The BBC’s toxic presence in Scottish public life

There’s a definite pattern to BBC Scotland’s handling of Scottish Government stories. There is no point in the BBC continuing to deny it. The Corporation is not a public service broadcaster informing and educating the people of Scotland in an even handed and unbiased way about the issues of the day, it is an active and willing participant in Scotland’s constitutional debate, taking the side of those opposed to independence. It has always been that way, but over recent years BBC Scotland no longer seeks to hide it. Its British bias has become blatant and brazen.

Recently I blogged about how BBC Scotland manufactured an SNP bad NHS story to which it gave headline prominence on the same day that NHS consultants in England went on strike while a strike was avoided in Scotland.

Now BBC Scotland has done it again. On Wednesday NHS doctors in Scotland announced that they had accepted the revised pay deal offered by the Scottish Government. This means that there will be no NHS strikes in Scotland and makes Scotland unique amongst the nations of the UK by avoiding the strikes by NHS staff which have blighted the rest of the UK.

That is a real Scottish Government success story. BBC Scotland is very quick to give prominence to negative stories about NHS Scotland, all of which have the subtext that if it’s something to do with the Scottish Government, it’s pretty crappy. This is combined with a marked reluctance to hold the Westminster government to the same account.

When there is a Scottish Government success story, BBC Scotland goes out of its way to minimise and marginalise the news. Scottish people must never be allowed to imagine that the Scottish Government could be more competent and effective than the ‘big boys and girls’ down in Westminster. So naturally the news that doctors in NHS Scotland have accepted the Scottish Government’s revised pay offer was going to be glossed over by BBC Scotland. What was especially galling however was the extreme brevity with which Reporting Scotland trotted through the news. It merited a mere fifteen seconds, which was buried in the middle of the half hour show. Far more time was devoted to the cancellation of Graham Linehan’s show at the Edinburgh Fringe, because apparently according to BBC Scotland this latest episode in the culture wars must be a story which is far more relevant to more people than the smooth operation of the NHS in Scotland.

However you can bet the amount the BBC charges you for the licence fee that if NHS doctors had rejected the Scottish Government’s pay offer it would have been headline news on BBC Scotland, complete with a quote from Jackie Baillie while she was out campaigning for Labour in the Rutherglen by election.

Before the doctors accepted the pay offer BBC Scotland heavily promoted the possibility of a Junior doctor strike even before negotiations had concluded. Opposition MSPs were given the opportunity to attack the Scottish Government and reporters speculated about the problems that would ensue. The BBC was very obviously gearing up for an SNP bad fest should the strike have taken place. You can imagine the frustration amongst senior BBC staff when the possibility of a strike was taken off the table. Oh well back to the ferries, lads.

The First Minister was attacked because of a strike that never happened but surprise surprise didn’t received an iota of praise from BBC Scotland for his actions in avoiding it. There was just a quick 15 seconds mention and then it was on to BBC Scotland’s habitual menu of brain numbing triviality, the murrdurr the fitba and the wee cute kittens. If BBC Scotland was an individual it would be the very definition of a toxic personality.

I have had the misfortune to have had in my own personal life a hypercritical individual who is always very quick to criticise and complain about things I do or don’t do, cares nothing about my needs or well-being, never says anything supportive or positive, and never praises or even acknowledges any of my achievements.

A while ago after yet another instance of this person going out of their way to undermine me as I was about to attempt a major milestone on the road to rehabilitation following my stroke, I decided I had had enough of their toxicity and cut off all contact with them. If criticisms are never tempered with praise where praise is due, then it is merely ignorant carping which says far more about the person doing the criticising than it does about the person who is the object of their ill nature. Since I have got to the age when I realise that I will never have a positive interaction with this person, it is much better for my own mental and emotional health not to have any interactions with them at all.

BBC Scotland is like a toxic individual in that it denies it does anything wrong and gaslights those who complain about it. It is never the BBC that is in the wrong, an easy conclusion to reach when it’s the BBC which investigates complaints made about the BBC.

The big difference between the BBC and a toxic personality type is that BBC Scotland has a blatant political agenda. In an ideal world we would be able to excise BBC Scotland from our lives like breaking off contact with a toxic individual. Unfortunately it’s far harder to stop the BBC’s pernicious influence on Scotland. We can vote with our wallets and stop paying the licence fee, but the BBC sails on regardless, continuing to pump out its Scottish Cringe toxicity.

BBC Scotland is hypercritical of the Scottish Government and avoids praising it, not because of some deep rooted toxic personality trait, but as part of a deliberate strategy of undermining Scottish national self-confidence in order to weaken the political campaign for independence.

Even so, there are people within the BBC who appear to understand the damage that the Corporation is doing to itself with its brazenly one sided approach to the Scottish constitutional issue, the great fault line in modern Scottish politics.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe this week, the writer and broadcaster Billy Kay said that “The [Scottish] media is getting worse and it’s a ridiculous set of circumstances where 90% of the media is against 50% of the population.” He added, without naming names, that two senior figures within BBC Scotland were very critical of the Corporation’s coverage of the 2014 referendum with one telling him they were ashamed of it. He added that he thought things have only got worse since then. BBC Scotland no longer even pretends to be even handed. It’s become a toxic presence in Scottish public life, an active participant in the campaign to suppress support for independence.


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