Today was the day that the BBC Scotland top brass deigned to go to Holyrood to answer questions on their reporting bias on the Independence referendum.
First up before the MSPs was not the BBC, but rather professor Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland who had recently stuck a thorn into the BBCs complacency by publishing an interim report of his findings on Independence broadcasting coverage by BBC and STV news.
For those of you haven’t seen his report, and why should you have done if you rely on BBC and STV news or rely on newspaper reports, none of which have thought it worthwhile to report it to you, other than an early morning slot on BBC Radio Scotlands “Good Morning Scotland” programme, tucked away on a Saturday morning. Then you wont know how it absolutely hammered both BBC and STV main news contributions for bias against the YES campaign.
Professor Robertson had subsequently been trashed by the BBC in their response to him by email, and his professional dignity and ability called into question by them.
They had sought to bully him by copying in his superior in their response.
The professor was in no mood to take this academic and professional slander into account, and let the BBC have both barrels in his opening statement to the committee of MSPs.
Unfortunately some of the unionist MSPs sought to defame him and attack him personally.
Professor Robertson was not about to have his academic credentials trashed, and he left them in no doubt, that this biased reporting which he had highlighted in his report and the attacks the BBC and others had subjected him to had turned him from being being an impartial bystander into now supporting Independence. This did not in any way impinge on his previously impartial and neutral study at the time of undertaking it.
Next up….The BBC big wigs
Not much was to be learned from their attendance, other than they considered the professors study to be flawed and inaccurate, despite never having had access to his methodology. The rest of the time it was like a BBC advertising campaign.
They nit picked over some small data and were able to point to some small errors in the report which the professor had since corrected, and thus maintained that the whole year long study must be faulty.
A few questions of them by the MSPs stood out.
Mr Maxwell the committees chairman had previously asked and been refused a Freedom of Information request on the number of complaints the BBC had received over their Independence coverage from Ken McQuarrie the BBC Scotland Controller. He took this opportunity to ask him again, only to be rebuffed, the BBC were not telling!
All we do know is that the the number of complaints had risen, and that the BBC always approached these complaints in the same manner.. A short standard response, with information on how to proceed to appeal to the BBC Trust, who would then address it (kick it into the long grass as the BBC can do no wrong)
The only method of judging their own fairness was by their own rules of what they consider to be fair and impartial,. Well we do have OfCom, but they are just part of the same establishment really.
When they were picked up on the order that they reported Independence news, as highlighted by Professor Roberson, that they always either reported a positive YES message followed by a NO debunking of it, or non reporting of it at all.
An example being what should have been headline news of Standard and Poors positive report on the credit rating of an Independent Scotland being AAA not appearing. They gave the excuse that it was probably too late in the day to report it, so didn’t.
They said that the numerous reporting of Alex Salmond being personalised negatively was probably down to their reporting of First Ministers question time, but that was just a theory. The lack of comparative personalisation of anyone in the NO campaign was simply inexplicable.
The one thing I would have liked the MSPs to ask, but wasn’t asked, was what is BBC Scotlands reason for denying comments on their political on line blogs in Scotland, but comparable political blogs in Northern Ireland, England and Wales are all open for comment. What is that but bias?
The other things I would have asked them are, why do they always highlight newspaper reports which show an Independence bias, when there are no headlines in the predominately anti independence press to counter them.
Why do they use their own journalists to discuss among themselves their own personal opinions and call that news?
and finally, why did the MSPs not chin them with Professor Robertsons comments that the BBC used experts and think thanks which were not politically neutral but aligned to the unionist side, and state that they were independent?
BBC go to Holyrood, and swan off again, untouched.