BBC Scotland defends decision to keep airing Nicola Sturgeon's daily Covid-19 briefings

BBC Scotland has defended its decision to continue broadcasting the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing.

The defence of the decision to broadcast the briefing from St Andrew’s House comes following fierce criticism by former UK Government minister and former Labour MP Brian Wilson, who accused the state of broadcaster of being “taken for a ride”.

Mr Wilson, writing in The Scotsman, labelled the briefings an “exercise in political spin and news management” and questioned why the issues around inaccurate Test and Protect data had not been brought up by the First Minister at the briefings.

His comments come two months after the broadcaster had decided to reduce its live coverage of the briefing, fronted daily by the First Minister, before U-turning on that decision following criticism it would dilute the public health messages being delivered by the Scottish Government.

The BBC has defended its decision to continue broadcasting the Scottish Government's daily briefings

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On September 17, Donalda MacKinnon claimed there had never been any intention to stop coverage and said other political figures such as opposition leaders would be broadcast after the initial briefing from Nicola Sturgeon.

A spokesman for the BBC said the decision to continue airing the briefings was made on the basis of “editorial judgement and listening to our audiences” while adding it remained committed to having a “broad coverage” of voices and perspectives.

He said: “Coverage of the briefings are made on the basis of editorial judgement and listening to our audiences. Over the past weeks, for example, we have continued to broadcast the briefings live while the number of new cases is high; there are significant restrictions on business, hospitality and travel across much of the country; and our audiences are looking for public health information.

"We will also take full account of how the pandemic continues to evolve to inform that judgement.

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"Our coverage of coronavirus and public health issues in Scotland will continue, as it does at present, to incorporate a range of voices and perspectives. This will allow us to bring news and views from around Scotland and beyond, involving politicians from across the political spectrum, as well as commentators, analysts and other experts.

"We remain committed to having this broad coverage of voices and perspectives across all our news outlets on television, radio and online.”

The BBC added the approach taken to the coverage of the Scottish Government briefings was in line with how similar briefings from other governments were shown.

The spokesman said: "We follow a similar approach to coverage across the UK, with briefings from the Labour Welsh Government shown in Wales on BBC One there, and briefings from the UK Government shown across the UK.

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"Indeed, looking over the last week from Wednesday, November 11 to yesterday, there have been three Scottish Government briefings broadcast by BBC One Scotland, three Welsh Government briefings broadcast by BBC One Wales and UK Government briefings also shown across the UK."

The BBC declined to comment on whether the daily briefings would continue to be broadcast ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May next year.

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