Study of BBC stories finds drop in Scottish reports

BBC Pacific Quay. Picture; John Devlin
BBC Pacific Quay. Picture; John Devlin
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The BBC covered far fewer stories about Scotland this year compared to 2015, new analysis shows.

A two-week snapshot study of BBC television and radio news coverage found that while the corporation had improved labelling of devolved stories, reporting from Scotland more than halved.

Cardiff University academics analysed the BBC’s coverage compared with independent networks for four weeks in 2015 and two weeks in 2016.

The report found: “The combined proportion of reporting about (or in) Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fell significantly across BBC outlets. So, for example, on BBC television news outlets there were more than twice as many items from Westminster as items about any topic reported from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The proportion of items about devolved issues also fell significantly, with stories about England dominating the domestic agenda.

“Devolved politics outside England represented just 
1 per cent of the overall news agenda.”

In response to the study the BBC Executive said: “BBC News has been changing too, we’ve invested in reporting, improved the sharing of information between editors, devolved decision-making in news gathering, insisted on clear labelling of stories and expanded news coverage from each of the four nations.

“BBC News will continue to give high priority to reporting the news from across an increasingly devolved UK.

“As the authors make clear, the quantitative approach of this study does not capture the news judgments made in response to the specific news agenda of the period covered - there have been stories that made the news and ran high on the bulletins because editors rightly judged them interesting and important.

“Content analysis treats each minute of news the same regardless of meaning; it compares one period with another regardless of what is happening.

“The risk of this is news by tick box impartiality and we therefore welcome Cardiff’s statement that ‘quantitative analysis does not imply coverage should be driven by quotas or numbers of references’.”