The taxpayer-funded British Broadcasting Corporation has been accused of exhibiting bias against Scottish independence in an academic report published by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland. The report called “Fairness in the First Year?” focused on the first year of referendum coverage on STV and the BBC and came to the conclusion that:
“Comparing Reporting Scotland (BBC) with STV News, the former seems less balanced and fair to the Yes campaign if only in the tendency to give pro-independence statements a greater frequency of opening and closing debates. Overall, however, both feature a preponderance of anti-independence evidence and a heavy personalisation of the debate around the character of Alex Salmond with the latter often portrayed as selfish and undemocratic.
“On the objective evidence presented here, the mainstream TV coverage of the first year of the independence referendum campaign has not been fair or balanced. Taken together, we have evidence of coverage which seems likely to have damaged the Yes campaign.”
Stories with an “anti-independence” bent outnumbered those favouring the Yes side by three to two. The BBC’s Reporting Scotland had 272 news items advantageous to the No campaign but only 171 slanted towards Yes. STV News screened 255 stories helping the No side and just 172 for Yes.
To date, the only article in the mainstream media on this topic has been Joan McAlpine MSP’s opinion piece in the Daily Record. Whilst the Daily Record is to be applauded for running Ms McAlpine’s opinion piece, it says all that needs to be said about the state of the Scottish media that not one Scottish newspaper has run a news story on this issue. The BBC has not commented on the story or run it and neither has STV. Whilst newspapers may print or fail to print what they see fit, the BBC is meant to be covered by more stringent rules than this. It is supposed to be held to a higher standard of impartiality than the editorially Unionist Scottish press and if it is failing in this duty, this must be addressed ahead of the referendum.
Derek Bateman, a former BBC presenter and broadcast journalist stated that:
“The print media normally devour anything to do with the BBC and are besotted with it. Many of them detest it and regard it as the opposition and here is a tale of it making the cardinal mistake of political bias, not someone’s assertion but evidence-based. Yet no-one picks it up.”
Fife News Online believes that Scotland deserves better than biased media in the run up to the referendum in September this year. The depth of the anti-independence bias can sometimes be hard to assess but when the entirety of the Scottish media (aside from one SNP MSP’s opinion piece) remains silent on such an issue, it is suddenly brought into sharp focus. When a year-long independent study by a respected academic source and institution accuses the supposedly impartial BBC of bias in the Independence debate then it must by any definition be newsworthy.