Archive for ‘Radio Scotland’

January 25, 2017

BBC: Myth or Magic part 2 – In Wonderland they Lie

Second part of a sideways glance at the BBC prompted by Tom Mills’ book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service.

In a Wonderland they lie

In part one I mentioned how proactive the BBC was in attacking striking workers during the 1926 General Strike so it is not surprising it provided the government with a vehicle for propaganda during the Second World War. Now there is nothing unexpected about that for no country would allow any publicly financed medium become something of a fifth column – issuing news and briefings critical of the constitutional authority. Mind you before that war the BBC could be found in the camp of appeasers along with major British newspapers such as the Daily Mail, Sunday Dispatch and London Evening News owned by Lord Rothermere and The Times and The Observer owned by Lord Astor all of which were relaxed over developments in Germany during the 1930s when many from Britain’s upper middle class and aristocracy were sympathetic to Hitler’s Nazis – the very classes at the helm at the BBC. According to Mills, ‘speakers hostile to fascism were barred from broadcasting’ on the BBC which drew a rebuke from Churchill that he,  an anti-appeaser, was one.  

Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing

 The BBC’s own interpretation of its conduct in the war on its website is a polished piece of guarded-speak which emphasises the integrity of BBC management and reaffirms the BBC as ‘a trusted news source’ and how the BBC resisted becoming simply a tool of government. It would, it insisted at the time, broadcast ‘the truth’ but omit anything that might ‘endanger the civilian population or jeopardise operations.’ To this end it admits heavily censoring news to omit mentions of high casualties among the Allies. There was not a single reference in the BBC website I consulted to its propaganda operations later made famous by George Orwell.

bbc-bans-liberals-oct-18-1933

BBC chooses whose opinions may be heard in 1933

Orwell was one of many recruited by the government to work within its vast Ministry of Information, as Talks Producer at the BBC. You can see how smudged that line is between both institutions. For the Ministry of Information you could read Ministry of Misinformation. Other famous writers similarly employed included J. B Priestly and Graham Greene (whose brother Hugh Greene worked for the BBC’s German service and later he became Director General of the BBC)

The brilliant cartoonist David Low refused to be used as a propagandist for the government/BBC and the writer C. S. Lewis also refused to participate in disseminating lies.

Even the once enthusiastic Orwell later changed his mind on the integrity of outright propaganda, ‘all propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.’ His prescient novel, 1984, was written while his experience of working for the government/BBC was fresh in his mind and the novel’s Ministry of Information became the terrifying Ministry of Truth.

 The acknowledged importance of the BBC’s output during WW2 both for home and overseas audiences demonstrates the potency of its influence over the public’s perceptions of truth.

The Party’s go-to tactic for maintaining power is to shift blame to a designated scapegoat, toward which all of its constituents’ hatred and violence may be directed

Broadcasters enjoy a privileged role in life able to construct narratives in tune with their own opinions aimed at persuading their audience of the legitimacy of their interpretation of events. The BBC is not a place to hear radically divergent views instead it promotes that small c conservatism that is in tune with all of the major institutions in the UK. Like some well-oiled machine of state government, the City of London, the courts, military, royalty and the BBC reinforce one another and operate to maintain the status quo where the top brass in all of these institutions remain in charge.

commons-complaint-over-bbc-feb-1933

The power of the BBC to censor its airwaves

We have seen how the BBC sought to sway opinion against workers during the General Strike how it was in tune with the reactionary press during the 1930s in relation to Germany and its willingness to broadcast a catalogue of myths and lies during the war and that aspect of its character was no less slanted post-war.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

During the Suez crisis of 1956 Britain found itself divided between those who defended the Empire and Britain’s military presence at the Suez canal and its control over this vital trade route and supporters of Egypt, a nation desperate to shake off its shackles as a colony and assert its independence. Britain’s rightwing were seething with racist venom against uppity and ungrateful Egyptians their xenophobia evident in many references to ‘our boys’ versus ‘wogs’ and ‘gyppos’ .

suez-wogs

The Director General of the BBC dined at Number 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister on the evening of 26 July 1956 when news broke of Egypt’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company.  As Tony Shaw in his book, Eden, Suez and the Mass Media: Propaganda and Persuasion during the Suez Crisis, explains the chairman of the BBC’s Board of Governors, and a former under-security at the Foreign Office (and share holder in the Suez Canal Company) nipped down to Downing street to discuss how the BBC should handle the crisis. A nervous government was said to have threatened to take over the BBC entirely but that appears was an exaggerated claim however it was made clear to the broadcaster that its handling of Suez should be on a war footing with all that involved including censorship. And, as Shaw points out, the DG of the BBC and his chief assistant were trusted with highly secret information in the run-up to military action.

The chairman of the Independent Television Authority, Sir Kenneth Clark, was also approached and asked to ‘slant the news about Suez’ but he refused to co-operate with the government on grounds of the need to retain impartiality.

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Despite much hand wringing at the BBC the corporation complied with the government and broadcast carefully constructed reports and interviews or simply relayed official statements. It repulsed any attempt for outright government control over its output but did undertake close liaison with the Ministry of Defence and departments of the military.

Meanwhile in Cyprus an ostensibly independent radio station known as Sharqal-Adna but run by British Intelligence and ‘known’ to BBC management transmitted pro-British propaganda as did the BBC’s Arabic Service. Reminiscent of the Iraq wars enemy casualties were not counted or reported realistically and there were no first hand reports of bombings or the impact of British actions on civilians. Shaw noted  that BBC

‘bulletins on the whole bore such a close resemblance to so much of the officially released information on the invasion [it] suggests that the government’s machinery of liaison paid dividends.’

The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started…

Big events such as the General Strike, WW2 and Suez highlight the hugely influential function of the BBC. One that is more memorable for readers will be Hillsborough. It wasn’t only The Sun that chose to become a mouthpiece for the official police version of events.  

hillsborough-1

BBC Radio 2 reported: “Unconfirmed reports that a door was broken down at the end that was holding Liverpool supporters.”

Mills tells us that Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the English Football Association, who was interviewed on Radio 2 implied that the police had not ordered the gates to be opened. This was as was later became apparent not true but repeated by another reporter

“…at ten to three there was a surge of fans at the Leppings lane end of the ground… the surge composed of about 500 Liverpool fans and the police say that a gate was forced and that led to a crush in the terracing area – well under capacity I’m told, there was still plenty of room inside that area…”

Such shameful distortions of the truth continued to be broadcast on the BBC – Radio 4 news at 6pm still insisted that fans without tickets pushed their way into the football ground causing the disaster –

“It’s clear that many hundreds of Liverpool fans travelled to Hillsborough even though they didn’t have tickets for the game. Shortly before the match started it appears that these fans were able to get into the ground through a gate at the Leppings Lane end.”

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing

The BBC went further in its reporting of the so-called Battle of Orgreave in June 1984 when striking miners were battered by police. The corporation went out of its way to edit film in such a way it altered the sequence of events and broadcast film that was deliberately constructed to lie to viewers in something straight out of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.  

orgreave-1

Mills: the BBC was ‘blatantly biased in their output to the extent it ‘chopped up and re-sequenced’ film of the picket attack to ‘make it appear miners provoked the police.’

With no hint of impartiality BBC reporters referred to miners as ‘law-breakers’. When confronted by their biased reporting the BBC immediately issued denials – as it invariably does when caught out.

“no evidence of any deliberate attempt to mislead viewers”

“marginal imbalance”

not “wholly impartial”

What did happen at Orgreave, and unreported on the BBC, was that the police launched an unprovoked attack on striking men who retaliated with missiles.

orgreave-2

It took the BBC 7 years to own up to this deliberate manipulation of events

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/22/orgreave-truth-police-miners-strike

The BBC is almost unique in this country in its ability to mould public opinion. We found out in part 1 that the ‘impartial’ BBC is not keen on CND and peace campaigners in general but allows itself to be used as a bugle boy for British military campaigns. At the time of the Iraq war it was so openly jingoistic it allocated only 2% output to the views of people opposed to this war.  

http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2009/08/mehdi-hasan-bbc-wing-bias-corporation

The BBC is very good at lots of things including marginalising groups it disapproves of such as the peace movement. At the same time it is supremely capable of enhancing organisations and views that fit in with the ethos of the men and women who wield influence at the BBC.

Banking and big business command great respect within the organisation, including the rural business of farming. We know this because the BBC has rather a lot of business slots as stand-alone programmes –

BBC In Business; Business Daily, The Bottom Line, Global Business, The World of Business, World Business Report, Talking Business, BBC Business Live, Business Matters, Dragon’s Den, Wake Up to Money, Inside Business with more of a similar hue dished up in Scotland, hourly on the lamentable Good Morning Scotland

– and teams of employees who feed economic and business data into news and current affairs programmes. By contrast it has no designated slots to reflect on green issues, or anti-business views or workers’ issues that might be at the heart of trades unions or indeed peace campaigning. The only perspective that interests the BBC are those of employers and a peek at the make-up of who’s who in the BBC which will be covered in a separate blog shows this is only to be expected. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is surely carved over the front door at the BBC. This preoccupation the BBC has for finance and business is explored by Mills.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely

The Business and  Economics Unit at the BBC was set up in 1989 and I checked the BBC Website to see what this unit had to say for itself. The underlining emphasis is mine.

The Business and Economics Unit is at the heart of BBC News. We produce output for all BBC platforms and offer editorial guidance to the full range of BBC programmes. We have a truly global presence including teams based in Singapore, New York, Johannesburg and Mumbai.

The Economics Editor holds one of the most senior roles in BBC News, leading the BBC’s coverage across all platforms, domestic and international…Reporting to the Editor, Business and Economics Unit, the Economics Editor will be a regular contributor to the main TV and radio news bulletins and programmes, as well as to BBC News Online. Much of the role will focus on providing material for the Six and Ten O’clock News, the 1800 Radio 4 news bulletin and the Today Programme…  a primary contact for senior figures in Government and the Business/Economics community.”

We can take from this that the BBC regards the promotion of trade and commerce as one of its prime functions.

The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering – a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons

According to Mills the BBC fell for the charms of the economic and business sectors with the flourishing of New Labour that neo-liberal progeny of Thatcherism. As a consequence obscene amounts of money were spent on creating a more pro-business BBC but in the end much of what is reported is little more than recitation of press statements issued by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bank of England, City analysts, CBI, Office of Economic Development, IMF and their ilk who are also given air time to express their ‘expert’ opinions live.

Just who are the Institute for Fiscal Studies and why does the BBC assign them so much air time? I’ll look at think-tanks and pressure groups and the people who influence our opinions in the next part.

Quotes from:

Tom Mills: The BBC: Myth of a Public Service

Lewis Carroll; Alice in Wonderland

George Orwell; 1984

Tony Shaw; Eden, Suez and the Mass Media: Propaganda and Persuasion during the Suez Crisis

 

January 23, 2017

BBC Myth of Magic? Part 1

swallow-me

The Rabbit took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket and saw it was 1922.

Broadcasting, “is ultimately a persuasive art” said Hilda Matheson, former MI5 officer and the BBC’s first Head of Talks. Her remark made in the wake of the creation of the BBC in the early 1920s is interesting on two grounds – that broadcasting’s role is to influence and it was the voice of British Intelligence that was invited to set the tone of the BBC.  

Tom Mills in his book, The BBC : Myth of a Public Service, dismantles the claim repeated ad nauseam by the British Broadcasting Corporation that it is an honest and impartial national broadcaster. Presumably their claim is repeated so often because it is challenged so often, with very good reason.

The BBC likes to present itself a bit like the NHS, as a British institution held in high regard by the public. Arguably that was true once upon a time but today it is a spurious assertion.

Broadcasting emerged as an alternative source of news and entertainment to that dished up by newspapers which were all biased in one direction or another and reflected the cultural and political views of their owners; wealthy individuals and corporations. The BBC would be different – as a public service it would report news in an impartial manner. That’s a bit like an historian claiming to be objective in recording events – it never happens. The storyteller’s role is a powerful one where what is not said distorts the message as much as what is selected for inclusion.

In 1926 the new BBC was regarded by the UK government as an ideal medium to inform Britain’s “politically uneducated electorate” an observation I suspect was as untrue then as it is now. Back in the 1920s in the wake of the Great War the majority of Britons would have been pretty clued up on politics – and active – women were still battling to get equal voting rights with men and both sexes had spent the 19th century fighting for employment and political rights a struggle that continued throughout the 20th century.

Of course it wasn’t a politically committed left-leaning electorate the BBC was looking to bring on-board (unless to re-educate) but to counter leftist views and disseminate information provided to the BBC by the government and its associated arms – intelligence, police, military, royalty with the expectation the public would swallow it hook, line and sinker. The BBC became an adjunct of the British state reinforcing its small c (sometimes big C) conservative message – a function is has proved to be well able to fulfil.

The question is,‘ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words means so many different things.’

1926 year of the General Strike with the horror of fighting for King and country in the Great War still fresh in memories and the echo of shelling and promise that returning soldiers would find  a land fit for heroes ringing in their ears Britain’s workers instead found they were being screwed into the ground for a second time in a decade and expected to accept pay cuts to their rock bottom wages and having to work longer hours for less pay. When they resisted the King and government did not come rushing to their defence as workers had for them in 1914 and 1915 – they were no longer heroes but demonised by the press, including the BBC .

bbc-1926

Then conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, said:

“The general strike is a challenge to the parliament and is the road to anarchy.”

His chancellor, Winston Churchill, said:

“I do not agree that the TUC have as much right as the Government to publish their side of the case and to exhort their followers to continue action. It is a very much more difficult task to feed the nation than it is to wreck it.”

And BBC management agreed. If it was not exactly happy to oblige, oblige it did and allowed its airwaves to be used to undermine workers and defeat their strike. Far from being impartial the BBC only aired anti-strike opinions and propaganda, co-operating with government to read out its press statements in news bulletins verbatim while deliberately omitting pro-worker views.

Stonehaven man, John Reith, who helped establish the BBC was by 1927 its first Director General . The story goes that Reith made sure all voices involved in the General Strike were heard on the BBC but that wasn’t true. It’s a claim that is still made today. Reith asked the government to decide whether he should allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to go on the air to ask for a compromise between the unions and the government. The government  said no and that was that.  Does that make the BBC a government mouthpiece?  Surely there is no more appropriate term for it.

It was almost as if the British Establishment had discovered a great wheeze whereby it set up its own propaganda machine that could reach out to all four countries in the UK – and soon abroad – get the public to pay for it and claim it represented them.

And so impoverished workers and their families struggling to prevent being pushed into greater poverty were forced to abandon their protest. Many lost their jobs altogether and in the Depression of the thirties, the hungry thirties, these same people had to endure unbelievable squalor and anguish.  

Meanwhile Reith and his BBC colleagues were chummily office-sharing with government personnel in the Admiralty (UK government building) where news bulletins were jointly drafted by the BBC and the government’s press officer. That’s how impartial the BBC was. BBC/Westminster government/military/secret services = one body with tentacles.

Mills teases out an entrenched system of collusion between the BBC and successive governments since its inception in the twenties. Management of the BBC and its overseeing body, the Board of Governors, were and still are government appointees who inhabit the same social circles, attend the same schools, often private, and universities – mainly Oxbridge and, unsurprisingly, they share similar cultural and political outlooks. Basically, they are all the same chaps and gels.

bbc-state

Mills tells us that in 2014 26% of BBC executives attended private schools compared with 7% in the UK as a whole. 33% were Oxbridge educated compared with 0.8% of the population. 62% attended Russell group universities (Wiki – 24 self-selected research universities in the UK. Set up 1994 to represent members’ interests, principally to government and parliament. And receive two-thirds of all university research grants and contract income.) It is their job to represent the British public.

There is no need for any audacious conspiracy to try to link the BBC with the British establishment’s view of the world for their top personnel come from the establishment pool of contacts, friends and families recruited for their dependable attitudes or ability to adopt them to ‘get on’ within the organisation. Just in case any reprobate tried to squeeze in appointments to the BBC used to be vetted by MI5. Not now, of course. No, of course not. Mills tells us this vetting process was known as ‘formalities’ and the BBC pet name for MI5 was ‘The College’, in the spirit of George Smiley.

Why such tight vetting? What were they on the lookout for down at the BBC? Commies or lefties are the easy answers. To give them credit, extreme right-wingers were mostly excluded, too. In the parlance of the BBC those with ‘political reliability’ were the sort of chaps they were happy to recruit. It is just a pity the BBC’s intense vetting failed to uncover an inordinate number of sex fiends and paedophiles employed by the Corporation – all presumably of the ‘right sort.’

In the Alice in Wonderland world of the BBC, Lord Green – if they weren’t Lords when they got the job as Director General then most became one after – Lord Green was keen on upping MI5’s vetting of recruits to prevent the BBC’s reputation for impartiality from being compromised. And that, folks, is a line that Lewis Carroll should have written for the Mad Hatter.  

One of the shadowy figures who features in Mill’s exposure of the BBC was the Corporation’s special little helper Ronnie Stonham also known as Bongo. Stonham was a handy sort of chap with a background in post office communications, the military and the secret services that found him operating in all sorts of shadowy theatres of conflict: Cyprus, Malaya, Vietnam, Northern Ireland. He worked out of Room 105 at the BBC where careers were enhanced or broken and he had the power to prevent programmes being transmitted according to how embarrassing they might become to the government. 

It is said any staffers not quite BBC/establishment enough had their files marked with a triangular green tag or Christmas tree to show they weren’t trustworthy sorts.

Typical of the BBC first it denied any such vetting took place then it reluctantly admitted it. Some things never change. Even when the truth was dragged kicking and screaming out of it  BBC management prevaricated and hid as much as it revealed. – claiming that only around 8 people had been positively vetted when in fact the number was close – well not that close – over 6000.  

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/army-obituaries/11038585/Brigadier-Ronnie-Stonham-obituary.html

Back in 1969 a young film maker asked to make a film for the BBC about a sit-in at Hornsey Art College in London realised he was being watched by the police and soon his film was cancelled. Fast forward two years and he was again taken on to make a different film for the BBC and provided with a room to work from until thrown out by a member of BBC management. His crime? Travelling to Czechoslovakia as a student. He was far from alone. Read more examples about BBC housekeeping here:

http://www.cambridgeclarion.org/press_cuttings/mi5.bbc.page9_obs_18aug1985.html

Leftwing and communist were indivisible categories of the unclean to BBC management and not the sort encouraged to share their opinions with the public which gives the lie to BBC’s assertion of impartiality and fair representation of all opinions. Never has been and never will be. That is just not its function in the UK – it works for the British state to preserve it as it is, elitist and conservative; the BBC and the British state work hand-in-glove in pursuit of the ‘national interest’ which, of course, they define.

While a function of the BBC was to reinforce status quo in Britain its much vaunted World Service was established to influence political opinion abroad and disseminate British culture and ‘standards’ to a wider audience. This service nearly doubled post 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, according to Mills, who highlighted input from the BBC’s security correspondent, former army captain in the Royal Green Jackets, Frank Gardner, who, according to Mills, admits close contact with MI5 and MI6. Mills described the BBC World Service as ‘an instrument of “soft power”‘ and it is difficult to disagree when in 2015 the Conservative government announced in its National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review of all places investment of £85 million annually in the World Service in order to, in the words of the World Service –

“further enhance our position as the world’s leading soft power promoting our values and interests globally'”

No iffs, no doubts, BBC working for the British state. And, of course, the DG of the BBC, Tony Hall was grateful, acknowledging the World Service as,

“one of our best sources of global influence”

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out

… to be continued

The BBC: Myth of a Public Service
By Tom Mills
Verso, 272pp, £16.99 and £14.99
ISBN 9781784784829 and 4850 (e-book)

December 23, 2016

Watch “LONDON CALLING: BBC bias during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum” on YouTube

 

 

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave-when-first-we-practice-to-deceive-bbc-scotland-and-the-labour-party

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/the-bbc-and-the-2015-general-election-its-at-it-again

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/good-morning-scotland-sic-bbc-scotland-sic-a-station-like-no-other

 

May 3, 2015

Cyber bullies and journalists ‘only doing their jobs’

Bedrooms –  incubators of extremism

Once upon a time journalists were expected to be balanced, fair, factual and accurate in reporting news. People swallowed every syllable, each overcooked adjective, each slight tilt of opinion. Perhaps. Objectivity was the journalists’ watchword. Some understood it. Some didn’t care. And anyway as every historian will tell you there are few facts which are incontrovertible…everything in its context. And there is opinion. And there are the doorkeepers to news – the newspaper proprietors and the head of broadcast news – the tail wagging the dog. pilger on journalists Then came social media and the professional journalist found him or herself faced by a snarling dog biting back – too much canine association so I’ll stop it. Good Morning Scotland 3rd May on BBC Radio Scotland featured a piece about ‘bullying’ of journalists by the status quo’s latest demon, the cyber bully. Cyber bullies are people who talk back, some shout, some swear, at opinions they don’t agree with, presented by other people ( not gods) called journalists. Social media has provided a voice for those previously known as the silent majority The phenomenon of cyber bullying has often been raised on programmes such as GMS, often, as today accompanied by the adjective chilling. A definition of cyber bullying is proving difficult to clarify but the National Union of Journalists is launching a ‘campaign’ along with Strathclyde University ‘to highlight the increasing incidents on online attacks on journalists in Scotland.’ The research is led by former journalist Dr Sallyanne Duncan. ‘Cyber bullying of journalists is a serious and growing problem’ it was claimed, citing two forms: social media and comments made under online articles (by journalists). These often comprise views counter to the journalist’s and may be abusive or offensive which is unacceptable as journalists are only doing their jobs. Journalists, it was claimed by Ms Duncan, are being attacked for their political beliefs – ‘which often journalists are not expressing explicitly because they are attempting (to be) or are impartial in their reporting’ and are subjected to attacks not only on their opinions but ‘bullies’ may make sexual or homophobic remarks. Several references were made to actual threats to life. Now this is already illegal and should be reported to the police. That women are more targeted than men was discovered not to be true. Perhaps it is what is being said and not the gender of the journalist that upsets people? Dr Duncan’s worry is this phenomenon could lead to a ‘degree of self-censorship’ which I assume goes on all the time – she earlier remarked, journalists attempt to be fair-handed in their reporting (therefore must constantly be suppressing their own views). The argument continued that freedom of expression is therefore curtailed…infringing human rights. The accusation being that public opinion is preventing reporters doing their jobs …the freedom to connect (UNESCO) has become limited because journalists are frightened of being abused for their views. My problem with this piece was that Dr Duncan clearly revealed she has already decided what might in objective research be its conclusions. It can only be that she will look for evidence to confirm her belief that journalists should not be expected to ‘toughen up’ but be protected from the great unwashed Scottish public … ‘Try being the one who’s receiving that abuse’ she said in reply to that point. ‘… they (journalists) are just experiencing something that is vile… why should journalists be subject to that kind of abuse when people in other professions are less likely to get it? Does it happen to lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants?’ – is she seriously asking that question? James Doherty NUJ national executive was also on the programme. The research is being done for the union. He sounded pretty angry about the abuse received by some of the union’s members. Of course there was a time when journalists would write anything they liked, sometimes looking for a response from the public. Letters would be sent and received and sifted through and one or two would be published. Most would not. The public were entitled to their views but not entitled to their views being widely circulated. That privilege has been reserved for journalists. Mr Doherty made reference to ‘angry’ protests outside BBC in Glasgow, as though protests are not, in most cases, angry. I just thought of angry women hurling stones and abuse at politicians, including the prime minister, for denying them what they thought should be their right to vote. I just thought about the hungry and disenfranchised who rose up in the 1820s for an end to their miserable living conditions, dangerous working conditions and for an end to poverty and to the Chartists years later, still fighting for the same, still challenging a hostile press, still angry, still demonstrating. Trade Union member Mr Doherty said it was intolerable that demands were made for journalists to lose their jobs. That this ‘rising sense of entitlement’ emboldened people. And it should not be that casual and idle threats are common parlance nowadays but anger at audacious bias, used as black propaganda, tarted up as even-handed journalism that needs to be criticised and there appears to be confusion over where the dividing line lies between abuse and strong opinion…as there is confusion in some quarters between stretching the truth, omission and downright lies. Isabel Fraser offered up the description ‘chilling’ a few times during the interview in relation to social media which struck me as gratuitous. In much the same vein Mr Doherty referred to social media types who sit in their bedrooms, anonymously madly typing away on their ipads as though bedrooms are by their nature incubators of extremism. This is mainstream media fighting back. It has lost its domination of news and it doesn’t like it. Until now we’ve had a one-way street for journalists; radio, TV and newspapers who have enjoyed the privilege of having their opinions aired across the country but who don’t recognise the advantages this has given them. Ordinary folk have had no such opportunity to express their views. I don’t deny there is horrible abuse out in social media. I’ve been the target of attacks from unionists, many who drape themselves with the Union flag and profess Rangers forever – the sort who don’t get their hate messages reported on mainstream media (objective, balanced and fair-minded) and it is nasty but they are just words and I don’t believe I’m in danger for my life from them anymore than I actually believe the Labour MP Ian Davidson is heading towards my house to bayonet me. The NUJ may wish twitter didn’t exist but it does, and a good thing too. Whatever is said on twitter is nothing compared with the behaviour of professional journalists bunged up in the slammer for their corrupt practices. People are people and people have opinions. As Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘ I don’t quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective.’ We get flat-out lying from professional journalists. Daily we are subjected to jaw-droppingly biased reporting. How hard is it to distinguish between pro-Labour and pro-Conservative newspapers? They cannot all be presenting objective news stories. It is not difficult to witness BBC, Sky, STV journalists include, omit, spin items they will swear blind are FACTS. Journalists are not demi-gods beyond criticism. They are still privileged as they beaver away, if not in their bedrooms, in their own equivalent of the news sensation incubator, sifting through the FACTS to concoct their own versions of the actualité. If I may indulge in an aside – sport reporters, the majority of whom demonstrate the folly of bunking school between 7 and 16yrs are mainly attracted into their ‘profession’ through their desire to watch fitba for free, every week. An FE lecturer whose job was to broaden the horizons of these myopic young professionals found it an uphill task for there was nothing in their heads but football which goes some way in explaining their uncanny ability to pronounce the most tongue-tying names of footballers and their complete inability to pronounce accurately the names of female Russian tennis players – and so they don’t bother – even to mention the sport when Andy Murray isn’t playing – and anyway they are women – and foreign women – and not even just foreign women but Putin’s foreign women…which is my way of saying that putting professional in front of journalist amounts to nothing worth respecting in itself.

Journalists must be judged on their work not for simply being journalists.  They are open to greater scrutiny than ever and that can be no bad thing. We don’t need threats of violence anymore than we need the pretence of balanced reporting.

As a final aside it hasn’t escaped my notice that BBC presenters are rarely shy about condemning other professions for allegedly shoddy work and suggesting they should be sacked, particularly teachers and nurses come to mind. Yet they scream bloody murder when they are judged as incompetent. That’s the behaviour of the playground bully isn’t it?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11167778/Senior-Sun-journalists-accused-of-corruption-on-a-grand-scale-as-trial-begins.html http://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/sep/04/broadcasting.bbc http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/25/screw-objectivity-study-finds-opinionated-journalism-boos http://reason.com/blog/2013/06/24/washington-post-puzzled-by-strange-new-c

January 10, 2015

Good Morning Scotland (sic) BBC Scotland (sic) a station like no other

 

bbc

Good    Morning    Scotland (sic)

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Good mor …uhm…eh…so…

So…eh …uhm…eh…eh…eh…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

News headlines … uhm…

Travel … M8…trains to Glasgow…Glas…Queen Str…

Weather …looking out the window…G…ow…

Sport…Celtic…Rangers…eh…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

So…er…er…er…uhm…Afghanistan…spokesman in Afghani community in Glasg…eh…eh…

So…eee…uhm…festival in Glas…eee…eh…uhm…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Sport …Rangers…Celtic…eh…eh…

Travel…usual suspects…trains to Glasgow…Glasgow…

Business…uh…uh…uh…Gla…startups…eh…eh…eh…

Er…er…Syria …er…eh…eh…symposium in Glasgow…eh…

Uhm…ee…eee…Moon landings…Univers…f…Glasg…uh…so…

Thought for the da…a…a…a…y inthestudiofromaroundthecorner…uh…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Travel …usual suspects…trains to Gla…traffic lights in Glas…

Sport…Celtic…Rangers…eh…eee…Gla…Warriors…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

Uhm…professor fro…Glasgow University …so…eh…eh…

Uhm…

Travel….slow…Glasgow…Edinbur…sorr…Glasg…eh…usual delays…120 mile detour…

Sport…Celgers…uhm…Glasgow Rocks…eh…

Your national broadcaster

And now…University of Glasgo…and Strathclyde…uhm…eee…so…

Arts correspondent…Glasgow…Glas…Edinbur…Edinburgh…burgh…Gl…ow…Glasg

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Eee…uh…uh…expert…University of Glas…

Ah…eh…ah…ee…asked these Glaswegians…uh…em…

Travel…set of traffic lights out in Glasgo…Gla…Gl…trains… 120 mile diversion…in…

Weather…looking out the window…rain…Glasg…eh…

Sport…Glasgow Warriors…Rangtic…unpronounceable tennis player name…uhm…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

Eh…conference on how Glasgow influenced M…M…M…Mozart…eh…uh…em…ah…

I…i…i…i…so…i…i…eh…Glas universi…eh…eh…Strathcly…eh…

Archaeological remains in Shetland…uh…uh…we asked experts from Strathcly…and…Glasg…uni…

Travel…delays…usual susp…train…Gla…t…E…burgh…set…traf…ights…in…Glasgow…

BBC    SCOTLAND    SERVING    THE    NATION

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive 

 

November 16, 2014

The BBC and the 2015 General Election – it’s ‘at it’ again.

The UK’s publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC, was under fire for its distortion of news and blatant promotion of views in favour of preserving the union during the Scottish independent campaign. It issued the usual denials it was ‘at it’ but then it would say that wouldn’t it. The referendum controversy was happening at the same time the BBC found its reputation taking a hammering over revelations of mismanagement and its institutional cover-up of serious sex crimes involving its personnel.

With the 2015 general election in the offing it is again doing what it does best declaring impartiality and fairness while in fact it is twisting and manipulating arguments in a way that undermine democracy. BBC management and government are inextricably linked so it can be blatant about taking certain actions such as its refusal to host the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Appeal when Israel was pulverising that strip of land and its people.

The BBC takes its role as the voice of the state seriously. The links between the BBC and government are strong and effective. When the criminal Andy Coulson was forced out of David Cameron’s office, BBC Global News controller Craig Oliver stepped right in. The Director General of the BBC Lord Hall insisted that when former cabinet minister James Purnell, who served in Gordon Brown’s government, took up his £300 000 job as Director of Strategy and Digital with the BBC he ‘hung his boots up at the door and left politics behind.’ And yes he is that same Purnell, yet another Labour MP up to his neck in scandal having screwed money out of the tax payer, claiming £100 a month for cleaning expenses and £586 for repair etc etc – not forgetting £247 for 3,000 fridge magnets. More damning in my eyes was he was the one who proposed charging interest on crisis loans taken out by people on very low incomes. However he impressed the BBC management and got a plum job.

There was Gordon Brown’s other little helper, Ed Richards, also an adviser to Blair on media, telecoms, internet and e-govt, who helped draft the Act setting up Ofcom. He found his niche at the BBC and as chief executive of Ofcom. Nice piece of symmetry there.

There was Bill Bush, Head of Political Research and Analysis at the BBC, who then worked for Blair and Tessa Jowell whose brief covered the BBC licence fee. His assistant at the BBC, Catherine Rimmer, went with him to Downing Street.

There are so many of them – former Director General John Birt had been member of Labour Party. Former DG Greg Dyke was a Labour donor and activist and once stood as a Labour candidate for the GLC. Oh, and Birt’s former diary secretary, Katie Kay, also worked for Blair.

There was Gavin Davies a former BBC Chairman and Labourite and financial backer, and adviser to two Labour governments, whose wife was Gordon Brown’s private secretary. There was Sir Michael Lyons , one-time Labour councillor, also a BBC Chairman who headed the BBC Trust, and appointed by the then Labour government. Ben Bradshaw BBC Labour – is that a Party? I’m beginning to wonder.

There was Chris Bryant BBC Head of European Affair /Labour MP for Rhondda. Celia Barlow, one-time Labour MP and PPS and BBC reporter and Home News Editor when she was also Secretary of Chelsea Constituency Labour Party. And not to be left out her husband Sam Jaffa and one-time BBC’s man in North America and a Labour wannabe politician coming 3rd in an election in 2001. Better than 4th.

Let’s draw a curtain over Celia’s involvement in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal. What’s that – she claimed over £28, 000 for her second home and then flipped it. I just hope it was worth it – and the whirlpool bath and the high lustre silver shower screen, nice. Phil Woolas Labour MP and Minister and BBC producer on Newsnight. Denis MacShane Labour MP and Minister and BBC reporter. Tom Kelly former BBC Head of News in Northern Ireland worked for Blair and became Director of Communications at the Northern Ireland Office. His role came under scrutiny in 1998 when ‘plans for an unprecedented PR offensive to secure a Yes vote in the referendum on the Good Friday agreement’ came to light. Denials were put out it was an attempt to manipulate public opinion but the Rev Ian Paisley said at the time it, ‘makes Machiavelli look like a rank amateur.’

Anyone remember Geoff Mulgan BBC reporter and adviser to Brown? No. Well what about Lance Price, BBC journalist who was Alistair Campbell’s assistant? You know Labour’s Director of Communications. Tim Luckhurst goes back a way, once PPO for Donald Dewar, Labour former First Minister of Scotland, and stood as a Labour candidate in the 1987 election. He went on to work on the BBC’s political and current affairs flagship programme Today. He was Editor of News Programmes at BBC Scotland (that fine democratic and professional body). Luckhurst wrote a critical piece for the New Statesman on Scottish devolution entitled, ‘Scotland returns to the Dark Ages.’ With Donald Dewar in mind there was Peter Hyman who worked as a researcher for Labour’s Scottish leader who was also a producer at the BBC.

Charlie Whelan once seldom out of the news was another Brown spinner and BBC presenter. Martin Sixsmith was a BBC foreign correspondent who switched to become Director of Communications with the Labour government. When I say switched it wasn’t much of a switch as most of you will agree. He was Labour’s Director of Communications and Press Secretary to Harriet Harman and Darling Darling. Where is he now? Still works with the BBC – had a 25-part radio series on this year, ‘In Search of Ourselves.’

Don’t have to search too far to discover the hand of a Labour apparatchik on the rudder of news and current affairs at the BBC. Where were we – ah, yes – someone called Joy Johnson worked as a Political Editor with the BBC – curious how these people are all interested in politics isn’t it, not many hanging up their proverbial boots at the proverbial door as far as I can make out. Joy was a Campaigns Director for Brown – Brown again – he’s a guy with lots of links or is that strings? Joy went on to work for Ken Livingstone – I believe he was in charge of some parochial wee town in the far south of the UK. And staying with Brown, did you know that at his wedding his bridesmaids were the offspring of Gavyn Davies the former BBC Chairman? No reason why you should – except there is every reason you should be aware that the UK political establishment is riddled with former BBC employees and visa versa. All of which is a long-winded way of saying when the BBC insists it is an honest broker in the world of British politics it is anything but. What is the point of a state-run broadcaster if the state cannot use it for its own ends?

In 1940 Sir John Reith, Mr BBC, was appointed Minister of Information with the Chamberlain government. During the 1950s the DG of the BBC, Sir Ian Jacob, was seconded to the Ministry of Defence where he was criticised by Churchill for failing to be his propaganda bitch. To his credit Jacob believed that the BBC should not be used in such a way by government. It is a pity his opinion has not been shared by all who take up influential posts within the BBC. Sir Hugh Greene was DG in the sixties. He had been involved with the Political Warfare Executive during WW2, a covert propaganda organisation that had been set up in 1921. This shadowy body included others from the BBC – Robert Bruce Lockhart, a later DG, Ivone Kirkpatrick, an adviser to the BBC. The information spinning machine run by this group was partly housed at BBC HQ. Many of you will recall the bizarre period when the government wanted to stifle the voice of the IRA and so we were subject to the likes of now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, being voiced-over by actors although curiously the BBC did not subject the UDA to the silence treatment. Not that there was anything political in this decision.

All this is a long way of saying when the BBC maintains it is pursuing a ‘fair and realistic formula’ in its coverage of the 2015 general election we can take that with a pinch of salt. When it presents us with what it swears is an objective presentation of the current state of UK politics we can be sure it is anything but. When the BBC says it uses levels of past and current electoral support to determine how much it promotes political parties we can be sure it is ignoring that bloody great elephant in the room. When the BBC hold up its hands in horror at the suggestion that UKIP’s success is partly down to the amount of coverage this party gets on the BBC we know it is being deceitful. When the BBC attempts to justify its unjustifiable intention to include UKIP in the 2015 leader debates it is dissembling – BBC – ‘Although UKIP did not win a seat in the 2010 general election, they polled more than three times as many votes as the Green Party, which did win a seat. In the 2014 European elections, UKIP topped the poll, beating all the Westminster parties in terms of seats (24) and share of the vote (more than 27% – up more than 10% on 2009). The Greens won three seats in the European election, with just under 8% of the vote (a small drop since 2009).’ 

When the BBC attempts to justify the unjustifiable decision to exclude the SNP from these debates through a cobbled together argument that the SNP is not a UK-wide party we are witnessing direct political interference in democracy in the UK by the BBC. The last time the BBC were actively campaigning it was to keep Scotland in the UK so either Scotland is in it or it isn’t and as it clearly is still a member of the UK its interests should be aired during these debates, across the UK, not those confined to Scotland. If the BBC can argue a case for UKIP to appear on grounds that it, ‘…performed strongly in local government elections in England for the past two years’ then the strong performance of the SNP in Scotland should be also germane. If England is highlighted as relevant in a UK-wide context then so too should Scotland.

Where the BBC argues it takes ‘account of opinion polls, when there is a robust and consistent trend’ then it should open its eyes farther than the shires of England to the political hinterland of Scotland and see what the polls are saying here about the biggest party in this country (still part of the UK) and the third largest party in the UK.

When the BBC shrugs its collective shoulders and insists it is acceptable that the whole of the UK see political leaders arguing their case for issues which affect Scotland as part of the UK without the leader of the third biggest party in the UK it is returning to the days of gagging certain political voices and promoting others.

The BBC website carries a page called Manifesto watch: Where parties stand on key issues the pictures on this page are taken from it. Couching it as views from ‘The main UK-wide political parties’ is a ruse to prevent exploration of matters relevant to the whole populations of Scotland and Wales. And the BBC gets even this completely wrong because while it maintains it is presenting only UK-wide concerns it includes law and order, education, jobs, housing which are devolved issues to Scotland. So even under its own strangulated logic it fails to present its licence fee payers in Scotland (and Wales) with a breakdown of policies by party on these vital issues. One of the problems with the BBC it is up to its neck in politics and is furiously promoting a reactionary agenda that fails to reflect the changed political landscape here in Scotland (still part of the UK). The BBC is being dishonest . It should remove this page immediately and replace it with one which includes references to devolved matters in Scotland on which the UK citizens in Scotland will be voting in 2015.

It should immediately discard its plans to have any TV debates that include the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour and/or UKIP, (and the Greens) without representation of the SNP. Having secondary debates in Scotland allows multiple opportunities for the first four parties to present their opinions while wilfully restricting the voice of the SNP.

We do not expect the BBC to reform itself. It is clearly so mired in party politics it does not even recognise the absurdity and anti-democratic nature of its output. All we can do it expose the corruption of this nasty and deceitful organsiation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29642613 Oh what a tangled web we weave…

January 12, 2013

Text BBC Scotland on 80295 if you know where to find a vegetable shaped like a willy: axing of the Beechgrove Potting Shed

Give us back the Beechgrove Potting Shed

BBC Scotland’s Jim Gough said: ‘Radio Scotland has to have some programmes decommissioned in December and Beechgrove Potting Shed will be one of those as part of the savings we have to make. We’re adopting a different approach to our horticultural output instead.’

That’s right Mr Gough, we call it dumbing down. 

1

Far from being just AN OTHER BBC Radio programme, the Potting Shed offered listeners professional advice, real expertise and that isn’t something you can often say about BBC Scotland’s output.

Text 80295 to tell us your own silly names for vegetables and we’ll share it with the rest of the country

The Beechgrove Potting Shed was relaxed, friendly and above all an instructive programme which provided the 959,000 people who listened to it with an immense amount of helpful information relating to growing food and decorative plants and much else besides. 

At a time people are struggling to afford fresh fruit and vegetables you might think BBC Scotland would value the Potting Shed. Naw.

Interest in gardening is huge. People are queuing up for allotments. There is no other programme on Radio Scotland which provides such professional and helpful advice to the people of Scotland as the Potting Shed did but that’s not what Ken MacQuarrie and his minions care about.

They probably think Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time is an alternative. Is it?

You can’t grow plums up there in Scotland

(GQT -Radio 4)

That came as a surprise for everyone the length and breadth of Scotland who crop them annually.  According to GQT we can’t grow much at all UP HERE. Cue the Potting Shed for proper advice.

 BBC Scotland pleads poverty necessitating cuts of personnel and clearly a shed. 

Text 80295 to tell us about vegetables with funny names. C’mon folks this is just a bit of fun

I suspect axing the Potting Shed was an easy decision for MacQuarrie’s minions since it came from UP THERE or in my case UP HERE.

There was the time when the show’s presenter changed – surprise, surprise to someone out of Pacific Quay. This mean she travelled weekly to Aberdeen. It’s hard to see that the Shed cost much to broadcast, other than travel allowances for the chairwoman. Ken (never mind the quality) MacQuarrie can perhaps tell us just how much the Potting Shed cost to put on each Sunday? and why it was necessary to look outside of Aberdeen for a presenter.

 

2

I said at the time I wouldn’t be surprised to see them moving the whole thing to Pacific Quay and blow me down if a gardening spot isn’t now planned for – wait for it – wait for it – the what’s his face MacAulay show. The MacAulay show? Really?

That show really must be cheap because whatever else these axe-wielding minions target the awful MacAulay nonsense rolls inexorably on. 

How can you tell when your plums are ripe Fred?

Hey we don’t want to go there folks. Boom boom!


Mr Gough informs us that the MacAulay gardening slot will be for an unspecified number of minutes.

That is really, really dumbing down. Anyone take a wager on one of the travel ladies being invited in to cover this slot?

How can you identify gooseberry saw fly, Fred?

Line them up in an ID parade folks. Boom boom!

You should know, MacQuarrie that Jim McColl is a phenomenal gardening expert and the others too had years of knowledge behind them to pass onto younger audiences and you should be thoroughly ashamed of what you’ve done.

What should I put on my rhubarb Fred?

Well folks I put custard on mine. Boom boom!


One of the Potting Shed professionals, David Mitchell, who is curator of projects at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, criticised the timing to axing the programme.

‘There has never been a greater need for a gardening programme in Scotland than there is now. It’s not just about how to grow plants and it’s not just for gardeners. Young people want to know how to grow food, how to recycle, how to engage with the environment. Gardening is also good therapy for ex-servicemen.’


Alison Johnston MSP condemned the decision taken in Glasgow as ‘bizarre’, given the growth in popularity in allotments recently.

‘Can you imagine the reaction if Radio 4 said it was axing Gardeners’ Question Time? There’d be a riot. I would urge BBC bosses to start involving listeners in their decision-making.’


MSP Kenneth Gibson called the axing of the Potting Shed a,

‘backward step. From allotments to green gyms to home gardening, programmes like the Potting Shed encourage people to follow this healthy, productive and often socially valuable pursuit.’


MSP Margaret McDougall noted the importance to Scotland of the Potting Shed.

‘I sincerely hope the BBC will reconsider this decision, especially when there are more people than ever growing their own vegetables because of the economic situation. They rely on programmes like this to give them useful tips. Increasingly, people are turning to allotments to ‘grow their own’ and for bio-diversity reasons, so much so that in some areas there are waiting lists for allotments.’

3


I imagine if I asked Mr Gough where vegetables come from he’d reply, Tesco.

Scotland’s foremost garden expert, Jim McColl was clearly shattered by this stupid move by BBC Scotland comparing the ‘obscene’ time given over to football on BBC Scotland.

I could add to that music, trivialisation of the news, trite daytime shows.

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said,

‘Decommissioning happens as part of the normal course of the broadcasting business.’ Blah, blah, blah – ‘efficiency saving’ blah, blah, blah ‘across the board.’

Nothing to do with coming from UP THERE then? as in the Tom Morton show, Digging Up Your Roots (genealogy not gardening which began in Aberdeen, proved hugely successful and was handed over to one of BBC Scotland’s ‘names’. 

Said it before MacQuarrie and minions. Free up loads of cash for BBC Scotland by selling off Pacific Quay and revitalise BBC studios around the country. There is no need whatsoever to centralise broadcasting (sic) in the way you’ve overseen it here in Scotland. Indeed what has happened is taking Scottish public broadcasting in the wrong direction. Cutting variety, cutting representation for different interests is something you Mr MacQuarrie are responsible for.

I have blight on my Shetland Blacks what should I do, Fred?

I’d call in the race relations folk, folks. Boom boom!


The Scottish Broadcasting Commission noted that BBC Radio Scotland faced,

‘strong criticism of the station’s ambition and space for originality in programming,’ for ‘more serious and substantial content, with more highly-crafted features and documentaries.’

BBC Scotland continues to present itself as a dumping ground for dim-witted insularity.

The answer in in Pacific Quay

BBC Scotland Pacific Quay

November 11, 2012

And then there’s BBC Scotland Radio Gaga

There’s a reek of sulphur wafting around that holy institution the BBC at present. I suspect sightings of rats and sinking ships have been exaggerated but it does no harm that this institution’s pomposity is punctured from time to time. But just how many repair jobs can it take before a decision is taken that something more radical needs to be done?

I recognise the importance of the BBC over the decades from its beginnings in the 1920s but it was always pompous and it always saw itself as a pillar of the British Establishment.

The crisis which has brought the end of its shortest-lived Director General was one of the BBC’s own making. One of its problems is that until Entwistle fell on his sword none of the BBC’s bloated management structure took criticism seriously.

At grass-roots level complaints and criticisms over output highlighted in the BBC’s own Feedback programme are inevitably batted back by producers and managers. The bottom line with the BBC is that the BBC is always right. It is an arrogant view and more importantly it is frequently wrong.

The BBC operates under a charter which sets out its responsibilities as a national broadcaster. Actually it is the national broadcast outlet for all the nations which make up the UK and the complaint in Scotland has been that here is it hugely deficient in fulfilling this role. I don’t believe the BBC understands exactly what it should be doing in respect of reflecting the whole country or the impact on its owners, you and me, for its failure to provide this basic service.

Radio 4 purports to be a UK-wide station but is in reality almost wholly English in output, including its news coverage.

In Scotland we have BBC Radio Scotland which operates in a similar way to the various English local radio stations but how well does it do its job?

There was a time when BBC Radio Scotland news was quite an acceptable service. Not now. Now the old professionals who were steeped in journalism have been replaced by media graduates distinguished by their shallowness and lack of familiarity with political and world affairs going back beyond a decade. Current affairs discussions therefore lack perspective and ignorance prevails across the airwaves.

BBC Radio Scotland presents us with three main news outlets each week day: Good Morning Scotland, the John Beattie Programme at mid-day and Newsdrive.

For as long as I can remember these times always had news coverage of some sort. Can we call John Beattie’s programme news? It contains news but it often seems incidental because of all the silliness which accompanies it. John Beattie comes across as a decent guy but what does asking listeners their favourite sweetie or the last time they stuck their finger up their nose add anything of value to our lives?

It is banal and it is nonsense.

Newsdrive and Good Morning Scotland are similar in their news handling and formats.

One or two presenters are capable though none is a John Humphreys or Eddie Mair and the programmes don’t seem capable of attracting big guns in the same way that Radio 4 does. Issues covered are often depressingly prosaic and don’t push listeners in their choice of topics. In short their approach is dull and lacks intellectual rigour.

But really – how on earth have these programmes turned into the mess they are? What was the imperative to shred their news coverage into such tiny gobbets where all discussion must stop for the holy trinity of travel, sport and weather?

I cannot understand why BBC Radio Scotland is so obsessed by these three: travel, sport and weather. Is it because they are cheap? Because they help fill time which means fewer stories have to be covered? Surely it cannot be that they provide a service for listeners because whatever they give us is purely tokenistic. How does it help anyone to be told there are high wind warnings on the Skye bridge so take care? Why is it an imperative of the BBC to tell the whole of Scotland a set of traffic lights is out somewhere in Glasgow? None of this matters to most of us. People are not going to take more care crossing to Skye because someone on the BBC says it. It is nonsense.

Why do we have the holy trinity when the far superior Today programme survives without them?

Why is it acceptable to those running BBC Radio Scotland that academics, police spokesmen, business spokespeople, etc etc most frequently come from Glasgow? What does that say about the attitude of those responsible for this ‘national’ broadcaster to fulfil the national coverage as directed in its charter? GMS on Saturday 10th November was a Glasgow fest with the majority of its contributors coming from in and around Glasgow. This we don’t care attitude is unacceptable and lazy. If producers on these programmes have no interest in including all of the country, if they don’t understand or don’t care that this is what they ought to be doing, then they should be told what their job is or replaced.If programme presenters don’t care then they, too, should go and so should the senior managers at BBC Scotland who sit on their complacent backsides and think everything is hunky dory. It’s the old attitude again. We’re the professionals, we know what we’re doing, who are you to criticise the BBC?The lack of professionalism that we have in Scotland’s news and current affairs coverage is lamentable. It is a joke. BBC Radio Scotland news displays huge contempt for its listeners in its perpetual striving for trivia, celebrity and star struck by anything relating to the stars and stripes. An example of this was the day hurricane Sandy struck the US. While Radio Scotland managed to contain its fervour during the hurricane’s earlier devastation en route to the east coast of the States it went into overdrive the day it was due to strike New York. What is this? Can you imagine any NY radio station being remotely interested in a similar event in Scotland to the extent it rescheduled its news around it? Compare GMS’s coverage of events that day with its classier sister programme Today.

Today opened with news about the route of the hurricane and there were mentions between 6am and 7am. From 7am till its close and 9am there were 3 features devoted to Sandy and it covered 11 different stories that day.

Compare this with how GMS handled the same event.

6.00 News Headlines

Sport

6.06 Travel

Weather

6.09 Hurricane Sandy

Newspaper headlines

6.17 business news

6.21 Ukrainian parliamentary elections (4min)

6.25 Sport

Travel

Weather

6.32 News summary

6.35 Hurricane Sandy

UK nuclear strategy

Glasgow conference on renewables

6.45 Breast screening report

News Headlines

Travel

Business

Homecoming for battalion from Afghanistan

6.58 Travel

Weather

7.00 News

Sport

Travel

Weather

7.10 Hurricane Sandy report (4min)

7.14 Scotland action plan for human rights (4min)

7.18 Mexico’s missing people

Thought for the Day Catholic priest

Sport

Travel

Weather

7.30 News summary

7.34 USA election report (6min)

7.40 business news

Travel

4G mobile service

Trailer for BBC programme

Newspapers

Hurricane Sandy report

Travel

Weather

8.00 News

Sport

Travel

Weather

8.09 Hurricane Sandy (4min)

8.13 Breast cancer screening (5min)

8.18 Scottish National Trail (4min)

8.22 trail for BBC programme

Sport

Travel

Weather

8.30 News summary

Hurricane Sandy’s impact on travel from UK

8.35 Murrayfield stadium (5min)

8.40 Business

Horror films

Listeners’ text s

Travel

8.50 end of programme

GMS devoted twice as many slots to the hurricane in America plus a further feature on the US election. Every other item was slipped into the remaining time left by the holy trinity – 11 travel reports, 6 sport reports, 8 weather bulletins. Oddly the superior Today programme doesn’t have any travel bulletins, a little sport on the half hour and the odd reference to weather and it is all the better for it.

BBC Scotland news ought to decide what its purpose is. Is it to provide an excellent vehicle for news and current affairs discussion which is cognisant of the whole of Scotland, not just the environs of Glasgow, or is it narrowly relevant light entertainment?

On Friday 26th October, Today featured the proposition that theoretical physicists have a test to prove whether or not we are living in the real or a simulated world. It’s really not something anyone on GMS would be capable of handling. GMS is either grimly dull or exceptionally ridiculous.

Whoever is responsible for merging Newsweek Scotland into GMS should be shown the door. This person clearly is clueless about what works and doesn’t as current affairs and news coverage and discussion. The hour programme worked better than this hotchpotch over two hours with the inevitable sport and travel. The impression is that programme producers begin with the holy trinity and work out what else can be woven in to what remain of the time allotted.

GMS is too restricted in what it covers, too repetitive, has too little foreign input, is too centred in Glasgow and lacks big gun journalists to carry discussion and interviews. As I said earlier these figures used to be there but successive BBC Scotland managers have got rid of them in favour of the inferior species which inhabits the service now. Newsdrive is similarly afflicted and the mid-day show should be replaced by something akin to the old Lesley Riddoch programme fronted by a weighty intellectual with no travel, sport or weather to dumb it down.

BBC Scotland management is in denial there is anything wrong at their great ship on the Clyde. They are wrong. Unless they think mediocrity is good enough.

Arts coverage in Scotland

BBC Scotland’s G-spot

Reporting from George Square

BBC Trust  An Oxymoron

October 7, 2012

BBC’s Scotland: the G-Spot

BBC Scotland has attracted no shortage of criticism over the years for its political bias, the inanity of its output and most alarming, given its role as the national broadcaster, its failure as the country’s national broadcaster.

Surely the purpose of any national broadcast organisation is to provide news and other information, entertainment and be a medium for political debate? How far BBC Scotland fulfills any of these roles is open to question.

There is a strand of opinion which cannot accept any criticism of the BBC. Look at what other countries offer before you pass judgment on Aunty. No – let’s raise the level of expectation not lower it.

There are those who are genuinely content with BBC Scotland’s output. Don’t get it myself but fair enough.

There are others, me included, who have long abandoned its television output and rarely listen to its radio programmes anymore – put off by it increasing remoteness, centralisation, banality and overt political bias.

The nation’s broadcaster is at best tokenistic in its coverage of events. Certainly this was true the last time I bothered to switch on Reporting Scotland on television. I will admit BBC television generally is pretty well a no-go area for me. I am aware BBC Scotland runs a soap called River City which I have never watched but imagine it is set around a river somewhere in Scotland – quite possibly not a million miles away from Glasgow.

My main concerns centre on BBC Scotland’s radio output.

I understand times are hard and getting harder and I understand the pressure on BBC Scotland’s management to get something on the air but I cannot accept the lack of quality in its output from its plush headquarters on the Clyde.

The £88 million spent on centralising BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow is a direct cause of the narrow localism which has infected its output and its failure as an effective mouthpiece for the nation. Instead of spending this outrageous sum of taxpayers’ money on one building any cash available should have been fairly distributed around the country – upgrading the BBC’s smaller stations. Instead we are facing further cuts in personnel around Scotland and the closure of existing stations which will further reduce BBC Scotland’s diversity and representation from around our regions.

What has happened with Pacific Quay in Glasgow goes against the trend in England where its much criticised concentration of broadcasting from London led to a change in direction and the improvement of facilities and number of programmes being produced away from its HQ.

The persistent trend in Scotland to trim back already skeleton staffs outwith Glasgow exhibits the ineptitude of BBC Scotland’s managers and their cynical disregard for adhering to the BBC Charter.

Lose regional diversity and you are left with a national service in name but not practice. You have what we have now – in effect a local broadcaster posturing as a national one.

Take any of Radio Scotland’s news and current affairs programmes to see how this works. Stories are regularly scranned from the local Glasgow press and given the BBC treatment. ‘Experts’ are called in from its local universities, businesses and even off the street. Presenters invite in pals – the crony phenomenon of not what you know but who you know – to add comment. Time and again we hear the same voices, opinions which don’t vary very much and represent the view of events from a Central Belt perspective. If you think there’s no such thing try imagining broadening out this cosy wee band of commentators to include, say some from Harris or Shetland or Ross-shire and see how much variety of analysis there could be.

You know what they say about journalists – they are lazy. Everyone says so and so perhaps there is truth in it. If there are people available to call in from a few square miles around the studio then why bother going further afield? If BBC Scotland HQ had been built on the Ness instead of the Clyde wouldn’t Highland journalists do the same? Yes, I expect they would and wouldn’t people in the Central Belt howl their disapproval and quite right too.

Business Scotland can be interesting to listen to but recently it introduced a feature following five entrepreneurs to see how they fare in the current economic climate.

The five are:

Raintown –Paul Bain and Claire Mcarthur – GLASGOW

Victoria Bisland and Anne Widdop – Fuze – GLASGOW

Jamie Mchale – Seeu.at – GLASGOW

Marie Rodgers -Total Sales Solution – GLASGOW

Steve Broadfoot  – ear protection –GLASGOW

Is this the BBC’s idea of a good broad approach to covering the plight of Scottish businesses in this economic climate?

Then we have the issue of its coverage of Scotland’s cultural life. I have blogged on BBC Scotland’s Arts Correspondent who had my sympathy for her apparent agoraphobia. I won’t repeat that here but the amount of time devoted to art and culture in and around Glasgow –  and Edinburgh during the Festival season but rarely outside of it – is impressive for its audacity. Latterly there has been a relaxation of this Stalinist tendency to promote the centre to the detriment of everywhere else. La McLean has come to Aberdeen – to an actual production in an actual theatre. Radical. But Aberdeen isn’t the whole of the rest of Scotland.  BBC Scotland Arts blog

The attitude within BBC management appears to be to an immediate and knee jerk defence of its staff against criticism. Of course it is positive for any organisation to support its personnel but it can also lend itself to a bunker mentality defending the indefensible.

There are those who believe that the greater the influence of radio and TV in our lives the more ignorant we become politically. We hear and see what they feed us. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler – what is in there is in there.

News coverage is centred on the Clyde. Take Good Morning Scotland. It’s a theme I’ve blogged about previously and was honest enough to remove the original Dumb and Dumber blog when GMS made positive changes. However – well, what can I say? Hands up from me, I rarely listen to this anymore preferring Radio 4’s Today programme despite it being dominated by English stories for it is professional and it does handle many more international stories fairly well. GMS is not strong on international coverage. Let’s face it – it isn’t strong on much. International content, if I recall correctly, is frequently relegated to the 6am-7am spot leaving the 7am–8.50am period for events closer to home – much closer to home – if you get my meaning.

Good Morning Scotland is bitty. A bitty this, a bitty that. It never gets going. Its news, discussions and interviews are curtailed because everything stops for sport, weather and travel. These three take on huge importance on BBC Radio Scotland. Their content rarely changes significantly but up they pop with irritating regularity, presumably regarded by BBC management as providing a vital service for listeners. They don’t. Instead they disrupt the flow of news and discussion. How often do we need to hear weather reports? No doubt management will say people drop in and out of listening but if the weather was on once before the hour then people would know when to listen to catch it.

Sport too often comes down to fitba. And the least said about Scottish fitba the better. There are acres of space devoted to football on BBC Scotland we do not need it rammed down our throats throughout news programmes.

Travel reports have become something of an institution on Radio Scotland. Frankly I fail to understand why. They epitomise tokenism on the BBC. They must. Some time ago I had a little confrontation with Travel and Transport Scotland, the Scottish government quango, about BBC Travel. On enquiring why delays and closures on the many roads outside of the Central Belt failed to be reported I was told BBC Travel used information from Transport Scotland and Transport Scotland only covered trunk roads. So I asked if BBC Travel personnel were paid by Transport Scotland or the BBC? There was no response but from then on BBC Travel began to include non-trunk roads. But, but  – travel remains a peculiar phenomenon – traffic lights rarely fail outside of the Big G and there are still big gaps in its reporting of problems around the country. Why have these frequent interruptions to news and current affairs programmes so listeners can hear that some road close to BBC Scotland HQ is ‘busy’? In my experience roads tend to become busy most weekdays between 7am and 9am all around the country  – so much so that I wonder if this is in fact normal and not anything worth broadcasting once far less repeatedly. In my naivety I used to think these BBC Travel Scotland staffers phoned around Scotland’s local authorities to ascertain local travel issues but it appears not and that they watch a bank of cameras positioned on a few, very few roads and otherwise depend on listeners phoning in.

Surely at any one time the number of people listening to Radio Scotland who hear a travel bulletin and alter their routes must be pretty miniscule so why is this stuff broadcast four times an hour? Five if you live in an opt-out area.

Opt-out areas. What does that suggest to you? In northeast Scotland there are op-out news bulletins which include sport and travel, oh and weather summaries. The BBC supplies these because we are not within the default area – Glasgow. If BBC Radio Scotland really was inclusive all areas would have opt-out summaries – or none.

Most of Scotland is unrepresented by our national broadcast medium and incidentally this includes the capital which many may not know, is Edinburgh. Edinburgh gets short shrift from BBC Glasgow. And if Edinburgh is treated to the big silence then what hope is there for the rest of us?

The once excellent Newsweek Scotland  is now part of GMS. NWS was not perfect – relying too heavily on its G spot but Bateman was/is the consummate professional journalist of which there are embarrassingly few working within BBC Scotland. He is on top of his brief, usually, and is highly capable of discussion and drawing interviewees. There is no subtlety with the weekday crew of GMS or Newsdrive. Isabel Fraser is equally strong in a different way but I never thought these two would be the only presenters on NWS and that has proved correct. By integrating NWS with GMS it has diluted the formula. We also have all those little irritations which interfere with the flow of GMS. Two hours is too long for this type of programme and while the old NWS was very good at an hour long, the two hour programme doesn’t work as well – the serious content cannot be or is not maintained, there are lighter moments which don’t gell with the rest of the content. Bateman’s new Sunday morning programme, Headlines might become acceptable if it drops the title and widens its scope – i.e becomes NWS on a Sunday. It is far superior to the Nanjiani show it replaced – tedium personified – with the same dull as ditchwater guests – but, hey, moving it to Saturday mornings is very welcome as I am not around to hear it.

(And just why is Lorraine Davidson such a perennial political voice on Radio Scotland? Always found it curious that Ms Davidson doesn’t come with a bio tag in the way that ‘once SNP adviser’ Ewan Crawford does. Davidson’s time as the Scottish Labour Party’s communications director is apparently of no consequence, never influences her opinions, never sways her interpretation of political events. Unbelievably dishonesty from the BBC. )

News and current affairs is patchy to poor on Radio Scotland and is simply not good enough. If BBC Scotland management regard it as acceptable then they should do us a favour and find work more in keeping with their sadly wanting abilities.

We could certainly do with resurrecting Lesley Riddoch’s lunchtime current affairs programme which maintained a very high standard of debate and was entertaining at the same time. We now have the John Beattie show but it is frippery, watered down journalese.

How long will we have to endure the ‘How’re you?’ /Les Grey/Call Kaye show? Now that really is a no-go area which sums up so much that is wrong with this BBC in Scotland. And the truly awful MacAulay and Co. MacAulay is a talented comedian – on the News Show (R4) but his BBC Radio Scotland programme has festered away far too long. It is trite and unerringly dreadful.

We are living through a vital period of Scottish history and in the next two years it is crucial that we have a broadcasting service capable of representing its listeners and viewers – and licence payers. We need a professional and competent medium to enable the exchange of opinions, to represent Scotland in all its guises, not the introverted wee parochial service currently being provided which has no interest in or understanding of life outside of the Clyde and which drives forward its own political agenda.

Our BBC http://www.bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk

June 24, 2012

For all you who have crossed the Hyena – this is for YOU!