BBC ‘should face independent scrutiny’

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The response from BBC Scotland’s Ian Small (Letters, 27 July) to criticism of the corporation is welcome, not least because it shows that someone at Pacific Quay is conscious of the disquiet that exists about the BBC in Scotland.

His assertion that the BBC is “already well prepared” for the referendum is debatable, given that the organisation’s plans to cover Scotland’s most important political event in 300 years apparently involve hiring 15 trainee journalists and, in the BBC’s words, giving them “the chance to learn on the job”.

The most striking claim in Mr Small’s letter, however, is that of impartiality. In my opinion the BBC’s coverage of Scotland’s referendum has so far been characterised by a clear editorial and institutional bias in favour of the Union.

The notorious Question Time from Edinburgh, where four pro-Union politicians were pitched against only one in favour of independence (in a debate that was explicitly framed as taking place against the backdrop of the referendum) is a clear example. 

A less obvious, but in some ways more powerful form of bias is in the BBC’s editorial choice of what is deemed newsworthy and what is not.

A quick search of BBC news archives shows endless prominent articles about “threats” or “warnings” relating to independence yet very little about “opportunities” or “benefits”.

Last Tuesday afternoon, I searched the BBC’s Scottish news website for coverage of just such a positive story – that day’s major announcement of a commission into the future of Scotland’s oil industry. I found it, eventually, buried just below an item about an unfortunate woman from Perth whose arm had been stuck in a bin for 25 minutes.

Would Mr Small welcome independent scrutiny of the balance of the BBC’s referendum coverage from media experts from outwith the UK? I believe, sadly, that such a step is necessary.

C Hegarty

Glenorchy Road

North Berwick, East Lothian