BBC BIAS: Beeb impartiality warning for ‘beaming Sturgeon into living rooms everyday’

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The briefings are shown some days on BBC One Scotland and the BBC Scotland channel with some coverage also included as part of BBC Radio Scotland’s Lunchtime Live programme. However, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader warned there could be a point coming when the BBC may be in breach of its Charter commitment to impartiality if the regular coverage of briefings proceeds as present.

Mr Ross stressed the BBC should cover Ms Sturgeon’s briefings as they share vital public health information but made clear they should be made in the Scottish Parliament.

This method, the Moray MP said, allows the policies to be challenged and scrutinised by opposition MSPs, adding: “Sadly, we’ve got to assume this virus is going to be with us for some time.”

Referring to the elections next May, he stressed: “What happens when Holyrood rises for the elections?

“What happens when we’re in a purdah period?

“I think that the BBC must now be thinking in the weeks and months ahead what are they going to do, because there is a crucial point coming that, despite everything they’ve said to date, things do change during an election period.

“We live in a democracy where governments govern better where they are held to account and it’s very difficult to hold the Scottish Government to account when a lot of the key policy announcements they make are not made in front of politicians but are made on TV and beamed into the living rooms every day.”

It comes after Mr Ross said he had received complaints which expressed concerns the BBC Charter was being breached.

The BBC announced in September it would reduce its live broadcast of the daily COVID-19 announcements from the Scottish Government.

Going forward, BBC said it would base its coverage on “editorial merit” while continuing to stream them online.

The decision sparked much confusion amongst viewers who were left unsure as to where the programme would be shown each day.

But new BBC Scotland director Steve Carson stressed BBC Scotland never intended to stop coverage of the briefings.

He admitted the situation was not explained well enough to viewers, adding: “I do regret, and I agree, that for a period of days people were incredibly confused as to what they thought the BBC were doing.”

Mr Carson told Holyrood’s Culture Committee the BBC had a legal obligation to due impartiality and the original decision intended to make clear coverage of the briefings was not as a result of any “directive”.

It has also been claimed the BBC has also “snubbing” Holyrood when it comes to political coverage in a key Sunday programme.

Sunday Politics Scotland, part of the Politics Live session of programmes is typically broadcast every Sunday at 10am and typically shows the UK political stories of the day with interviews with Government ministers from the Scottish and UK governments.

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It is presented by Gordon Brewer, who also hosted Newsnight Scotland but is stepping down along with news anchors Bill Whiteford and Isabel Fraser as the corporation looks to save £6.2 million in Scotland.

However, an MSP questioned why it hasn’t been broadcasting whilst Westminster was in recess but Holyrood was in session.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Culture Committee, MSP Kenneth Gibson also stressed why the corporation asked why the programme followed the Westminster calendar rather than that of Holyrood.

The SNP MSP for Cunninghame North, who is married to Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, added: “Why does the BBC consider coverage of Westminster to be the priority rather than coverage of the Scottish Parliament?

“My wife is an MP, so I am pretty clued up on those things.

“I know that when she is in recess, [Politics Scotland] is not on, regardless of whether Holyrood meets.

 “I raised that issue a year ago and was told then that it would be looked into, but it has not been. 

“Given that we already get a huge amount of Westminster coverage from the UK service, I do not understand why scheduling of a programme that is produced in Scotland is not more focused on Holyrood.” 

TV listings for the period Westminster was in recess over the summer revealed Sunday Politics Scotland didn’t start broadcasting until Sunday 13th September. 

This date was almost one month after Holyrood had returned from its summer recess on August 10th and only two weeks after Westminster on September 1st

 

During the Summer, Sunday Politics Scotland also continued to be broadcast on BBC1 Scotland throughout the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess between June 27th and August 9th whilst Westminster was still sitting.

However, responding to the claim, Steve Carson, who replaced Donalda MacKinnon as director of BBC Scotland last month, said: “I am not sure that I take that as a fact; let me look into it. 

“We look at the level of “Politics Scotland” coverage regularly. Across this year, there has been a huge explosion.”

A BBC spokesperson, said in response: “Politics Scotland on Sunday follows the Westminster timetable, along with BBC Wales and Northern Ireland, because it’s part of a UK-wide programme brand and has a slot in the BBC One schedule.”

The corporation, however, stressed they have a Wednesday edition of Politics Scotland which follows the Holyrood timetable and a programme on Thursdays which covers First Minister’s Questions.

Of the daily briefings, BBC Scotland, added: “We follow a similar approach to coverage across the UK, with briefings from the Welsh Government shown in Wales on BBC One there, and briefings from the UK Government shown on BBC TV across the UK.

“So far this week, there have been two Scottish Government briefings shown on television in Scotland – just as there have been two Welsh Government briefings aired on TV in Wales. Coverage of the briefings is made on the basis of editorial judgment and listening to our audiences.”

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