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.