Professor Sridhar’s book and pro-SNP bias on BBC Scotland

stewartb

Professor Sridhar’s book on the pandemic is informative and interestingly international in scope. It’s a ‘good’ and an ‘easy’ read – not overly scientific/technical.

But in it the author makes a cardinal error (!): in one place she draws positive conclusions about the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic relative to Westminster.

From The Times today (?): ‘A complaint of pro-SNP bias has been upheld by the BBC watchdog after the broadcaster serialised a book by a Scottish government medical adviser a fortnight before an election.’

One listener contacted the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) to report what they perceived to be bias in favour of the SNP. They claimed the broadcast “contained material which was politically partial in relation to the Scottish local authority elections, which were less than two weeks away”.’

How dare the BBC broadcast something that has an internationally-endorsed ‘expert’ writing about Scotland’s institutions in a positive light, especially when there is a favourable comparison made with the rUK. Doesn’t the BBC know the rule – Scotland can’t, in principle, do better than the rUK. That’s not possible (and certainly not ‘sayable’) in this ‘better together’ (and no longer voluntary) Union.

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7 thoughts on “Professor Sridhar’s book and pro-SNP bias on BBC Scotland

  1. I wonder how long it took the BBC to check , ponder and then uphold this ONE complaint ?
    My own experience and that of many others complaining to the BBC about THEIR bias or UNIONIST bias on the BEEB generally takes until The Twelfth of Never to reach a conclusion – and then it is ALWAYS rejected !

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I didn’t anticipate my btl comment on the upholding of a claim of BBC bias IN FAVOUR OF THE SNP (!) to be ‘elevated’ on TuS but since it has readers may find more details of interest.

    First for background on the BBC’s internal editorial complaints process: ‘An editorial complaint may proceed through the following stages:
    Stage 1a – initial response.
    Stage 1b – if the complaint progresses further, a response from or on behalf of a BBC manager or a member of the editorial team.
    Stage 2 – if the complaint progresses further, a response from the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU).

    The ECU made 6 findings at Stage 2 between 7th – 20th November 2022. Two were upheld, both regarding Scotland-related matters including the one concerning the broadcast of Professor Sridhar’s book.

    See https://www.bbc.co.uk/contact/sites/default/files/2022-11/7%20-%2020%20November%202022%20%28003%29.pdf

    Here are the texts of the ‘judgements, with my emphasis:

    ‘Book of the Week: Preventable, Radio 4, 19 April 2022 – 24 November 2022 – Complaint

    ‘The programme was an extract from the book “Preventable: How a Pandemic Changed the World & How to Prevent the Next One” by Professor Devi Sridhar, which drew on her experience as a public health adviser to the Scottish and UK Governments during the pandemic. A LISTENER complained that it CONTAINED MATERIAL WHICH WAS POLITICALLY PARTIAL in relation to THE SCOTTISH LOCAL AUTHORITY ELECTIONS, which were less than two weeks away. The ECU considered the complaint in the light of the BBC’s editorial standards of impartiality.

    ‘Outcome: The ECU noted that the programme-makers had sought appropriate advice from BBC Scotland and were advised that THE HANDLING OF THE PANDEMIC IN TERMS OF PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY BY the Scottish and UK Governments (which was Professor Sridhar’s main focus in the 19 April instalment) HAD NOT BECOME A SIGNIFICANT ISSUE IN THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN. Consequently they judged that the proximity of the elections was not a bar to scheduling WHAT WAS REGARDED AS AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPRAISAL BY A RESPECTED SCIENTIST OF THE RELATIVE SUCCESS OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES TAKEN BY THE TWO GOVERNMENTS.

    ‘However, the ECU also noted that the 19 April instalment included material (DEALING WITH DOMINIC CUMMINGS’ VISIT TO COUNTY DURHAM AND ITS REPERCUSSIONS) which, in its view, WENT SOMEWHAT BEYOND THAT DESCRIPTION AND, in the context of a campaign IN WHICH AN INVITATION TO COMPARE NICOLA STURGEON WITH BORIS JOHNSON WAS A PROMINENT PART OF THE SNP’S STRATEGY, could have GIVEN THE IMPRESSION OF FAVOURING ONE PARTY OVER ANOTHER. To that extent, IT FELL SHORT OF THE BBC’S STANDARDS OF IMPARTIALITY.’

    The second upheld complaint by the ECU in the period concerned BBC Scotland and the subject of Brexit.

    ‘Reporting Scotland, BBC One Scotland, 20 December 2021 – 24 November 2022 – Complaint

    ‘The programme included a report about THE EFFECTS OF NEW TRADING ARRANGEMENTS ON EXPORTERS AND BUSINESSES IN SCOTLAND FOLLOWING Britain’s exit from the European Union. A VIEWER COMPLAINED that, BY FOCUSING ONLY ON FIRMS “APPARENTLY DAMAGED” BY THE NEW ARRANGEMENTS, it had CONVEYED AN UNBALANCED VIEW of the impact of Brexit. The ECU considered the complaint in the light of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality.

    ‘Outcome: The report was introduced in these terms: It’s almost a year since the UK Government and European Union concluded a very long negotiation on the deal with which Britain then left the European single market. Brexit’s advocates say there will be long term economic benefits, but it’s been a tough year for some of the Scottish businesses most affected as our Business and Economy Editor, Douglas Fraser, has been finding out.

    ‘The ECU noted the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality say “We may produce content about any subject, AT ANY POINT ON THE SPECTRUM OF DEBATE, AS LONG AS THERE ARE GOOD EDITORIAL REASONS FOR DOING SO”, and considered it legitimate for the report to confine itself on this occasion to “the Scottish businesses most affected” by Brexit.

    ‘However, A PROGRAMME ADOPTING SUCH AN APPROACH SHOULD MAINTAIN IMPARTIALITY BY EXPLORING OTHER ASPECTS OF THE TOPIC WITHIN A REASONABLE TIMEFRAME, WHICH HAD NOT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF REPORTING SCOTLAND. The ECU noted that the reporter had conducted research across all sectors of the Scottish economy in preparing the report, which had LED HIM TO CONCLUDE THAT IMPROVED PERFORMANCE IN SOME AREAS WAS ATTRIBUTABLE TO FACTORS OTHER THAN BREXIT. It is generally agreed however, that Brexit has had a differential effect, bearing hardest on the kind of small businesses featured in the report, SO THERE WAS AT LEAST A NEED TO REFLECT AREAS WHERE ITS IMPACT HAD BEEN LESS NEGATIVE, whether on this occasion or in an appropriately linked programme.’

    While I’ve complained many times to the BBC about its programme content in matters pertaining to Scotland, I’ve never reached the ‘heights’ of an ECU adjudication.

    Of the two judgements, I find both pretty outrageous but the second, candidly, beggars belief. Why? Because one of the defining characteristics of BBC Scotland’s coverage of (almost) anything to do with the work of the Scottish Government and with public bodies in Scotland such as NHS Scotland is the absence of balance provided by context or perspective. And the ECU has the gall to choose to uphold this complaint when so many complaints about lack of context, lack of perspective, absence of balance are dismissed out of hand by the BBC at earlier stages in the complaints process.

    Perhaps the (my or others’ ?) error here is in not pushing the BBC process further and getting complaints in front of the ECU – just TWO users of BBC output seem to have succeeded in having (i) pro-SNP bias (I know it’s hard to conceive) and (2) anti-Brexit bias upheld. With such biases, it’s almost as if this must be another BBC, one operating in a parallel universe, to the one we experience daily in Scotland!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed a much more detailed analysis which expresses most of my own thoughts after reading the original comment.

      What is not clear to me in either case is whether the BBC summarily dismissed the complaint which the complainant then escalated to the ECU, or whether this was a sacrificial pawn by the BBC to appear having been brought to book.

      They made good use of publicising the outcome of the Sridhar complaint, but I cannot recall seeing anything of the second.

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      1. The Times article about the complaint about Prof Sridhar contained one sentence at the very end about the Reporting Scotland/Brexit complaint.

        I have to say Prof Sridhar’s Tweet with the comment ‘lovely lochs’ was brilliant. She also linked to the Times article in full and when you read it you just had to say ‘Whit???’

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Utter desperation from the BBC in their attempts to downplay anything positive to be said about Scotland.

    They have become so utterly ridiculous and completely untrustworthy in the eyes of the majority of Scots.

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  4. I’d commented earlier on WGD as to why the BBC might have promoted the story of the AUOB march on Pacific Quay despite a long history of totally ignoring AUOB marches, that being the BBC then controls the narrative https://archive.ph/W1Usx on which others might then report. There was no explanation whatever on WHY the march was on Pacific Quay, viz controlling the news.

    It was from this perspective that I read about the Sridhar complaint being upheld, bizarrely from a single complainant that mentioning an excerpt from her book somehow broke purdah rules.
    Yet hundreds of complaints of blatant political bias to the BBC in or out of purdah get absolutely nowhere.

    I can only conclude the complaints process of the BBC is highly selective, and is either being abused by political operators or the BBC itself to APPEAR to be answerable on claims of bias.

    Like

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