Simon Malzer: Why our group Inform Scotland is embarking on a BBC bias advertising campaign


Simon Malzer from Inform Scotland explains more about how the group formed and what it hopes to achieve

FUNDING billboards to draw the attention of the general public to bias at the BBC is undoubtedly something of a blunt instrument, but if the alternative is sitting on our hands and enduring endless misrepresentations of SNP ministers, or the unchallenged lying of David Mundell to the people of Scotland about what they "knew" before the independence referendum in 2014, or any of countless other examples, then bring on the blunt instruments.

The idea for Inform Scotland grew in the aftermath of the independence referendum, when it became clear that, not only would the legendary 'Vow' not be delivered, but the fact that non-delivery was not going to be reported by our trusted publicly funded broadcaster, the only broadcaster in the UK with no external arbitration regarding bias and accuracy.

When the Conservatives, within days of coming to power, voted down an SNP amendment to the Scotland Bill which would have delivered the very first undertaking in the Vow – "The Scottish Parliament will be made permanent" – I remember feeling wretched. 

Read more – Nationalists raise thousands for anti-BBC billboard campaign

That turned to impotent rage when I found that the BBC had not even reported on their evening bulletin this immediate breach of the famous Vow. A few of us made our own vow there and then. Time to be a little bit more direct.

We were cautious, however. We took our time and conducted workshops with people from the wider Yes movement and consulted with authorities on BBC bias like GA Ponsonby and Professor John Robertson before embarking on this project.

This campaign is not aimed at the BBC. It is aimed at people who unquestioningly believe everything the BBC tells them. By acting as a bridge, opening doors and signposting the existence of an alternative narrative to what they regularly hear or read on the BBC and in the mainstream media, we want to help more and more people break out of their cocoons into the fresh air of the vibrant, reality-based discourse that has enlightened so many people in the past few years throughout Scotland.

These billboards are a means of providing that bridge. Our hope is that people go to the Inform Scotland website, click through to the wide range of articles the site signposts, and make their own minds up about whether the BBC is guilty of bias or not.

We want to help more and more people break out of their cocoons into the fresh air of the vibrant, reality-based discourse that has enlightened so many people in the past few years throughout Scotland.

This is not some thoughtless, blind kickback against a vaguely perceived sense of injustice. It is a well-researched, organised and determined attempt to make a difference, to stand up for balance in what is meant to be an open democracy, to express our justified concern that a publicly-funded institution with a charter proclaiming impartiality and balance, can be shown to be failing in this regard.

We believe this just might get more people, of all persuasions, questioning the BBC. Scotland needs that.

We accept there is an element of disruption in this – direct action is meant to be disruptive. We accept that there may be greater minds than ours bent upon our common goal of independence. 

We simply think that the "see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil" approach to the BBC doesn’t cut it. We don't want to be sitting in a hall somewhere in Scotland in a few years time watching GA Ponsonsby's latest documentary, How the BBC stole the referendum – II.

Read more – Kirsty Strickland: Why anti-BBC billboards are a terrible idea before indyref 2

Over 400 of us have been prepared to put our hands in our pockets and raise over £8,500 in under a week. The campaign flew and that tells its own story.

There is another dimension to this. A constant diet of what we know to be misinformation and distortion presented as fact leaves people undernourished. That needs to be expressed. 

Sitting meekly by while others do our expressing for us is not always enough, especially in times as mind-boggingly bad as these.

Ours may be the blunt instrument approach to creative persuasion, but at least it's an approach.

Picture courtesy of Inform Scotland

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