Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Has Become of the BBC?

A world-renowned news service, second to none. The standard for others to meet in the quality of its analysis and the depth of coverage. Celebrated as the voice of truth and feared by repressive regimes around the world. Justly famed for its impartiality.

But all is not as it seems. The BBC, paragon of journalistic virtue, bastion of broadcasting neutrality, has a blind spot.

It seems that the BBC doesn’t do positive stories about one of the most successful governments in Europe, a government that has in only three years of power managed to improve the lives of its citizens, avoid expenses scandals, keep within its budgets, all while running a popular minority administration.

That place is Scotland.

In reality it is far more than a blind spot. That in itself would perhaps be a credible explanation for the traditional crude parody of Scottish culture, lack of proportional investment, and shallow condescension that often passes for BBC reporting on Scotland. This is something new. Something profound has changed in how the BBC operates in Scotland, and people are starting to notice.

Blithe conciliatory explanations about a poor understanding by BBC staff of the Scottish devolutionary settlement within the UK are no longer acceptable, believable, or sufficient to explain what is now happening. The BBC’s new style of coverage in Scotland consists of the willful mis-reporting and twisting of stories to protect the British Establishment, clumsy Internet censorship, the suppression of crucial and important stories central to understanding the nation’s political life, scornfully discourteous interviewing of Scotland’s First Minister, and the barring of Scottish Government representative participation in UK election debates for a parliament that is supposed to represent Scotland’s interests.

Until the Al Megrahi release a year ago, little of what was happening could have been classified as deliberate censorship or propaganda. Until then, most of the problems were sins of omission, ignorance and interview bias, however blatant. The reality is probably that most BBC employees are essentially decent people with good critical thinking skills but with a blind spot within their own British identities, people who are struggling to understand or accept the geopolitical transformation that is happening right on their doorstep.

But a perceptible and strategic shift has indeed occurred. What we are witnessing today has all the hallmarks of a state propaganda machine that would make Chinese Government officials and their IT managers proud. This is no exaggeration. Follow the links.

The remarkable thing is why anyone should be surprised. This is what happens when financial rewards for organizations are skewed: quarterly reports lead to quarterly corporate performance; allowing banks to make loans with no matching reserves lets them lend to whatever misguided fools will accept a loan; self-regulation of money markets leads to the lunatics taking over the asylum and derivative financial products that even those selling them cannot understand. That’s what happens at the frayed edges of all incentive schemes. Organisations and people will almost always perform precisely how the financial structure around them demands them to perform. Good intentions and noble market forces be damned.

The BBC is no different. The inconvenient truth for Scotland is that the means by which the BBC Trust is funded creates a powerful incentive for its stakeholders to oppose Scottish independence. This is not just about the BBC’s Scottish employees protecting their jobs – if anything, many of these are good people held back from doing their jobs as they would wish. This goes right to the top.

The reason is that when Scotland eventually, inevitably, goes its own way, the BBC Trust stands to lose nearly 9% of its £3.6billion revenue, or approximately £310million, the total that Scots contribute (on pain of criminalization) to the BBC balance sheet. This is a mighty inducement for BBC management to direct its staff to run interference on anything that even resembles kudos for the nationalist-led Scottish Government whose stated intention is to lead Scotland to independence.

This colonial nonsense has to stop.

Whoever is responsible, the simplest solution would be for the Scottish Government to demand that the BBC immediately:

1. Cease and desist from the suppression of news and to allow its BBC Scotland staff to report stories pertaining to the Scottish political scene in a fair and balanced manner.

2. End its censorship of all commentary on BBC news websites and BBC blogs relating to Scottish politics (under the pretence that the comments are offensive).


The Scottish Government should let it be known that if this does not happen by a stated date then the BBC will be forced to provide under freedom of information all minutes for the past three years for BBC Scotland management and IT policy meetings, particularly pertaining to news content. As a public body these documents must exist. The sheer volume of information will prevent any attempt at redaction or selective destruction.

If they have nothing to hide, they should have nothing to fear.

If the BBC cooperates, so be it. If not, there should be a number of consequences. First, the BBC Trust should be considered to have violated its charter in Scotland and that the Scottish legal system, which retains the ultimate right of appeal in Scottish criminal cases, would henceforth not be prosecuting any cases brought for TV licence non-payment that are appealed.

This would, at a stroke, remove Scottish revenues from the BBC balance sheet and eliminate the financial incentive for the disgraceful censorship and news manipulation that is currently being passed off as political news in Scotland. The misinformation, half-truths and censorship would no doubt continue, but at least Scots will not be paying for it.

Second, the inter-government standoff would not only create a huge amount of sympathetic publicity in the High Streets of Scotland, something the Scottish Government so badly needs for its successes. Nor would it merely make Scots wake up to what is happening, and perhaps even begin to question what they are hearing.

The Scottish Government-endorsed payment boycott would galvanize and politicize ordinary Scots into action, creating a national sentiment and community solidarity around an unlawful and undemocratic situation. The dispute would be constitutional, not criminal. And no law would need to be passed in the Scottish Parliament to initiate it.

Thoreau, Gandhi and Martin Luther King all recognised the difference between morality and legality, and the need to break unjust laws peacefully. Civil disobedience was the cornerstone of Indian Independence and the US Civil Rights movement. If laws are all so perfect, why do we have parliaments to change them? Politicians make laws, but if British MPs are so perfect, why were most of them recently found to be intrinsically dishonest?

If the British Government says one thing, but the Scottish Government - for whom the Scottish people are sovereign - says another, which is right?

At some point it is inevitable that Scotland will have her own national broadcasting service. Norway, with a slightly smaller population than Scotland, manages fine with a TV licence fee of Kr2,322 (about £249) while Ireland, with its even smaller population, pays only €160, about £133 – each comparable to London’s annual UK propaganda fee of £145.50. So come independence, Scotland will easily fund a perfectly adequate national broadcaster for herself.

Instead of tolerating a corrupted version of someone else’s.




21 comments:

DougtheDug said...

It's not easy to separate out all the different reasons why the BBC is so anti-SNP in Scotland. London metropolitan parochialism, ignorance, a sense of Britain as a nation based on Englishness and a self-centred belief that the BBC is one of the cornerstones of Britishness are all in the mix.

But there are two simple reasons which explain most of the BBC's anti-SNP output in Scotland.

Reason 1.
The BBC is not a directly controlled government department but it is funded directly from a TV tax by the government. It is the British state broadcaster. It's why the BBC used to get MI5 to vet its staff and probably still does. The SNP is an organisation which is hostile to the British state and the British state broadcaster is going to treat it as such.

Reason 2.
In Scotland the boundaries between the Labour party which is unionist and british nationalist and the BBC are hard to define. Scotland was a one party state under Labour for so long that the boundaries between public office, the media and the Labour party all simply disappeared. We still have that legacy in BBC Scotland.

Many years ago I used to regard the BBC news as a bit stuffy but reliable. As the SNP has grown in power in Scotland and has become more visible in the media I now regard the BBC as hostile to the SNP and dangerously biased in its reporting.

What Has Become of the BBC?

It hasn't changed one whit. It is still joined at the hip with Labour in Scotland and it is still the British state broadcaster. These facts have just become more apparent now the SNP is in Government in Holyrood.

Bugger said...

Excellent article and great post by DougtheDug.

It is about time that the Pravda like reporting and anti-SNP bias of BBC in general, especially in Scotland, must challenged and brought down.

The Labour Party in Scotland is so embedded within the BBC that they seem seamlessly as one. Party press releases are quoted verbatim as news and any news concerning Independence and the SNP is shamelessly slanted or psychologically, almost subliminally reported, malpresented.

I was listening to Radio 4 and their 6 o'clock news bulletin was running the report of the US Senate Committee's summonsing of Kenny MacAskill and Jack Straw to appear before them to aid their re-election campaign. Jack Straw "declined" but Kenny MacAskill "refused."

1984 was supposed to be a warning of the future not a blueprint.

The only way it will change is by force. The responsibility for broadcasting in Scotland must be wrested from London; it was a reserved power at devolution.

This will take a direct frontal attack on the BBC's power structure because they have not the slightest motivation to do so themselves. Follow the money.

Follow the money, so deny them their income stream and they will soon gain their attention.

Just what is the SNP doing about this blatant bias and manipulation of the news against them by the BBC and the Print Media? Not a lot and this will lose them the next election.

Time to take off the gloves Alex and very soon please, or else.

pravda NBritain said...

It's sad when people like myself NEVER listen to BBC Scotland News as it is so blatantly biased in favour of Labour and the Union.
With BBC reporters and sports commentators writing for The Daily Rangers they don't even hide their hatred for the SNP anymore.
Sally Magnusson revealed all about the BBC mindset in a discussion about Scottish history a few months ago. Nothing happened before The Union of 1707 and Robert the Bruce was a savage. We all lived in caves. We were saved by the Union etc ...
Whenever I see her or the sneering Jackie Bird I have to rush and turn the channel over before I start swearing. An evil pair of wimmin luvvies and perfect for Pravda tv.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article!

Can I draw to posters attention the following excellent “newspaper” website?

• www.newsnetscotland.com

Also, visit the Scottish Parliament’s e-petitions website re - “The Saltire flag above Edinburgh Castle” and “The Wallace letter of safe conduct”

• www.epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk

On a different site there is the a petition asking people to register their desire for Scottish Independence

• www.scottishindependenceconvention.com

Interested in Scottish democracy? Want to help in the battle against a biased media? :
1. Visit Newsnet Scotland and join in the debate
2. Sign the e-petitions on the Scottish Parliament’s website
3. Sign the petition for Scottish Independence
4. Pass on this communication to 5 others AND ask them to pass on to 5 others
5. Photocopy and distribute (handout in street, post to a friend, leave in waiting areas, etc)

OutLander said...

DougTheDug,

I think you are right. The BBC was, after all, created at the height of Empire in the 1920s, and became a formidable propaganda tool during the war to protect it, as Orwell discovered.

There are probably those in the BBC who see holding on to Scotland as a struggle for the survival of Britain, just as the BBC did against the Germans.

OutLander said...

Bugger,

I think the problem with the SNP is that for some reason they have decided to avoid controversy since taking power, perhaps to convince us that they can govern.

But they have done that. We are convinced. Time to return to the raison d'etre. They need to rediscover their radical roots.

What have they got to lose? If they co-operate with London, our nation's structure and social fabric will be shredded. If they oppose the BBC, Calman and ConDem cuts with radical tactics, how can the outcome be any worse than what is planned? England has to take it. We don't.

These four year must be seen as the chapter when the SNP grew in stature and discovered how to run a government. Fine.

Now it's time to run a nation.

OutLander said...

Pravda NBritain,

Such a shame about Sally Magnusson. Not half the man her auld faither was.

She obviously hasn't read any of his history books.

OutLander said...

Anonymous,

Feel free to draw away.

Anonymous said...

I only wished it was the only BBC blind spot.
Being joined at the hip to the Labour Party in general is not only bad for Scotland, but for England too, as their vitriolic bias and misinformation seeps into everyday life.

Bugger said...

It is not just we bloggers and occasional poster who are beginning to get restless with the SNP's softly softly tactics

See below

http://joycemcmillan.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/the-dog-that-did-not-bark-or-the-strange-silence-of-the-snp-column-31-7-10/

Do you think they are reading these blogs and listening to their rank and file?

tris said...

First class post. Thank you.

It is, I think, difficult to be a government and a rebel at the same time. The country has to be run for all the population. The Civil Servants have to be paid. The risks are enormous. With a Tory government in London that cares not a whit for a “region” that repeatedly returns theirs to 1/59th of its seats, who knows what the London reaction would be.

The sentiments expressed here have been echoed by Iain Hamilton on his blog. He reckons the SNP should now resign from government and take up its role as a campaigning party.

I’m inclined to think that will be done for them in May next year when the sheeple will almost certainly vote in a Labour government (will it become an executive again?), Iain Gray (try not to laugh) will be the First Minister and the SNP will return to opposition.

It is rare for me to disagree with anything Mr Hamilton says, but on this occasion I’m wary.

Mrs Palin is remembered for two things, one was her incredible stupidity, and the other for quitting her job as Governor of Alaska. OK, she quit so that she could make money out of her experience as a presidential candidate and her new found fame as a teabag, and the SNP would be doing it out of duty to their country. But ask the average BBC watching, Daily Retard or Hootsman reading Scot to discern the subtitle difference.

Quitters! No one likes a quitter. Weren’t up to the job. The Labour party never quits (There’s some truth in that!).

As I say the job will be done for us pretty soon. The SNP will have proved that a Scottish based party has been able to run the country to the benefit of its citizens, (for all the good that that will do to convince the sheeple). But the bulk of the cuts, coming from the English government will have to be implemented by the Labour government/executive in Edinburgh. Let them do that while we get back to doing the job of securing our country for ourselves.

As far as the TV licences are concerned, I can’t help feeling that firstly the BBC should suffer a 40% reduction in its funding over the next 4 years(Come on Tories, money where the mouth is please, or do you not want to upset the BBC given their ability to do to you what they have done to the SNP?) After all, what is more important to the Tories, Eductaion, transport or Eastenders? And secondly a programme of mass non payment in Scotland, but NOT organised by the government in Edinburgh. A potential government, never mind an actual government, must be wary of advocating disobedience of the law of the land.

Once again...a brilliant read. I haven’t enjoyed a post as much for a long time

OutLander said...

Anonymous2

At least England has a dissenting press to question the BBC take on stories.

There is not a single mainstream media outlet in Scotland willing to question BBC or Labour Party lies.

All we hear is non-stop elevator music of UK-good, Scotland-bad, distorting the truth and suppressing unwelcome facts.

Imagine Brussels controlling every outlet of the English press and censoring any and every anti-Brussels comment on the Eurostate broadcaster website, for which every Englishman has to pay.

That's what we're experiencing in Scotland.

OutLander said...

Bugger,

I hope so.

Ian Hamilton is right about the danger of appearing as collaborators if the SNP implement the British cuts. There's no other word for it. In doing so they are agreeing to play the game, to be an arm of the British Govt, just as the LibDems did when they agreed to be in a coalition with the Tories.

And look at them now.

What the SNP need is a game-changing move that totally throws their opponents off their stride.

They're thinking tactically about the next election when they should be thinking strategically about independence.

I think the only solution is to make the next election a de facto referendum on independence. The alternative has been spelled out to us. We reject it.

They have ten months to spell out what independence will mean in positive terms, and exactly what remaining in the Union will mean, in starkly honest terms. Twenty years of the Tories will crucify Scotland, and the SNP will be our willing executioners.

The consequences of doing nothing have been made very clear.

OutLander said...

Tris,

Glad you liked it.

As I said to Bugger, I am inclined to agree with Hamilton. If they can find a pretext to resign, all well and good. Perhaps refuse to implement next year's pocket money budget. If they don't, I think the SNP has two choices in next year's election:

1. Run a close-run election, which they may easily lose, seeking a mandate of 'we will only make further Tory cuts in services in certain places' while Labour will make them in others. Every Unionist resource, trick and lie would be brought to bear. Winning would be a poisoned chalice that would sap party morale and funds. Losing would be a very real possibility.

OR

2. Run on seeking an utter rejection of the concept of cuts in an oil rich, resource rich nation that is being asset-stripped to pay for London's debts. At least their loss would have meaning. Winning would make a referendum essential and victory a near-certainty.

If you're going to lose, give your loss meaning.

Bugger said...

OutLander

I'd go for 2, gambler and hopeless romantic as I am.

OutLander said...

Bugger,

The second choice is not the romantic option. It is the pragmatic, bold option.

The UK has tried to make the next election about who does their dirty work. By this strategy, the SNP would redefine it as a de facto referendum on independence. If they win, it 'brings it on.' If they lose, it wasn't a real referendum, and Labour are forced to show their utter incompetence for four more years.

If the SNP lose the election, they come back twice as strong in 2015 in a second referendum election which, after four years of Labour cuts, they would almost certainly win.

I think they are worried about letting go power for four years, and allowing the Labour Party to regroup in Scotland. It's a real possibility, but without a Labour regime in London, and with the Tories cracking the whip, this will be very, very difficult.

In the meantime, the SNP can test the water with a campaign that asserts 'Your next TV licence will be a Scottish one!' that will serve to politicise the Scottish people around something they clearly understand and that will mobilise the poorest Scots to be SNP voters.

As Blethery Brian says, big choices ahead.

Mark MacLachlan said...

We've had French friends visiting this week. In conversation Jean-Mi was telling me about his capable grandfather and his love of technology. He spoke with pride about how in 1940 in occupied France grandpere built from scratch a wireless, which a few trusted friends, neighbours and family would sit around and listen to broadcasts on the BBC from London. It was their lifeline to an outside world free of censors and dictatorship. It is that yardstick that today the BBC should be held against.

Of our own BBC Scotland staff, many whom I know, respect and like, let me say this. When a people lose their self-confidence, they surrender themselves to the well trod path of least resistance and oligarchy. BBC Scotland has welcomed London's hand cuffs as they prevent their hands from shaking.

OutLander said...

Well said, Mark.

I know that many who work at BBC Scotland can't wait for the day when they are working for a Scottish national broadcaster and covering European & world events, instead of our daily diet of Glasgow knifings and anti-SNP propaganda, with every word and nuance vetted by someone controlled by London. It is all becoming very Orwellian.

I think Whitehall needs to tread very carefully for the next few years as Scotland and England disengage politically. How they decide to manage this will directly affect Anglo-Scottish relations for decades, and they will need all the friends they can get.

So far we're not impressed.

Shawna said...

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Bugger said...

I posted this on the Newsnet Article on the BBC as a reply to your short post.

Belt and Braces it is.



In my mind there is no doubt that the BBC and the Dead Tree Press have an overt, propagandist anti-independence bias.

The question is not if but why, and managed by whom?

I don't think it is the Labour Party. as they couldn't run a whelk stall and the web-like nature of this bias tells me it is far too embedded and extensive to be emanating from one party political philosophy / culture.


So, who could it be? Who sees themselves as the preserver of the Unity of his Kingdom? Who could have the money, the manpower, the backroom levers of power, the time and opportunity to do this all?

Who has form?

Does anyone have a Ouija board to ask Willie MacRae?

OutLander said...

Hi Bugger,

The MI5 Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has the authority to ‘protect national security by helping to reduce the vulnerability of the national infrastructure to terrorism and other threats’, as they say in their own words on their website.

The nature of these ‘other threats’ is not stated, and we have to assume it includes Scottish independence. It must. Doing whatever they can to prevent it is well within their brief.

I'd like to see an SNP MSP asked publicly if this was the case.