BBC Scotland is in the news again after the announcement that presenter Gary Robertson is facing redundancy. Crowds of protestors gathered yesterday outside Pacific Quay in Glasgow to protest at what they believed is an institutionalised bias against independence (‘Crisis-Hit BBC Scotland Faces Summer Of Disruption Amid Claims Of Bias‘) and the corporation now faces the threat of strike action.

On top of this, Bella Caledonia can exclusively reveal that the replacement for the popular Headlines programme on Radio Scotland on Sunday mornings fronted by Ken MacDonald, will be called ‘Crossfire’ and will be hosted by Labour MSP, Kezia Dugdale. If confirmed it would be a incredible appointment for a public body under close scrutiny for bias during such a crucial period.

Our source inside the BBC inside said:

“There is going to be hell to pay – but does the BBC even care? The BBC has become the story – and that is their own fault. Roll on the SBS.”
The Headlines programme had cross-party respect for the avuncular and experienced hosting by Ken MacDonald. The show had innovated in reporting from the more independent blogsphere rather than just from the Unionist-supporting press. Bella was still waiting for a response from BBC Scotland at the time of publishing.
This should be a golden era for news and current  affairs broadcasting in Scotland, with a reverse brain-drain and the world’s focus on our political debate, yet a combination of chronic underfunding, desperate lack of creative imagination and hopelessly partial management has created a crisis.
As Christopher Silver writes in the forthcoming issue of Closer on the subject of under-funding:

There is the obvious £145 million gap between what the BBC raises and spends in Scotland. What’s more, very few Scots will be aware that the nation recently lost out to Wales as the site for a major new film and high end TV studio to be built by Pinewood. This has been met by investment from the Welsh government of up to £30 million. Scotland’s film budget last year was £4 million.

In January this year the BBC Trust found BBC Scotland guilty of having misled the public after a Reporting Scotland item from January 2013 on EU membership post-independence, misrepresented an Irish politician.

The reporter responsible, Raymond Buchanan, resigned from the BBC days before the Trust announced its intention to carry out an investigation.

Writing in today’s Scotsman newspaper Lesley Riddoch has said:

While referendum programmes produced by a mixture of “imported” and seconded staff have been getting lukewarm reviews from viewers and critics, day-to-day spending on BBC Scotland’s “bread and butter” programmes seems to have been cut and morale is at an all-time low.

This industrial relations meltdown is taking place just weeks before the most important democratic, sporting and media moments in Scotland for hundreds of years. BBC Scotland managers have previously stonewalled critics, refused to appear before Holyrood committees and tried to fob off unions. I suspect that won’t work this time.

Now, with a well documented academic report suggesting heavy bias, public anger and protests likely to build and a vote of no confidence in BBC Scotland management proposed unless Robertson’s dismissal is rescinded within a week, this is the biggest crisis faced by BBC Scotland since Zircon.


Comments (47)

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  1. Derek says:

    BBC Scotland is on its last legs. Goob riddance to the biased British State TV.

  2. majormacbloodnok says:

    Mike, the appointment of Kezia Dugdale to a BBC news programme NOW?! Really? It doesn’t seem credible … yet….

    1. I actually thought I had clicked onto BBC Scotlandshire!
      Satire is dead. Though propaganda, it appears, it alive and kicking!

  3. Auld Rock says:

    IMPARTIALITY???? WELL, WELL, WELL. I ask you if it had not just happened you would never have believed that the Bettertogether Broadcasting Corpn. could be so stupid. Well I won’t be listening to WEE Johannes puppet.

    Auld Rock

  4. Is BBC Scotland seriously going to employ Kezia Dugdale to host a news programme when it’s paying off its own journalists and parachuting in London Scots?

    No wonder morale is so low Pacific Quay! It looks as though they’ll do anything rather than invest in their own staff!

  5. Big Jock says:

    Yes if that comes off it’s almost like BBC saying we are Labour Unionists and we don’t care! There is clearly a fundamentalist madman in charge….isolation ward shortly for him!

  6. Steve Bowers says:

    Not Fifi la Boom Boom are the BBC really that stupid ? they’re credibility is already in tatters online, the “free” press should be having a field day with this but their acquiescence is in the words of JoLa, “astonishing”

  7. Big Jock says:

    Also shades of Rangers: “Everybody hates us we don’t care”.

  8. johnny boy says:

    “..that the replacement for the popular Headlines programme on Radio Scotland on Sunday mornings fronted by Ken MacDonald, will be called ‘Crossfire’ and will be hosted by Labour MSP, Kezia Dugdale.”

    Are you Scotlandshire in disguise? Surely a spoof.

  9. Big Jock says:

    you would think STV would be all over the BBC like a rash but nothing so far!

  10. Iain says:

    Even BBC Scotland’s management couldn’t suggest a Labour MSP as a presenter of any kind of programme in the regulated period. This must be a rumour that started as a joke but has taken legs. I understand the links between BBC Scotland and Labour, through family and marriage, but thus can’t be true. Surely?

  11. Margaret Brogan says:

    This is a joke, isn’t it?

  12. Clootie says:

    It has to be a wind up! Even the BBC wouldn’t be that stupid.

  13. muttley79 says:

    If Kezia Dugdale really is replacing Ken McDonald then there will be fireworks! Surely even BBC Scotland would not be as stupid as that?..

  14. Gordoz says:

    Pretty sure STV and BBCBT are in cahoots anyway; thus the lack of reporting on pertinent issues.

  15. Derrick says:

    Not sure whether to believe this or not – it’s quite demonstrably a step too far, even for MacQuarrie & Boothman and I’m not sure they’re stupid enough to try and pull this one off. I wonder if it’s the old “Scare the pants off them first” tactic whereby getting away with something bad(Gary Robertson’s sacking) is easy if at first they threaten to do something diabolical(Crossfire with Fifi). Backpedalling on the latter makes having to accept the former seem like a let-off.
    Time will tell.

  16. bellacaledonia says:

    Rumour has it that Kezia Dugdale will be co-hosting with Andrew Wilson – SNP commentator. Whilst this – if true – changes the main allegation of bias – it does not change the other issues around the shift from professional broadcast journalists being replaced, As Andy Wightman tweeted: @andywightman · 43m
    @LesleyRiddoch Eh? Two non-journalists to present a key journalistic programme? And one a serving MSP? Has BBC gone mad?

    The other key point is: what exactly was wrong with Ken MacDonald’s Headlines? It seemed to hold wide respect. One suspects is that his (or producers?) innovation of citing the blogosphere rather than just referencing the unionist media in an endless circular loop was not approved of.

    1. Derrick says:

      Just checked my twitter timeline and I’m frankly gobsmacked. The glee with which this has all been received by the usual Labour social media subjects tells you all you need to know. Surprised Andrew Wilson didn’t dismiss the suggestion out of hand.

  17. rickdebrux says:

    The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

  18. Seanair says:

    Andrew Wilson should withdraw, leaving Dugdale to stew until the BBC sees the error of its ways and reinstalls Ken MacDonald.

  19. andrew>reid says:

    Ken Macdonald’s approach and style made the programme, the only one I would ever take the trouble to search out on iplayer If I missed it. Replacing him with an MSP is beyond bizarre in its thinking and Andrew Wilson simply doesn’t have the persona or radio style. What is going on at the BBC – taxi for the management!

  20. Lochside says:

    Things are so bad at Pathetic Quay that credence can be given to this rumour. Never mind Smith and Naughtie, what about Coletta Smith?
    Yeah who? she’s the ‘Referendum’ ‘Economist expert’ who is currently doing ‘reports’ from the ‘Border’.

    Where? between Ireland and N.ireland. The purpose? well…good point. Today it was about the comparative prices between fuel and food (Tesco’s if your interested..surely advertising breach here?).

    The real narrative? Look how better together you’d be in Britain by not paying high prices in a poor, wee, and bankrupt Independent country, unlike a heavily subsidised province perhaps?

    The BBC is beyond redemption.

  21. BBC Bias” – grousebeater.wordpress

  22. Tog says:

    Little confused as reading the piece you might think Gary Robertson’s redundancy is connected to the protest but that is not the case I think. Also is the report on BBC bias the
    John Robertson report as it is not a wholly credible piece of research? Certainly the Robertson reports finds bias in GMS against the Yes side and as Gary is one of the main presenters of that programme it all get more and more intertwined. If the BBC has a fault in it’s coverage it is blandness rather than bias. Rarely is either side really challenged except perhaps on the now departed Newsnight Scotland. Scotland 2014 takes this blandness to new heights hence the viewing figures. The fault for this is largely to do with the two sides of the debate who so love to kick at the BBC it is neutered. Perhaps that is why instead of putting their own presenters in the firing line they are lining up a show co presented by a nat and a labour person? Funding of current affairs is an ongoing problem at the BBC at a UK as well as a Scottish level hence the current state of the main Newsnight programme. To use a word that has come up in the campaign the BBC are frit and have good reason to be frit. The real question is perhaps can a state broadcaster deliver vigorous current affairs broadcasting under constant criticism from the parties and under constant attack from a small bunch of cyber followers. The answer is probably not really and it is the generality of the public who misses out on a good service as the BBC tries to placate small but very vocal minorities.

    1. rickdebrux says:

      What is the colour of the sky on your planet?

    2. Capella says:

      They didn’t look very frit to me as they stonewalled the Holyrood Committee – arrogant, defiant, supercilious spring to mind as more appropriate.
      And who are the “small bunch of cyber followers” who constantly attack the BBC? Do you mean YES supporters who object to the daily barrage of bias?

    3. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi ‘TOG’ – sorry for any confusion, the piece was intended to convey the multiple crisis facing the station, not that they are directly related. Although they are, in my opinion, in that it is about bad management and an endemic cultural problem. I’d be interested to know what your critique of John Robertson’s research is?

      1. Tog says:

        Thanks, I, probably my fault, thought at first the protest was to get Gary reinstated which was not the case. The Robertson research while interesting is not exactly scientific and is often perhaps unfairly dismissed because of Robertson’s admitted firmly held views on independence. The side proposing change are always more likely to have to justify why in a debate of this type, more so than those supporting no change. So the fact that more stories about potential problems with independence lead the news would I think be expected and might not necessarily be a sign of bias. I will have to look at his research again. Deep problems exist at BBC Scotland, and the BBC in general, whilst a lot of great work is done. I still think the main problem with the referendum coverage is they are too timid. Considering the rich material the programmes have been a bit thin and dull. if the parties have cause to complain I think the journalists have more cause. Never have so many people been so on message with exactly the same answers for so long. A number of male labour mps have done themselves no favours and the “consequences” remark about Marr sent a wee shiver down my spine. Not having the wit or courage to go beyond the party line is a bore, a frustration and an embarrassment and I wish more chairs would take people on when they do this. What is a subject with many suitable shades and no clear answers has been reduced to a simple black and white your ideas are ridiculous and you are an idiot rammy on too many occasions. I was and I think and hope remain a yes but we deserve better and in particular a more considered debate. You get that here mainly but even here too many opinions are given as facts and some statements are not as considered as they could be

    4. Shabba says:

      This is an excellent analysis, very close to the PQ truth.

  23. lenathehyena says:

    I chuckled at this – Labour’s Kezia Dugdale. Then it struck me you were being serious. Isn’t BBC Scotland already packed with enough Labourites? The news is run by them and while appointing Sarah Smith was audacious given her close personal links with Labour it stopped short of having an actual Labour MSP fronting a political show.

    BBC management really doesn’t care. It’s guaranteed our money and feels it can do whatever the hell it likes. And it can – can’t it?

  24. gonzalo1 says:

    I have grown to hate the BBC after decades of being in favour of the state broadcasting model, no adverts, model. We must, as a collective, be able to rectify this. Ideas anyone?

    1. Shabba says:

      Yes, let’s stop questioning the government of the day!

  25. Tocasaid says:

    Enjoyed MacDonald.

    Can’t believe Dugdale is being lined up. She’s the eejit who opposed BBC Alba. Wonder how she squares that one?

    1. Shabba says:

      Alba is viewerless, and has to be propped up by the footie, kind of proving her point

      1. And your evidence, other than simply your anti Gaelic prejudice, for your “Alba is viewerless” comment?

  26. Wullie says:

    The only other Kezia I’ve encountered is Kezia Lavvy Door. 🙂

  27. D.J. says:

    Why is the Head of BBC Scotland – it happens to be Ken MacQuarrie just now (just to make it clear this is not personal, this is about the responsibility that comes with such a position) – SO silent? People would have far more respect for MacQuarrie and others, such as Head of Talent’ and ‘Editorial’, D I Brown, if they engaged with the media.

    D I Brown who was brilliantly caught out by Kenneth Roy in his expose of BBC expenses for claiming a pound: £1.00 for the discomfort of having to drive from Queen Margaret Drive to One Devonshire Gardens.

    Perhaps the ‘Head of Talent’ negotiated Gary Robertson’s flimsy ‘Talent Contract’? Perhaps ken MacQuarrie had a hand in his sacking? Perhaps it was neither of them. Who knows? There are too many unanswered questions here.

    Who can blame us for speculation? Their news management, or lack of it, is the biggest irony in this story.

  28. Iain says:

    Maybe the BBC could embark on another wacky scheme in referendum year, like letting a Tory MP, planning a hands across the border jamboree in the summer, make a documentary to prove that the border is an illusion and historical misunderstanding. No, that’s just too improbable.

  29. Iain Hill says:

    How do they explain the sudden appearance of Sarah Smith, Labour royalty, on a show directly connected to 2014?

  30. Niall Maclennan says:

    Classic smoke and mirrors. Gary Robertson becomes the story, and not the bias. Deflection at its best.

  31. Jim says:

    Dear oh dear.

    Just when you think the BBC couldn’t get any more biased against the Yes campaign it employs a Labour and unionist MSP to front a radio show! You really couldn’t make it up. As much as I like Andrew Wilson, he should refuse to have anything to do with it. A Yes supporting MSP should be co-presenting. Patrick Harvie perhaps.

  32. G. P. Walrus says:

    Correction: I hear the new Sunday morning radio show is actually to be called “Backfire”.

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