Just been reading Anthony King’s report on the BBC network news coverage of the four UK nations for the BBC Trust. It’s a very well written, engaging and sometimes rather amusing document. In the main it doesn’t stick the knife in and there is much about the BBC to be praised, but here are some highlights for you to enjoy where that’s not the case. Firstly:
[In the main the BBC is unbiased] … However, there was one exception. Others drew it to our attention â€“ an article in the Scottish edition of the Daily Telegraph was headlined â€˜Fibs about Scotland on the BBCâ€™ â€“and we could observe it for ourselves. It concerns the question of whether or not a group of people collectively called â€˜the Englishâ€™ â€“ and, in particular, people called â€˜English taxpayersâ€™ â€“ do, or do not, â€˜subsidiseâ€™ a group of people collectively called â€˜the Scotsâ€™. We were not in a position to monitor the BBC networkâ€™s entire output on this issue, but some of the coverage could give viewers and listeners the impression that there is a known and settled answer to this question and that the known and settled answer is that the English do, indeed, subsidise the Scots.
There is a very real and strange assumption that there is a subsidy as the BBC has asserted in various media several times. Perhaps no small part of the reason for the arguments to fail to advance towards anything resembling a resolution is down not just to Treasury intransigance but also a misinformed electorate, and possibly also politicians. Just remember, that’s the Daily Telegraph (scots edition admittedly) pointing out to the BBC how to be fair and accurate in reporting on Scotland. Questions of BBC bias are not as simple as Tory or Labour anymore, as my MP would do well to learn (p.s. Greg as you ask more written questions than the average MP, perhaps best not to lay into a journalist for asking questions themselves).
A second gem:
The events in Wales were important. They were obviously important for the people of Wales; the Welsh National Assembly has a wide range of devolved powers and controls a budget of Â£14 billion … However, the BBCâ€™s UK-wide network, as distinct from BBC Wales, had little to say about any of these developments … Network news did, however, take considerable interest in another story emanating from Wales during the same May-July period. It concerned Shambo, a six-year-old Friesian bull.
It’s noted elsewhere that many in the BBC audience believe that often their local area was more likely to be covered as a quirky local interest story than anything of genuine note.
To be fair, there are millions of people in the UK, most of them in England, who have also failed to grasp, or even to notice, the scale of the changes that have taken place. To judge by what they say on television and radio, some of them sit on the green benches at Westminster, including the front benches.
Indeed, King notes that Ministers at Westminster are deliberately failing to append (of England (& Wales) (& Northern Ireland) to their job titles. He reckons journalists should do their best to make such things clear, though he also notes that our devolved system could hardly be more complicated and he reckons only a “select few” understand the Barnett funding formula, for example.
And a final shocker:
In our travels, we noticed, for example, that not all of the newsrooms we visited had maps of the UK on their walls.
My workplace is littered with UK Maps, indeed it seems you can’t be a director without having one somewhere. Personally I sit typing this with a large map of Scotland behind me, but I’m just a tad biased, and I have some London maps as well.
All in all, a great review, and now we must hope that good things come from it.