BBC’s referendum coverage criticised by advisory group
AN advisory group has urged the BBC to “reassess its offering” of Scottish coverage in the face of viewer perceptions that the Corporation has adopted an “‘Anglified perspective'” which reflected the “status quo”.
Bill Matthews, the chair of the Audience Council Scotland, which is responsible for independently advising the BBC on matters relating to Scottish coverage and bills itself as “the voice of Scottish audiences”, highlighted concerns from some of the Scottish public about the impartiality and quality of the BBC’s journalism as it relates to Scotland, the Scotsman reports.
The BBC’s coverage of the referendum was the litmus test for many viewers, with Matthews finding that there was a perception among many Scottish license fee payers that the BBC was “unfavourable to the Yes campaign” and that it was “part of a wider media establishment whose perspectives reflected those of the status quo”.
Distrust of BBC coverage came to a head before the Scottish independence referendum when hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow.
While the council’s report highlighted aspects of the BBC’s “inadequate” coverage of Scotland, Matthews was clear in his praise for the “high quality independent journalism” of the Corporation, although he found that there were “differing audience views on the overall quality” of its coverage of the referendum.
Among changes that should be made, suggested Matthews, was ensuring that BBC Scotland is “properly funded” in a way which reflects “the higher degree of civic intervention and voter participation” in the wake of the referendum campaign.
Matthew’s review reported: “In the wake of the referendum, it is important that the BBC reassess its offering for audiences in Scotland and the way in which it is accountable to licence payers here.”
He noted that public engagement with, and attitudes towards journalism generally, and the BBC specifically, “seem to have changed significantly during the referendum debate”.
The report’s recommendations come on the back of the BBC’s “busiest year ever” in 2014, with not only the referendum, but also the Commonwealth Games pulling in unprecedented numbers of viewers.
The televised debate between SNP leader Alex Salmond and Better Together chief Alistair Darling ahead of the independence referendum was watched by 860,000 people, while the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park attracted 1.8 million viewers in Scotland.
Today’s council annual review adds to pressure upon the BBC, with PS50m worth of cuts facing the BBC as a whole, which is sure to impact negatively upon BBC Scotland’s ability to implement Matthew’s recommendations.
Picture courtesy of Stuart Beattie