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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Media Bias in the Scottish Independence Referendum

August 10th, 2014 (12:42 am)
current location: KY16 8SX

Over the last few years, it's often been something about the reporting of the independence debate that's spurred me to write about politics on this (generally) non-political blog. (Hopefully soon I'll have nothing more to say.)

Here's an interesting short online documentary featuring Professor John Robertson talking about his findings of bias in BBC and STV reporting during the independence campaign.

Comments

Posted by: Toby Atkin-Wright (tobyaw)
Posted at: August 15th, 2014 10:55 am (UTC)

Your man Robertson makes some good points, although I think he ends up sounding a bit loopy towards the end of the video.

The key question is what we expect from the BBC. They are a media organisation with a massive audience, and an unrivalled power to shape opinions across the UK, and I think it is fair to assume that BBC employees genuinely believe that they are impartial. But that institutional impartiality is defined in terms of their institutional character, which has an inherent bias.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the Tories were convinced that the BBC were biased against them, and I think that is the same bias that the SNP see now.

The BBC is a massive organisation. They have an institutional mindset that believes in massive organisations, and collectivism rather than individualism. The BBC supports the United Nations, the European Union, and the Westminster government. They simply don’t understand the desire for independence at any level. They are unionised, unlike most workforces in the UK. When the BBC talks about business, it means big business, even though more people work in SMEs. The BBC understands cities, and views the countryside as a place of ecological rather than economic or social interest.

In short, the BBC has always been about togetherness. So no wonder it doesn’t get independence.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 15th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)

Interesting take on it. I've never seen all those things (particularly the big business/SME distinction) pulled together to make a point about large organisations, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

It seems every government feels that the BBC is against them, and to a certain extent I think that's healthy, as governments should be held to account - even the first one in my life that I more or less approve of! (I have quibbles with some significant SNP policies too - I'm uncomfortable with the centralisation of services like the police, and the removal of the need for corroboration in criminal cases - but I agree with more than I have problems with.) I'm also, in general, a fan of the BBC, though I think their handling of Scottish politics is pretty poor.

There are a couple of things that I think make this a bit different from the 1980s and 1990s. One is that Robertson isn't a politician claiming bias - he's an academic whose personal reputation could be damaged by research that isn't itself seen to be reasonably impartial. The other is - and this is a personal perception of mine, but I think I'm not alone in thinking it - that the BBC has been noticeably less inclined to challenge the UK government of the day since the David Kelly/Andrew Gilligan affair and the ousting of Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 15th, 2014 08:37 pm (UTC)

Meant to add: if you haven't seen it already, Derek Bateman's blog has some interesting stuff about the BBC from a former insider. In particular this string of articles from around October last year, not long after he'd retired as a presenter and come out for independence:


TL;DR - your second paragraph is similar to his opinion.



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