How BBC’s Andrew Neil materially mislead the audience

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A reminder of one of the most clear, but by no means the only, example of BBC Bias against the SNP published today in the Ofcom report:

Sunday Politics, BBC One, 30 April 2017, 11:24

This programme included an interview with the Scottish National Party (“SNP”) former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in which the presenter, Andrew Neil, asked about the SNP’s record on education. In one of his questions (“Why, after a decade of SNP rule, do one in five Scots pupils leave primary school functionally illiterate?”), Andrew Neil appeared to quote data from an official statistical source to criticise literacy levels among Scottish primary school leavers in 2017.

The interview took place during the election period for the 2017 Scottish local elections. In November 2017 the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit upheld a complaint about this interview and a complainant subsequently referred their complaint to Ofcom.

Following an investigation, Ofcom concluded that Mr Neil’s question had been a significant misrepresentation of actual literacy levels among primary school leavers in 2017. In Ofcom’s view, it was a major departure from any reasonable interpretation of the available data, such that it was materially misleading to the audience. Ofcom’s published decision recorded a breach of Rule 2.2, which requires that factual programmes or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead.

We were greatly concerned about the BBC’s handling of this case. At different stages of the BBC’s complaint handling and during Ofcom’s investigation the BBC had provided conflicting explanations of the source of the data. The length of time it took the BBC to admit there was no factual source to support Mr Neil’s comment meant that no correction was made during the local election period or the subsequent period before the UK General Election.

Ofcom expects the BBC to take careful note of its errors in the handling of this case to ensure they do not recur. The BBC should consider how it identifies, prioritises and resolves complaints during election and referendum periods. In particular, it should consider how to identify sources of statements that are challenged by viewers and make any appropriate corrections as soon as possible when audiences have been materially misled – as in this case – before an election or referendum period ends.

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0026/173735/second-bbc-annual-report.pdf

Published by johnrobertson834

Retired Professor of Media Politics Not-for-profit independent political analysis

2 thoughts on “How BBC’s Andrew Neil materially mislead the audience

  1. While Ofcom can publicise such findings and force the publication in the medium which made the error, does this deter the medium from repeating the misbehaviour? There is some truth in the old cliche about a lie being halfway round the world before the truth has got its shoes on.

    When Gillian Marles phrases a question as “He’s (BorisJohnson) right, isn’t he when he says …?” rather than, ‘What do you say to Boris Johnson’s statement that …?” she is implying approval of the statement, but, were a complaint to be made, it would be defended.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Apols – slightly off-topic but not entirely. The SNP amendment to Boris’ Queen’s Speech, although it fell, received 64 votes (+ 2 tellers = 66). So I was puzzled as SNP amendments would, typically, only pick up support from PC (5) and Caroline Lucas (1): 35 + 5 = 40. I couldn’t immediately fathom where the ‘extra’ 26 Westminster votes came from.

    It appears that the Lib. Dems in total and the Scotland ‘branch office’ Labour MPs actively backed the amendment. Is the Willie Bain convention breaking down? (shorthand version = anything proposed by SNP must be opposed or ignored by London parties – but never – under any circs – supported. The amendment is complicated but essentially pushes on the point that Scottish Parlt and Wales’ Senedd must give legislative consent to any Withdrawal Bill.

    Rightly or wrongly I find that vaguely encouraging. When things do actually ‘tip over’ on Indy there will need to be concerted action from the ‘combined’ Scottish political representatives (acting as Team Scotland) – I wonder whether the lib. dem and labour (Scotland branch) polling is telling them that their target voters want Scotland’s (and Wales’) voice heard much more loudly? Amendment can be found below:

    In the Commons: Second amendment

    MPs are voting on a second amendment to the Queen’s Speech, tabled by the SNP.

    It says the Withdrawal Agreement should have consent from Welsh and Scottish Parliament.

    It adds to the bill: “but particularly regrets the UK Government’s intention to use the Immigration Bill to end freedom of movement within Europe; believes that freedom of movement has brought immeasurable social, cultural and economic benefits to the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the European Union as a whole; further believes that freedom of movement should be maintained irrespective of the UK’s future membership status of the European Union; believes that any provisions of the Environment Bill must match the ambition shown by the Scottish Government to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, and should provide for immediate action to invest in carbon capture and storage technologies and introduce funding for a green new deal; further regrets that the Gracious Speech does not contain provision to end the freeze of social security benefits or scrap the two-child limit and so-called rape clause attached to child tax credits; rejects the UK Government’s proposals for leaving the European Union; and believes the European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill must not become law unless and until it has received legislative consent from the Senedd and the Scottish Parliament.”

    In the Commons: SNP amendment fails

    The SNP only managed 64 votes for their amendment. There were 310 noes.

    Liked by 1 person

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