation? In point of fact, it could, in the sense of, say, a Scandinavian Broadcasting Corporation, or a Mediterranean Broadcasting Corporation. But I don't think it will be - the new independent Scotland will demand its SBC, the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation.

After all, if we're going to be "a beacon to the world", we need to be on the air!


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Unionist bias at BBC Scotland?

I hate to ask that question, because the BBC has been an invaluable part of my life since I was a child, and my first instinct is to spring to its defence when it is attacked, as it always has been, on many fronts and for many reasons.

The BBC is a unique institution, and is recognised as such throughout the world. It has been a vital channel of communication, information and hope for occupied and oppressed countries  across the globe throughout its long history, as well as being a major engine of culture.

But from its monopoly status in certain  aspects of its operations, through regular accusations of bias and partiality - from just about every interest group imaginable - to complaints about the allegedly excessive salaries and perks of its senior management, the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, is a target.

It has been variously accused of being

left-wing

right-wing

establishment-biased

biased towards libertarianism

sexually permissive

too bold in its programming

not bold enough

nationalistic and jingoistic

not patriotic enough

of concealing the realities of war

of being too open about the realities of war

The list goes on and on. It is accused of being a slave to balance in reporting, and yet is regularly accused of lack of balance. It is at one and the same time apparently anodyne yet radical in its style.

The BBC could reasonable respond – and does - that the mutually contradictory range of criticisms levelled at it are demonstration enough of its objectivity and lack of bias.

It has a major foe, potentially its nemesis - the Murdoch organisation, a force for evil in the world if ever there was one in my book, masquerading as free and fearless populist press, responding to the wishes of the people as shown through sales, with the unspeakable Fox News as its model for keeping the ‘free’ world informed. The Murdoch Press believes that the BBC is monopolistic, and hold this belief without any sense of irony.

So I instinctively spring to the BBC’s defence, an aged Don Quixote, saucepan on head, stumbling forward on Rosinante, but with no Sancho Panza to offer moral support. Hands off the Beeb!

but

I am reluctantly forced to conclude that there is something which, if not yet rotten in the state of BBC Scotland, is giving off a highly dubious aroma.

I am torn between recognising that it is virtually the only medium to offer any real coverage to the SNP among the biased media of Scotland, to regularly feeling that the coverage contains a distinct bias towards the unionist case.

There is perhaps some reason to expect a kind of metropolitan myopia from the BBC at  Broadcasting House in recognising the aspirations of a very large segment of the Scottish electorate to secure the independence of their country, and towards the political party that embodies that viewpoint, the Scottish National Party, even though it is the current choice of the Scottish people and forms the Government in a devolved Parliament.

Buried in the heart of London, within easy reach of Westminster and the politicians and civil servants who govern the UK, they are a part of the Westminster village, and absorb its values by a process of osmosis almost. Scotland only occasionally intrudes into their consciousness sufficiently to warrant real attention. And it is, after all, the British Broadcasting Corporation, but it is not the UK Broadcasting Corporation – the UKBC!

But there is no such excuse from number 40 Pacific Quay in the great Scottish city of Glasgow, a mere forty miles or so away from Holyrood. Yet any objective observer could only conclude that, in the lead-up to the 2007 election and in the three and a bit years since,  there have been many instances where the SNP has not been given a fair throw of the dice, and the niggling suspicion that the dice are loaded and the game is not being played according to Hoyle lingers.

I take heart from the fact that Brian Taylor, a fine journalist who exhibits high journalistic standards at all times, and whose objectivity has never been called in to question by any reasonable person, is BBC Scotland’s Chief Political Reporter. But Brian is one man.

Joan McAlpine, a highly professional journalist herself --  a columnist with The Scotsman, has explored this criticism vigorously in an article  today on her blog, Go, Lassie, Go .

She does not avoid coming to grips with specifics, naming BBC Scotland reporters and commentators and exploring aspect of their backgrounds and affiliations that might raise questions in the minds of a reasonable observer.

Now no one is suggesting, least of all Joan, who herself is a prominent SNP supporter and a candidate for a seat in Holyrood at the next election, that reporters do not have a right to political opinions and affiliations. What she argues for is a level playing field, and that political affiliations do not intrude into the objectivity of salaried journalists in a public broadcaster like the BBC.

So, BBC Scotland – sit up and take notice! There is a growing sense of disquiet among many nationalists, and among fair-minded democrats who are not nationalist supporters, but who value the freedom of the press and media, that while there may not yet be something rotten in the  state of Pacific Quay, it is time to get the fridge thermometer out and check