The British Gaslighting Corporation

Ever since the issue of Scottish independence first began to dominate the Scottish political scene following the SNP’s narrow victory when it formed a minority government after the 2007 Holyrood elections, complaints about the anti-independence bias of the Scottish media have been a mainstay of discussions within the independence movement. Much as our British nationalist opponents would prefer to dismiss this as conspiracy theorising, it is nevertheless an objective fact that out of the 38 or so daily and Sunday newspapers published in Scotland or which have distinctively Scottish editions, only The National has an editorial line in favour of independence, this is despite the fact that ever since that election fourteen years ago, Scotland has consistently voted for pro-independence political parties and opinion polling has shown that a good half of the Scottish population if not more, consistently supports independence. This support for independence becomes overwhelming in the younger cohorts of voters.

The Scottish media disproportionately, and by quite some considerable margin, represents the views of older people, Conservative supporters, opponents of independence, and opponents of the SNP. Of course newspapers are commercial businesses and it’s entirely up to the companies which own them to take editorial decisions which appeal to the paper’s readership. It’s a fact that newspapers are disproportionately purchased by older people, so it’s not really surprising that newspapers tend to reflect the interests and concerns of that demographic.

No one is forced to buy a newspaper, no one is compelled to support a newspaper whose editorial line they disapprove of by clicking on that newspaper’s links and increasing its attractiveness to online advertisers.

However that does not apply to the BBC. According to the TV licencing authority, you need a TV licence if anyone on your premises watches or records live TV programmes on any channel, or downloads or watches BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer. Even if you don’t watch the BBC, you can still be legally compelled to pay for the BBC and risk a fine if you do not.

The reason that the BBC arouses the ire of so many in Scotland is the fact that we are legally compelled to pay for it but the BBC displays the same anti-independence bias as the rest of the Scottish media. It’s one thing to live in a country where the privately owned media is overwhelmingly biased against your interests and which actively seeks to thwart political goals which you strive for, however it’s another level of dystopia to be forced, on the pain of a fine, to pay for pro-British propaganda which actively seeks to prevent Scottish independence and which consistently attacks and undermines the parties which support it while at the same time giving a free ride to the Conservatives, no matter how corrupt or incompetent they are or how much havoc they wreak.

The anger that this generates is only compounded by the refusal of the BBC to acknowledge that it is doing what we can all see that it is doing. Complaints about the Corporation’s bias disappear into the Byzantine maw of the BBC’s complaints process, and if ever answered the complainant will inevitably be informed that the BBC has done nothing wrong. It seems that in the eyes of the BBC, British bias isn’t bias at all, just as British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. That’s what makes it not the British Broadcasting Corporation but the British Gaslighting Corporation.

Today The National has published fresh evidence of the BBC’s evident British nationalist bias. During the period from September 13 to September 17 not a single political story on BBC1’s flagship news programme the News at Six was framed in a way that was negative about or critical of the Conservative Government. 17 out of the 24 political stories during this period were framed in a studiedly neutral way. There was also one positively framed story about the UK Government, one neutral story about the Scottish Government and one negatively framed segment on Holyrood. Negative framing was defined as someone being “accused” of something or forced to defend an action. It is typical of the lines adopted by the opposition parties, primarily Labour and the SNP in the case of the British Government, mainly Labour and the Conservatives in the case of the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile the BBC’s flagship Scottish news programme Reporting Scotland had a very different set of priorities. The programme carried just six neutrally framed stories about the SNP government, compared to ten negative ones. Every UK Government story was framed in a neutral light, and there was just one positive Scottish Government piece. Typically BBC Scotland approaches political stories about the Scottish Government from the perspective of Labour and the Conservatives but will not present political stories about the Conservatives in Westminster from the perspective of Labour or the SNP.

This is the third time this year that The National has carried out this research, and this is the third time that the paper has found a marked disparity in the BBC’s coverage of political stories. For the third time in a row the BBC has shown itself loathe to criticise the Conservatives in Westminster but eager to attack the SNP in Holyrood. This is clearly no accident or fluke. It is obviously an editorial decision on the part of BBC news management, a deliberate policy to undermine any drive towards Scottish independence while pandering to the Conservative government which controls the BBC’s purse strings. Yet the stock response from the BBC to this latest evidence will be the same denial and deflection, the same Great British gaslighting as has characterised its response to all previous complaints about its bias.

When we have a Conservative Government as corrupt, chaotic and incompetent as the regime of Boris Johnson, moreover a government with decidedly authoritarian tendencies which is hell bent on undermining the devolution settlement, and whose reckless policies are risking lives and leading to empty supermarket shelves, this lack of oversight on the part of the BBC and the Scottish print media is dangerous. The campaign for Scottish independence has now become a campaign to secure democracy itself.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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