Readers' Letters: Regional accents missing from national TV news

When I turn on the BBC national news nearly all newscasters sound broadly similar. I can’t remember when I heard a Scottish accent. All but Huw Edwards, Clive Myrie and Annita McVeigh (now departing) appear to have “posh”-sounding South East of England accents. Broadcasters now look very different, reflecting our national identity, but sound broadly the same. It’s a taboo that needs to be addressed as part of the shake-up that will streamline the BBC national news output.

I got so fed up with this bias that I made my first formal complaint to a broadcaster. The BBC initially replied quickly stating that “as a publicly funded broadcaster, it is our aim to deliver output which reflects modern Britain accurately and authentically”. The Royal Charter requires that “our programming reflects the diverse communities of the whole of the United Kingdom. This obligation includes the many accents that make up our population.” This clearly, however, does not extend to BBC national news bulletins. Several weeks on I have still to hear what if anything is going to change.

ITN are not much better with regulars like Tom Bradby and Julie Etchingham fitting neatly into the accent mould. Only Nina Hossian seemingly articulates a “regional“ accent. It is over 30 years since the last Scot, Sandy Gall, regularly presented.

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While there may be an element of unconscious bias, our newsreaders need to reflect the whole of society. While thankfully Scotland has its own news programmes, many young people will grow up thinking the South East of England has a monopoly on authoritative services covering the whole UK including broadcasting national news. What does that tell us about how that reflects on wider society and the accent to which young people should aspire?

Huw Edwards does not speak with the South East of England accent common among newsreadersHuw Edwards does not speak with the South East of England accent common among newsreaders
Huw Edwards does not speak with the South East of England accent common among newsreaders

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Support strikers

If ever you wished to see expressed in print a callous lack of empathy and understanding, then the letter from Derek Farmer was it (Letters, 2 Feb).

Writing from a financial position of obvious comfort, he berates teachers for not squirelling away savings during times of “cheap money”, without factoring in that teachers are citizens like the rest of us with families and all the other financial obligations of modern life, worked incredibly hard for their students during the lockdowns, and have not been properly rewarded for years.

If the pandemic demonstrated anything it was the crucial contribution frontline workers made to the continuation of a functioning society. Nurses (who we clapped for goodness’ sake), postal workers, shop assistants, transport drivers and many more proved the essential nature of their work over that of any investment bankers, insurance or stock market brokers.

It seems Mr Farmer is a supporter of the Tory government’s hard-line policy towards striking workers, who are only trying to protect themselves from a devastating rise in the cost of living, and from having to resort to the fastest growing enterprise under the Tories, food banks.

Unwittingly, Mr Farmer is right in one respect. A more robust system is desperately needed to protecting workers’ wages, rights and conditions, which is genuinely fair to all sides and negates the necessity to strike. In the meantime, as confrontation rather than resolution is the Tory approach, if you have a beating heart and warm blood, please give striking workers all the support you can.

Richard Walthew, Duns, Scottish Borders

Cupboard is bare

Lots of people “deserve” pay rises. The current problems with this, however, are affordability and inflation.

Marjorie Ellis Thompson (Letters, 3 February) shows disturbing financial ignorance by demanding public sector wage increases. Surrendering to militant unions at this time is simply going to fuel further price increases and devalue the money in our pockets.

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Ms Ellis Thompson makes no reference to the generous nurses’ pension scheme, the fact that they generally earn £5,000 more than the average annual wage, nor to the job security enjoyed by NHS staff.

She laments: “It is not selfish to go on strike when you are no longer able to cope due to staff shortages (thank you Brexit), running down facilities and the painful struggle to keep acceptable services going.”

In the Irish Republic (often praised by Scottish separatists) A&E waiting times are horrendous and staffing is at an all-time low. You can’t really blame Brexit for that.The truth is that tough decisions are having to be made in most countries due to global circumstances. France has been paralysed by protests and what amounts to a general strike because their government recognises that the practice of most people retiring at 62 is now unsustainable.

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Rhetoric of hate

Thanks to Alastair Stewart for his piece on the reaction to Sam Smith's new video (Scotsman, 4 Febrtuary). Of course he is right that the reaction is not just homophobic; it relates also to Sam Smith's gender identity as a non-binary person, and their gender expression in the video.

There is a good reason why we as LGBT people have long worked together and stood together against homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We know that all those have a similar root – an attempt to enforce rigid gender norms.

We are seeing in the UK now, and even more obviously in the United States, how rhetoric and actions that seek to stop the acceptance of and support for trans people are encouraging increased prejudice against LGB people too.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network, Edinburgh

History lessons

It is interesting that the man who has pleaded guilty to entering the grounds of Windsor Castle on Christmas Day 2021 armed with a crossbow (Scotsman, 4 February) is of Indian descent. He claims that he intended to wreak revenge upon the Queen for the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 in India.

It is strange, then, to think that Mr Chail is unaware of other massacres; those of British people in India such as the Black Hole of Calcutta and the massacre of Cawnpore, but maybe they don't matter.

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It is also interesting that the officers involved in the Amritsar Massacre were of Irish extraction. Both the senior officer who was not there, Sir Michael O'Dwyer and the officer in charge, Reginald Dyer, had strong Irish connections, as the Irish press has freely acknowledged.

This is yet another instance of a lack of historical education, which characterises the politics of Scotland as well. It is high time that the British Government insisted that history be a compulsory subject throughout secondary school as ignorance of history is the main cause of wars.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

She’s a trier

So Scotland wins against England in the Six Nations. Nicola Sturgeon immediately retrospectively "converts” the Calcutta Cup into a de-facto referendum and issues a unilateral declaration of independence.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Mental health

We are at the start of Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February), which shines a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.

The rise in such problems over recent years has previously been labelled as a mental health crisis and one of the greatest public health challenges of our times.

These problems are even more worrying when they concern the mental fitness of our younger generations, and how we are preparing them to face the growing challenges of entering adulthood.

Against this backdrop, our mental health services are however facing overwhelming and unprecedented pressures, which existed even before the pandemic and are becoming further exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.

Too many of our young people are waiting too long for treatment and the rapidly escalating number of those seeking support, faced with inadequate services, could potentially lead to a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people who are missing out on the support that they vitally need.

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Against the perfect storm of a mental health crisis combined with the long shadow of lockdown and the rising cost of living, we must not lose sight of the challenges that our children and young people are facing, renewing our efforts in a national crusade to ensure that they receive adequate mental health support.

Kenny Graham, Lynn Bell, Stephen McGhee, Niall Kelly, The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, Edinbugh

Breaking glass

Brian Wilson (Scotsman, 4 February) has highlighted that the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for glass and plastic bottles is being bulldozed through by the Scottish Government despite the Scottish Retail Consortium and UK Hospitality Scotland having serious concerns that “key information” has not been provided to enable them to do so.

It is obvious to all that the DRS will never be implemented by the roll-out date of 16 August 2023 despite the threat of fines of £50,000 a month going up to £1.5 million a month. As your editorial said on 2 February: “Has this been properly thought through?”

Why did the Scottish Government include both glass and plastic bottles when the English and Irish schemes are only for plastic bottles? All 32 councils in Scotland have excellent glass bottle banks and also recyclabking bins which include plastic bottles and they both work well. What will happen to the employees who do this work? Will they be sacked or recycled into non-jobs at council taxpayers’ expense? Yet another SNP mega-expensive disaster in the pipeline.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

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