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« Finland, the WHO and alcohol: Solid evidence that price DOES matter | Main | Fiscal Powers conference - Wendy Alexander and Stewart Hosie go head-to-head on Scotland's future »

November 14, 2010


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Iain I was on Radio Scotland that morning and I think you are being a bit unfair on them. There were dissenting voices among the presenters on GMS and Kaye Adams had her tongue firmly in her cheek when she talked about people ie me - being curmudgeonly. I think she said most of the facebook comments were from people unimpressed with the royal hoopla. Newsnight Scotland the night before rightly concentrated on the budget while Newsnight England devoted space to the nuptials. Even the Today programme on Radio Four was over the top. So on this occasion I think the BBC in Scotland struck a less hysterica tone than London. At least the bits I heard.

I think that Journalism is gradually evolving away from mainstream media towards new media, although it has some way to go. An example of that is how the William and Katie fairytale was covered recently by BBC Radio Scotland. The Beeb happily did its usual sucking up to the royals whereas waves of apathy and cynicism came through from the public; the presenter feeling pompously superior described these sentiments as "curmudgeonly". Listeners apparently should be insulted if they don't feel the love. How easy it is to forget one is a public service broadcaster.

I wasn't able to attend the event but thank you for this interesting account. I have blogged it here: As a campaigner against the current official fashion of 'denormalising' smoking (because it legitimises hateful language being used against smokers) I agree that there is much wrong with Scottish media coverage on many levels (e.g. the post by Mary White above: reporters don't ask themselves the most basic questions about whether what they are being told in press releases is true). Whatever our take on party politics this is a bad problem affecting the whole UK, not just Scotland. I enjoyed Peter McColl's account too. Thank you.

Good post from Jo. The SNP is engaged in a campaign of conversion which is not well served by the severe ill feeling that exists for instance between Labour and the SNP. I first stood for election (council elections) in 1966 in Lanarkshire and there was a great deal of good natured rivlary between Labour and the SNP at that point. Both sets recognised that the other had a decent cause and there was a considerable common feeling on a lot of things - including a strong pro-independence sentiment among many Labour activists. Many didn't believe it was a likely option however. Then the SNP advance in Labour heartlands provoked hostility which was deliberately stirred up and encouraged in defence of the union.
I first met it at Winnie Ewing's victory at Hamilton at which I was a counting agent. The looks of the Labour activists' wives could have killed.

The media is our final frontier. With an uncorrupt press and media we would be within touching distance of independence.
But don't imagine that is our only barrier. The nearer we get the more unscrupulous will be our opposition and the final stages may be the most dangerous.

On the media issue the way ahead is online radio. You can talk to the whole world through broadband.

I am wary of attacking individual journalists and think this trend could make matters worse by putting them on the defensive when previously they were neutral. Those concerned about bias would be better concentrating on measurable things rather than their reaction to to this or that interview. (a good example would be the amount of time devoted to the coverage of the SNP conference). The only way you will prove bias is if you commission a neutral academic survey). While you may dislike Gordon Brewer's style, he does tend to give everyone the same sort of treatment. Sometimes he cuts to the core of the issue - which I like - on other occasions he labours the same point and we learn nothing. He was bested quite spectacularly by Michael Russell recently, but he had the good grace to laugh about it in the end.
I think that lack of time and space given to coverage of Scotland on television means Newsnight Scotland is like a fishbowl and I understand why people get angry if they feel it misrepresents them. If we had a greater variety and texture of coverage it wouldn't matter so much. You also need to be aware that the media sees its role as challenging politicians and government policy. The area where we have the strongest case in proving impartiality is the complete failure to explore the independence/more powers debate. It is favoured in degrees by a majority of the population, but this is not reflected - ever - in the lines of questioning. That means, by default, the lines of questioning are pro-unionist.

Oops, I mentioned Campbell of NS, I meant Gordon Brewer (although Campbell was just as bad when he was there!)

I think we're forgetting that many homes are still not connected to the internet and that not everyone has the time to surf around looking for news sites. The vast majority still rely on daily newspapers and news radio and tv broadcasts.

The huge issue for me, whether we talk internet or mainstream media, is the failure of both types to simply do what they are meant to do and report the news. What they actually do is report their slant of the news politically and that isn't honest. Reporting Scotland, Newsnight Scotland are both good examples of this where the political bias would take your breath away it is so blatant. Thankfully Isabel Fraser has been a breath of fresh air on Newsnight Scotland recently. But look at Campbell! He revels in sneering at others in his interviews, he is utterly rude and his behaviour is simply appalling when it comes to Party politics.

As for the Scottish papers, well, where to start! They are a disgrace. They tell lies constantly and at times they actually choose to not report particular things in order to protect certain Parties. That is shocking. It is actually a form of corruption.

You will get the same sort of bias on line and by all sides politically. I used to regularly visit one site which is pro-SNP (which I am myself) but I was shocked at the hostility and the outright bullying of people who criticised SNP policy even if it was done constructively. One particular bully claimed you shouldn't criticise the SNP unless you were a member of the Party and even then you should do it quietly, not publicly. That is simply absurd. Most voters do NOT belong to political Parties and these idiots ought to realise the impression THEY convey when they bully others and attempt to shoot people down by (wrongly) labelling them as closet Unionists. How must that come over to anyone who isn't sure yet about the SNP? Not good I would say. And the SNP has a lot of people to reach yet! These clowns are a great deal of the problem.

Scottish Review is utterly free of political bias and gets into real investigative journalism. It belongs in its own category I would say and I haven't seen anything else on line to touch it tarnished as many sites are by the usual types who are simply there to indulge in political sniping.

Thanks Craig,

I disagree with you. If you look at a breakdown of the Daily Mail readership you'd find they didn't all hold the same views as the paper. I don't know the cover price off my head, but in Scotland when it first made a sale drive a lot of the new readers were women attracted by the features. Setting aside the ghastly philosophy that drives it, the writing style has a different tone from the red tops tabloids ie it doesn't assume its readers are totally stupid. That it managed to do this while still maintaing a very strident position on most matters is one of life's great mysteries...

Ditto the "quality Scottish press" it will be bought be people of different political persuasions and none who believe that buying a Scottish paper will inform them of what is going on. There is also a loyalty factor. But as we both know that is increasingly weak.

Lastly and most importantly is the broadcast media that reaches the widest spectrum of people of all - both on radio and television and online. The fact that this media in particular doesn't give enough space to intelligent examination of Scottish public affairs, culture, politics et is a real problem. I would love to think that this blog attracted the range of people that watch Reporting Scotland or turn to the BBC Scotland website, but I fear that may not be the case...

However as I try to get across on the blogpost, we are in transition and nobody knows how things will turn out. The blogosphere is a vibrant place in Scotland but disparate and niche at the same time. The MSM still plays an important role in creating content...but the landscape in five years time might be totally different

Joan, as always, a good post but it was interesting to see you talk about bloggers just sticking with people who reinforce their own beliefs/have similar beliefs. While I think you are right, the very same charge could be made at the mainstream media which, for all of its wonders, hardly does much different - or did I miss the Daily Mail being nice to immigrants?

I was down to go but am laid up with flu. After reading your blog even more annoyed I didn't make it. How many MSP's attended or councillors or MP's? I fear we are just voices in the ether at the moment ,a little incestuous, a touch navel gazing. I hoped to hear how policy could be influnced and representation widened by the use of MSM and was interested in the suggestion of examining taking back land into community ownership, how did that go down?

Joan, my problem with the Scottish MSM is that even when it takes press-releases, it should be able to do some basic logic.

Take the story about TVs in prisons that is currently making the rounds. It takes nothing more than pressing a few keys on the calculator to see that the fees prisoners will pay for the TVs substantially exceeds the cost. Can you show me any MSM newspapers or the BBC mentioning that little fact? Or that this was a program that was started by Labour which is found out by a simple Google search.

Telling the truth about this story wouldn't have taken anything in the way of resources and was (and is) simply regurgitated to Labour's benefit. So I'm afraid the "lack of resources" excuse doesn't quite fly. Yes, newspapers have a lack of resources. They also have a lack of will to tell the truth, I'm afraid.

It was nice to meet you at the Political Innovations seminar. You've said most of what I wanted to say about the day, Joan, so I must think again about any points. I have already spoken about the apparent low interest at the seminar in YouTube as a vehicle for alternative viewpoints to the MSM (thanks for the abbreviation!) and said a bit about it - with examples - on my latest blog.

Interesting as ever Joan. I do feel, though, that you're being too generous to the unionist media. Is the occasional positive item worth all the 'lies, fears and smears' that passes for political coverage in that media? Personally, I believe the unionist media are a 'real and present danger' to Scottish democracy.

As someone who until recently favoured traditional media I found this post extremely interesting. I agree that there are many issues in Scottish politics which do not get the media coverage they deserve, and blogging and social media provides a good outlet.

May I be a wee bit shameless and link to my little blog?

Excellent exploration of the issues. Many of the frustrations of struggling to get alternative comments into the popular media are repeated in other areas; e.g this week on the relative treatment of tax and benefit 'fraud', 'avoidance' and 'evasion'. For some us these sets of issues - independence, inequality and inequity - are not unrelated. Having a space where they can be discussed with some intelligence across particular divides seems fundamental to moving on.

Interesting post showing off the ever widening range of quality bloggers here in Scotland. Refreshing to see such positive attitudes towered the genre as opposed to those in mainstream media who seem to revel all too often on knocking the individual writer who can, and does, have much to contribute to the wider debates in Scotland and further afield. Commentators such as Peter should be lauded for their passion and hugely enjoyable journalism. Having such gatherings seems a worthy way to explore future possibilities.

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