BBC verdict on Nick Robinson #indyref complaints: No bias here

20/10/2015
CommonWeal

BBC Trust and Editorial Complaints Unit throw out complaints

THE BBC has ruled that it did not breach any editorial guidelines on impartiality as a result of the infamous incident between journalist Nick Robinson and former first minister Alex Salmond ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.

The BBC Trust and Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) have thrown out a series of complaints about the incident, in which Robinson claimed on a news bulletin that Salmond had failed to answer a question about banks despite unedited footage of the event later showing Salmond deliver a response lasting several minutes.

The news report was broadcast by the BBC on 11 September 2014, a week before the referendum vote. The ECU conceded that the report gave an inaccurate impression but concluded that it was not intentional bias.

According to the BBC Trust, Robinson’s claim was made on the basis of “professional judgement” and “did not in itself imply bias”.

The Trust and ECU agreed that the news report had summarised “in detail” parts of Salmond’s answer despite Robinson’s claim in the report that the former SNP leader didn’t answer his question.

Appeals on the BBC verdict were thrown out on the basis that they did not have a “reasonable prospect of success”.

The ruling follows growing anger in Scotland among many Yes campaigners who believe the BBC exhibited a union-leaning bias in its coverage. In August of this year, Salmond described the BBC’s coverage of the referendum campaign as “a disgrace”, while Robinson has since criticised protests outside the BBC’s headquarters in Glasgow over coverage and hit out at intimidation of journalists .

In July, Audience Council Scotland, a broadcast review body, said there was a perception that the BBC forms “part of a wider media establishment whose perspectives reflected those of the status quo” .

In August, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Scotland organiser Paul Holleran told CommonSpace that the BBC “could have covered the referendum better” , adding to a list of high profile media names – including Channel 4 News’ Paul Mason – questioning the broadcaster’s approach.

BBC reporter James Cook, who has taken a job with the broadcaster in America since the referendum, conceded in July that the BBC could have done more to interrogate “the status quo” to the same extent as the pro-independence position.

The BBC insists its coverage of the referendum was fair and balanced.

Picture: CommonSpace