In 2004, the Glasgow University Media Group revealed the power of media to distort, even reverse reality, in a study, Bad News from Israel, of TV coverage of Israel/Palestine. Most striking was the fact that after watching BBC TV broadcasts covering Palestinian protests against Israel, only 8% of 300 young people sampled, thought that the Palestinians were the original inhabitants of the land, that they had been expelled from their homes in a civil war and that most of the Israeli population were migrants who had arrived from Europe, in the second half of the 20th Century. 92% thought that the Palestinians were recent immigrants. The coverage had effectively reversed reality. It’s one of the sharpest examples of media power.
More directly relevant for us today, the group had earlier exposed TV news bias against and neglect of, the views of trade unions, in the reporting of industrial disputes, in the 1970s, always implying worker agitation with a political agenda had triggered the dispute and rarely if ever questioning the intentions of owners or the competence of management.
Influenced by them and, of course, Noam Chomsky, I found similar biases persisting into the 21st Century. In a 2008 study of how the UK media covered economic issues, around the budget, I found an unquestioning acceptance of a free-market ideology and an almost complete neglect of the viewpoints of workers’ groups.
Fast forward only 10 to 12 years and into the years just before and after Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum and the relationship between Scotland’s MSM and the trade unions is transformed. From the RMT to the BMA, these groups feed headline news, are not criticised, and the dispute which only a decade or so before might have been blamed on them is now used to question the competence of the SNP Government.
One union, however, stands out above the others in the frequency of its appearances and in the strength of its accusations – the GMB.
The GMB supports fracking, nuclear power and Trident. It is affiliated to the Labour Party, supported the leadership candidacy of the millionaire Anas Sarwar over the leftist and referendum-friendly Monica Lennon and its Scotland Organiser is the wife of former Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard.
Today, the GMB has restarted a refuse worker strike in Glasgow, which it cancelled last Friday, as COP26 began, without consulting its members and after appearances by Sarwar with bin collection teams.
In April 2021, the GMB, told its health service workers to reject a pay settlement after misleading them on the details of it.
In January 2021, it made a fuss about the colour of vaccine letter envelopes.
In August 2020, it fed BBC Scotland a lie about the closure of the clearly unsafe Hunterston B nuclear power station suggesting that to do so would make Scotland more dependent on fossil fuels.
In June 2020, Karen Leonard used a dodgy survey to suggest anxiety about the return to schools of cleaners and janitors and in April 2020, their leader Gary Smith sided with the private care home owners against the SNP Government, over PPE supplies.
I could go on.