RTs are Not Endorsements

The news that two politicians who have more than many experienced smear, personal attacks, racism, sexism and political bias should start-up their own TV production company and programme should not come as a surprise. But Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik and Alex Salmond’s decision to launch broadcasting with RT (Russia Today) has met with a wall of hysteria. Chris Deerin used his New Statesman platform to equate it with the fall in public standards of sexual harassment at Westminster and George Foulkes called him a traitor. in that vanguard of civil liberties and freedom, the Daily Express.

This has led to a tribal and binary debate about the BBC versus RT, as if this was the choice we have to make.

The following statements are all true:

The BBC is a highly problematic public broadcaster that has lost much credibility over recent years through coverage and reporting which is seen as partial, biased and, in Scotland, woefully under-resourced.

Programmes like Question Time are widely derided as being partisan constructs rather than current affairs platforms for democratic debate.

Individuals like Nick Robinson, John Humphreys and Laura Kuenssberg are seen as political figures rather than political commentators from people well beyond the confines of tin-hat nationalists.

It is also a state broadcaster, and the coverage of state occasions and omnipresent ‘royal parades’ is laughably and unconsciously deferential…as this neatly dubbed North Korea commentary over footage of Britain’s Royal Family shows …

BUT

The BBC is not a single monolithic content provider, instead being made up of contributions from myriad production companies – the content of which is good, indifferent, bad and awful.

The BBC is made up of hundreds of journalists, some great, some awful, some bias some fair-minded. To attack them all, or to treat them like one coordinated actor is childish. Some of their programme is awful, some of it brilliant. Panorama, Eorpa, Blue Planet, Louis Theroux. Strictly. Take your pick.

AND

The point of framing the debate to you have to decide to either ‘back the BBC’ or ‘back RT’ is stupid.

As Gordon Guthrie points out, the BBC broke the story on Priti Patel that led to her resignation. You won’t be seeing that on RT anytime soon, nor have you on any Russian state channels. He asks: “If you think the BBC is the same as RT ask yourself when did Russia state telly last do a story that caused a ministerial resignation – like the Beeb did with Priti Patel?”

It is also true that RT is, in some sense, “the mouthpiece of a regime that murders journalists” as Peter Geoghegan has pointed out.

And we will come to talking about Russia a bit more in a second…

BUT

There is also multiple hypocrisy from many frothing at the mouth about Salmond who have willfully ignored the attacks on media freedom in Catalonia or the BBC’s coverage of the constitutional crisis in Spain. At one point the BBC showed Spanish policemen attacking Catalan firefighters with batons – and described it as ‘police jostling with firefighters’.

As Illiam Costain has pointed out: “I get the disquiet about it – but the history of opprobrium is revealing: 2005: RT gets license to broadcast in UK (Lab Gov, no outrage); 2014: Launch of RT UK, with HQ in London (Con/LD Gov, no outrage); 2017: RT to broadcast Salmond programme (former SNP leader, outrage).”

As he points out – RT are either fit to have a broadcast licence, or they’re not.

There is a feeling – particularly about the idea of Salmond engaging in a “coup” at the Scotsman – that the barbarians are at the barricades. Some of Scotland’s really establishment entrenched journalists are so deep-in that they don’t realise how ridiculous this sounds. It’s like saying: “I stand up for the sacred values of journalism by ensuring that pluralism cannot exist.” According to these messengers, political views which are endorsed to the extent that they make up our elected government are considered so beyond the pale that they simply cannot have a role in newspapers.

BUT

Russia is an authoritarian state with an appalling record on human rights, assaults on media freedom, homophobia, aggressive military intervention, murky covert black ops, support for sick regimes abroad and violent repression of dissent at home.

This should be said over and over again and neither collusion nor endorsement, however tacit should be tolerated.

The emerging reality about Russian interference in the US election and the Brexit referendum is an attack on democracy that makes raking though Jackie Birds twitter feed look like political infantilism.

In this context Salmond’s media choices look highly ill-judged but it is not he who is the ‘useful idiot’ of Unionist hysteria.

As JJ Patrick has written:

“Nigel Farage, former UKIP leader and MEP, Arron Banks, UK donor and backer of Leave.EU, and Andrew Wigmore, a Belizian diplomat and endeavour partner of both, are the best known of the Useful Fools in the United Kingdom.

All of them are currently under investigation or scrutiny in some way or another, in the both the United States and the United Kingdom – whether it be by the FBI under the Mueller inquiry, the EU over funding frauds, the police because of Breitbart payments to UKIP, the ICO over Leave.EU’s data use and sharing arrangements, or by the Electoral Commission over their receipt of services from controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica and Banks’s own finances.

They are deeply embedded in the establishment of fake and alternative news, proactively working with Steve Bannon – senior in the Trump Administration, Breitbart, and Cambridge Analytica – Russia’s state-led outlets RT and Sputnik, and have even created their own platform, Westmonster.

Alongside this, they are also connected through the use of their own social media bots and Russia’s, to push their messaging – which also ties them to InfoWars – and will become central in the growing calls for inquiries into Russian interference in Brexit.” More at Byline here.

This form of anti-democracy with thinly-veiled threats against journalism has leaked into Britain. Here Arron Banks threatens the exemplary Carole Cadwalladr:

As Patrick reminds us:

“Putin’s Kremlin was built upon the KGB and the blood of organised crime”. He continues: “…we are now living in the wake of a complex hybrid offensive, an Alternative War which saw Russia deploy a new range of psychological and cyber weapons with the assistance of far-right relationships cultivated over years.”

In this context Salmond’s decision is not just morally but tactically wrong. However rotten Britain’s media is, however corrupt Britain’s foreign policy is, doesn’t change that.

BUT

As George Monbiot wrote way back in December in 2014:

“Scotland is rudely interrupting the constructed silences that stifle political thought in the UK. This is why the oligarchs who own the media hate everything that is happening there: their interests are being exposed in a way that is currently impossible south of the border. For centuries, Britain has been a welfare state for patrimonial capital. It’s time we broke it open, and broke the culture of deference that keeps us in our place”.

Of course there are ways in which Salmond can silence his critics, by inviting on to his show opponents not just of the British government but of the Russian government, which he may well do.

The choice is not between the voices of the state broadcasters of Britain or Russia but should be about building a democratic independent media.

Comments (62)

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  1. James Munro says:

    Mike, like you, I am more than uneasy with Salmonds RT choice. However, there appears little alternative. A new Scottish Media can only be established by having new Scottish Production Companies develop and deliver high quality content and sell it to the broadcasters.

    Depressingly Scotland will never be permitted to create an SBC whilst in the Union.

    I believe Salmond is aiming to have his company’s media content screened via the back door and once established may make it onto a UK broadcasters slot, although I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  2. Gordon Bickerton says:

    Would be interesting to know if the show was offered to any other broadcaster.
    Alex and Tasmina are not stupid people.

    1. MBC says:

      It was. STV, BBC, ITV, and C4 were all offered but declined.

  3. Paul Carline says:

    “Russia is an authoritarian state with an appalling record on human rights, assaults on media freedom, homophobia, aggressive military intervention, murky covert black ops, support for sick regimes abroad and violent repression of dissent at home.”

    Proof please … Accusing Russia of “aggressive military intervention [where and when?], murky covert black ops [details?], [and] support for sick regimes abroad” is a wonderfully risible case of the pot calling the kettle black. All of those accusations fit the US and UK far better than Russia under Putin.

    I’m disappointed to find Bella publishing this kind of ill-informed Russophobia – and, by contrast, a mere slap on the wrist for the BBC, which is one of the leading propaganda machines in the world, complicit in multiple war crimes and obsessive about concealing the truth of state-sponsored terrorism.

    The allegation of Russian interference in the US presidential elections (and Brexit – really?) is completely devoid of evidence. This was a desperate attempt by the Clinton camp to cover up for Killary’s failure (and her and the DNC’s theft of the primary).

    ‘Authoritarian’ Russia has just saved Syria from the complete devastation wrought on Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Libya by western ‘democracies’ – who, together with their allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel – are solely responsible for creating ISIS and for the hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of displaced persons in Syria (to add to the millions sacrificed to western interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere)..

    Do the people who continue to falsely demonise Russia understand the consequences for Britain and Europe – where the creation of an EU army under a centralised command and control system (probably located in Germany) and entirely based on the fiction of a Russian (military) “threat” is proceeding with no democratic legitimacy? All part of the “control through fear” programme used by all essentially fascist systems: the need to invent an external ‘enemy’ to get people to accept a progressive loss of civil rights and individual freedoms.

    1. You require proof of Russia’s authoritarianism and assault on freedom of the press? Really?

      1. Jeof says:

        Russia’s authoritarianism and assault on freedom of the press good, UK/US/Israel authoritarianism and assault on freedom of the press better?

        1. No. As I said, both bad. It’s a completely false dichotomy.

      2. Jo says:

        With respect Mike, you didn’t address many of Paul’s highly valid points.

        Since Trump’s election both medias on either side of the pond have been in overdrive on Russia to the extent that it’s become a joke! If any media is in the hands of dodgy people it’s ours! No evidence has been presented. We just get screeds of unsubstantiated allegations presented as fact. There are many real facts around concerning our own toxic dealings with other countries we invaded and tore apart in our quest for “regime change”. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

        1. I didn’t address Paul’s points because I was incredulous, but I will.

          I do like your assertion that ‘no evidence has been presented’ and will deal with that particularly
          entertaining thought shortly.

          You say Jo: “There are many real facts around concerning our own toxic dealings with other countries we invaded and tore apart in our quest for “regime change”. Let’s not pretend otherwise.”

          I don’t and there are.

    2. Concerned citizen says:

      Ukrainians – soldiers and civilians – are still dying in the east of their country fighting Russian aggression and occupation, which Moscow continues to deny is even happening. I’d step out of the bubble, if i were you.

      1. Jo says:

        Occupation? The people of Crimea voted to remain with Russia in a referendum! You know, after the coup supported by the west, the one that brought down the original Ukraine government? It shouldn’t amuse anyone but you can’t help but laugh at how we pick and choose which causes we will support and which we won’t recognise! What utter hypocrites we are!

    3. Graham says:

      Some of the comments suggesting that the Russian regime is unproblematic are bizarre. I think we can agree that Russia/UK/USA and their useful idiots are rogue regimes – Chomsky reckons the USA/UK are the greatest terrorists states. But it’s a bit like wondering who was the greatest mass murderer: Hitler, Stalin or Mao.

      One difference is worthy of note and that is a Chomsky isn’t under threat, while Wiki has a list of journalists whose deaths in Russia have been, let’s say, “suspicious”.

      But all this misses the point of the article. Unfortunately, too often typical of some Bella readers.

      1. Craig MacDonald says:

        The whole article is badly written and one-sided even if it was not the author’s intention. To slant Russia as “Russia is an authoritarian state with an appalling record on human rights, assaults on media freedom, homophobia, aggressive military intervention, murky covert black ops, support for sick regimes abroad and violent repression of dissent at home.” Why stop at Russia with this as the UK is seen in those contexts by many across the globe. All you have to do is look at our own position regarding human rights from the UN. The constant attack on the poor and disabled in this country. Many in the Scottish independence movement wonder at why the Spanish Government took the road they did, instead of following Westminster to give the vote and then change it by use of their secret service. Many people watch RT simply because they can no longer trust the News Media in this country. One only has to look at the Scottish Referendum and how every point was seized on by a rabid media no question was too much regardless of how many times it had been answered. Yet nothing was truly questioned with Brexit, the media went along with all the claims that could have been destroyed in minutes, but went on unquestioned, like good little Westminster puppies the News Media rolled over to get their bellies scratched almost the same way this article has. Therefore to accuse RT as a government mouth-piece is ridiculous as almost every single news media outlet is a government mouth-piece as that is where they get 90% of their information from. If your intention was to really give a balanced piece then I suggest you go back and re-write it and take most of your opinions out.

        1. LOL Craig – re-write an Opinion piece and take out all of the opinion? That sounds like a fun idea.

          RT don’t actually deny being a govt mouthpiece. It’s not even debatable.

          When you say “All you have to do is look at our own position regarding human rights from the UN. The constant attack on the poor and disabled in this country” – I wonder have you ever read anything written in this website at all over the last decade, as these issues have been our main focus?

          Thanks for commenting.

    4. Pogliaghi says:

      Prime example of the filter bubble effect here. Presumably you wouldn’t know about Putin’s estimated £40 billion stolen wealth, murder of opposition journalists and politicians like Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, and brutal suppression of Chechnya and Chechnyan terrorism that makes MI5 look like the Tellytubbies, because you’re getting your info on Russia from RT. (Or you may, alternatively, think the above are CIA disseminated myths.)

  4. Grafter says:

    Oh dear. Another gullible western mouthpiece spouting the usual mantra re Russia. Like a stuck record from “meddling in US elections” to “Russian aggression”. Despite some insightful comments this piece loses credibility. Let us not lose site of the fact that the BBC is a disgusting piece of state broadcasting propaganda and one one which we have to pay for unlike RT.

    1. Richard Wickenden (ex Tory from the mid-ninetys) says:

      Very well said. We have to pay the British Bullshite Company to watch all other TV channels either on Freeview or Fresat. We don’t have to pay to watch Russia Today or Aljazeera English both of which give better coverage of UK news without bias.

      1. “RT give coverage of K news without bias”.

        Ok.

  5. Brian watters says:

    Lets look at political manipulation of a country by media then – the BBC practically invented UKIP, they put Farage or one of his chums on almost every programme and gave him huge exposure. There was lots of chumminess and back slapping going on. Ukip were on out tv screens far more than any libdem or snp mp could even dream of even though Ukip had no mps, and they had little or no party structures. All Ukip had was Farage, and Farage had the BBC in his pocket and of course the anti EU English press barons just loved him to bits.
    The BBC mercilessly mocked, slandered, smeared and ridiculed Corbyn the moment he became leader of Labour im much the same way as they attacked the SNP in 2013/14. Imagine if the BBC hadnt given Farage all that exposure and had at least been fair to Corbyn, given the closeness of the Brexit vote and the closeness of the 2017 election result Corbyn would definitely be prime minister now and we would probably still be in the EU! I know its difficult to interpate different outcomes to past events but in the case of the UK, when we have a good look around at our current political, economic and constitutional chaos, and the totally inept and heartless government we now have, who should we be most concered about? Who is it that has time and time again malignantly manipulated our democratic system, RT or the BBC ? I know who i regard as the enemy.

    1. Al of this is true, though none of it makes RT a good broadcaster. As I stated it is a false choice.

      1. brian watters says:

        I dont say RT is a good broadcaster and i dont see this issue as a binary choice in any way. I dont really have a gripe with RT, i dont watch their channel.
        However i do have concerns with the BBC and the hypocrisy of this RT hooha just highlight those concerns even more. I do not agree that being a good broadcaster in other areas should be taken into account like a balance sheet when talking about the BBCs political output or their malign influence on British politics. BBC Drama making a great remake of Poldark doesnt mitigate for the BBCs political journalists slaughtering Jeremy Corbyn and being completely and blatantly biased against the Yes movement.
        Id say that judging the BBC news positively because of the great drama or nature programmes they produce is like cheering the Borgia for being in charge during the renaissance of Italian Art and culture.

        1. I didnt judge the BBC news positively – in fact I’ve written about problems about the BBC news and current affairs for a decade or more. I just said that the BBC is in fact a mix of content produced by lots and lots of production companies and not one monolithic block.

          1. JGedd says:

            However, you did set up the dichotomy. RT has often put out interesting, independently made documentaries which have investigated and given insight into Third World situations which often pass under the radar of our media, as well as revealing investigations of the underbelly of US society.

            However, I view RT’s output, particularly stand-up news, with the same bias filters on with which I would have watched BBC over more than three decades. Like many others, I think that has given me a certain ability to detect biased commentary – remembering BBC reporting of the miner’s strike, the Afghanistan/Soviet conflict, NATO’s intervention in the Balkan war, both Iraq wars etc….

            I think that this is a confusing argument, including as you do some of the excellent documentaries and drama productions put out on BBC. It is BBC’s lack of impartiality in its news’ output which causes so much criticism and the fact that the viewing public have to pay for it. You assume that we are so unsophisticated as to be unable to suss out an agenda. Years of watching BBC news broadcasting is excellent training in that regard.

            All reporting has an agenda, even your own discourse on Bella is directed by your own opinions. You seem intent on the political argument of West versus Russia which is not really relevant, since as someone on this thread has already indicated, it’s like comparing serial killers. I know about Putin’s Russia and don’t require a lecture on its many evils and having lived through several decades of American and UK politics I think I have supped full of its many horrors.

            In my own mind anyway, I think I am perfectly capable of using my own hard-won experience of detecting perfidious manipulation to be able to view different sources and decide what leans closest to the truth. Viewing RT or BBC content requires the same bullshit monitoring. I intend to be as cynical and watchful with both outfits, thank you.

          2. Hi JGedd – I didn’t set up the dichotomy, I responded to a wave of people justifying Salmond’s position by saying “But but but … the BBC”.

            You say: “All reporting has an agenda, even your own discourse on Bella is directed by your own opinions.” Absolutely, of course.

  6. Anne Duncan says:

    Seems to be making out it’s all Russian media. It’s RT UK run by journalist and other staff in the UK for the UK… Russian RT pays the bills but has so far NEVER interfered with any of the broadcasts.

    Salmond was questioned on his decision to take a show with RT. However, he defended the channel, and explained that his interviews have always been broadcast without slant or edit, even when he has criticised Russia. He said the “mistakes and successes” of the show will all be his own.
    You can hear what he said here: https://www.rt.com/uk/409438-alex-salmond-rt-show/

      1. JPJ2 says:

        You heard it so why not accept that it is true?. If you do, then I cannot see how Salmond’s action will be anything other than a positive for the Yes movement.

  7. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Another centimetre to the Right and we’ll have lost you, Mike. Your decision entirely, of course.

    1. This is assuming that Putin’s Russia is ‘left’.

      Keep up.

      This is an authoritarian regime supported by oligarchs running turbo capitalism. What’s ‘left’ about that?

    2. Pogliaghi says:

      How ironic to see Bella on the receiving end of the uber-reductive labeling it increasingly metes out to critics… Perhaps throwing some light on why “I declare this opinion vaguely redolent of the ‘right wing’ and therefore wrong” is such a puerile line of attack.

      In this case Bella is right.

  8. Andrew Morton says:

    Excellent article.

    By the way, it’s ‘biased’ not ‘bias’.

  9. Dominic Berry says:

    I like RT. They often say things I don’t hear from the mainstream media. I’m sure they have their own biases, as may Alex Salmond have his too.

    But I refuse to waste time watching BBC Scotland. Why are my taxes, which should be aiming at balance, clearly being used for Whitehall propaganda? The Russians, for all their faults, and they have many I agree, the Russians don’t take my money so they can lie to me.

    If MSM really think they’re better,
    why do they shrink from a real debate?
    Why do they fear competition?
    Surely that is the commanding ethos of their free market ideology ?

  10. Jim Bennett says:

    So, Bella contends that it is “morally wrong” for Alex Salmond’s production company to sell its programmes to RT. Presumably, then Bella believes that Salmond would be morally wrong for his company to sell its programmes to the BBC? Just who should he sell his programmes to?

    “Russia is a (… state with …) aggressive military intervention, murky covert black ops, support for sick regimes abroad and violent repression of dissent at home.”

    Substitute Russia with the UK.

    Save the moralising. Salmond is earning a crust just like the rest of us. After all, Bella just accepted my money in its fundraising. That doesn’t mean that you accept this armchair anarchist’s, republican, Iran visiting politics in total. Or did I buy your undying commitment to violent revolution?

  11. Valerie says:

    It’s the hypocrisy that is sickening. Almost every vocal politician screaming for blood has appeared on RT. There is a roll call of current politicians who have all appeared on RT.

    David Cameron had no problem asking Putin to intervene to speak up about how bad indyref was in 2014, whilst Ruth was telling us Putin would be the first to invade independent Scotland. London licks the arse of any passing Russian Oligarch, and more than happy to invite Russians over here to study etc.

    The UK currently has a record in broken Human Rights, and ignores requests by the UN to stop selling arms to Saudi. We have a resigned Minister sneaking around Israel doing God knows what.

    I will make up my own mind, as I do with anything. I will be watching Salmonds show to see if it’s propaganda. The one thing I know about the man is he delivers his own messages, and he’s nobody’s mouthpiece. I’m pretty sure it will have been pitched here, but strange no takers.

    Look how much we learn from watching Max Keiser, his expose of American fracking as a ponzi scheme helped our campaign here.

    Going Underground who hosts most UK politicians is headed by a very able ex BBC journalist.

    Enough with the self righteous indignation.

  12. SleepingDog says:

    I am reminded of Akira Kurosawa’s classic movie Rashomon:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon

    where conflicting stories of one event are told in turn by a bandit, a woman traveller, her samurai husband, and a woodcutter. The viewer is left to work out if a single, coherent truth can emerge from these (presumably biased and self-serving) accounts.

    Sometimes you will be left with a common bias that runs (less obviously) through a set of conflicting accounts. Media organisations like the BBC and RT (and Al Jazeera, the Daily Express and the rest) have many things in common. Sometimes bias is hidden in the format, or in rules supposedly written to achieve some fine-sounding standard, or in the omissions (which are generally harder to spot). So you need some media analysis tools, some model, some rules of thumb.

    Mike is surely right that the BBC and similar organisations are broad churches, and it may be better (more effective as well as pleasant) to praise the good parts rather than curse the bad. Darwinian natural selection works on reproduction as well as untimely death.

    If you take the broad church of Microsoft, successive engagement with more progressive groups within the business has moved company policy a long way from closed, proprietary software models towards openness and interoperability. Sure, it makes business sense, but the arguments had to be made and won against more conservative elements with an obsolete business model. Microsoft might still be EvilCorp to many, but the change (and opportunities it brings) is striking, and it was brought about with engagement with open software advocates (within and without).

    Whether Salmond’s show is a success rather depends on your hopes for it. They may be hoping that the UK tries to censor or otherwise interfere with it. However, Salmond’s recent Edinburgh show was reportedly rather dull, and he has had plenty of opportunity to speak in the one place in the UK with a guarantee of freedom of speech: Parliament. If he chooses to introduce revelations by politicians in a television show rather than the Commons or Lords, then this rather looks like a systematic failure, either of governance, conscience or nerve. But worse if it turns out to be cosy chats.

    1. Grafter says:

      Sleeping Dog……another unionist troll. Salmonds shows have been sell outs generally. Your belief in politicians speaking out under a corrupt and venal political structure including unelected lords is mind boggling. Back to your basket.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Grafter, you seem to illustrate Mike’s caution about jumping to (the wrong) binary conclusions. In case I was not clear, when I said “systematic failure, either of governance, conscience or nerve” then I was referring to our system of Parliamentary government, where party expediency or career-mindedness often seems to override considerations of greater good. So that was criticism, not support.

    2. Valerie says:

      A dull show at Edinburgh fringe according to his vast band of journalist admirers? It was the usual detractors calling it dull. It was a sell out by any standards. A wide array of guests appeared in it.

      If dull is the word for successful, then yeah, it was dull.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Valerie, better zealots than sell-outs, to mangle an opinion by Tony Benn? I seem to remember that one reviewer was looking forward to Salmond’s show, and was disappointed. Perhaps his expectations were off-kilter. Decide for yourself:
        https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/aug/13/alex-salmond-unleashed-scotland-first-minister-edinburgh-review

        Maybe I would have enjoyed the show. However, I reserve the right to question economic or seat-filling success as measure of entertainment quality or political insight, and equally a sell-out crowd may go home disappointed. For what it’s worth, if I had to offer an opinion, I would say that Salmond is clearly one of the most capable performers amongst politicians of the current (fairly dismal) British crop. But then I’m not a subscriber to the Great Man Theory of History, and expect flaws and off-days in our leaders.

        1. JPJ2 says:

          Dull!? Who on earth anticipated that he would have arch Brexiteer David Davies on his Fringe show?

          I wait with great interest to see who his guests will be on RT. I expect his programme will be much more interesting and varied than that of yet another overrated Brit Nat presenter, the truly dull, Andrew Marr.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @JPJ2, Andrew Marr may be often dull and wear establishment blinkers, but on occasion produces non-mainstream views, like his apparent endorsement of an ancient and apparently very stable anarchistic society in his History of the World BBC series.

            Every so often, you get an insight into how different perspectives clash within BBC culture, for example when David Olusoga talked of how a fresh batch of programme-makers largely prevailed over their more conservative producers during the BBC’s series on Empire.

            Drama and natural world programmes can make strong political points without any partisan baggage: I expect that Blue Planet II is going to address global warming and plastic pollution, and recent BBC drama Close to the Enemy started examining British post-war skulduggery.

            So I think that Mike is warning about the halo (or reverse halo) effect, where positive (or negative) impressions about some aspect(s) of a person or group or ideology can irrationally colour views of other aspects (or the whole).

  13. Gordon says:

    The longer Salmond hangs around, the more damage he and his ego do to the credibility of Scottish nationalism.

    1. JPJ2 says:

      Without Salmond it is likely that there would as yet still have been no SNP Scottish Government.

  14. Hugh Kirk says:

    Would that be the great wall of hysteria from the great mass of MSM and nobodies whose views don’t matter and is generally ignored by the more intelligent and progressive of the reading public. I wish Alex and co all the best and look forward to some high quality veining and opinions.

  15. w.b.robertson says:

    forget dragging the BBC (do u love it or not) into this. Alec S and RT will provide yet another outlet to view/think/criticise/or to ignore. It can only add to the great and ongoing debate. so what`s not to like?

  16. Carrick Voice says:

    Interesting debate, with Alex doing this show on R.T. it has given the Unionist Press a field day to slag him off and by association the Scottish Independence movement , it also conveniently diverts attention from the House of Lords expenses rip off, Priti Patel, Boris Johnston, ( The wisest fool in Westminster?) rampant Tax avoidance/ evasion and of course the looming economic and social disaster of Brexit. But as Alex himself says watch and decide on Thursday.

  17. Graham says:

    Have a look at Derek Bateman’s piece today which isn’t too dissimilar to this one – without the reincarnated Stalin now Putin apologist commentators.

  18. Willie says:

    Why is France 24 in English.

    I am outraged. The French are clearly minded to spread propaganda into England for nefarious reasons. They are probably in cahoots with that we salmond and his rebellious Scots.

    We must freeze their bank accounts and imprison their officials for treachery against the British State.

    God save Queen Elizebeth, defender of the realm, and to the Tower with Salmond.

    1. Graham says:

      Yes, and send that anarchist, sorry anti-christ, Stu Campbell there too, for his outrageous blog today defaming all those upright establishment figures who have also appeared on RT or Sputnik News and now are frothing self-righteous indignation over Salmond who will independently produce his own programme. He even cites some “fake” news from the likes of The Guardian, The Independent etc purporting to show that the UK & USA have been a bit naughty recently.

      Torrance, Foulkes, Rennie, Davidson et al make you want to spit.

  19. Interpolar says:

    What‘s balanced journalism? Mike, I think this piece is. You‘ve brought both sides of the argument to best and I feel better informed as a result. Many thanks and congratulations.

  20. tartanfever says:

    For those looking for a more nuanced look at Russia over the last 25 years and US interference, this interview from Abby Martin with American journalist Mark Ames from ‘The Empire Files’ is certainly worth viewing. It’s 25 minutes long.

    1. Alex Wright says:

      Thanks for that. It confirms my belief that we are on the cusp of another bout of madness.
      In Bill Clinton’s biography, I was surprised by the inordinate amount of time he spent, trying to keep Yeltsin in power. It makes more sense now.

    2. Pogliaghi says:

      This would be the same Abby Martin who dropped the mic on her RT show over Putin’s Ukrainian adventure in 2014 and promptly left to work at TeleSUR…..

  21. Redguantlet says:

    The monarchist Alex Salmond has steadily lost credibility in my eyes over recent months….

    For once, I agree with David Torrance: the man is a walking ego…

    The last politician I can think of who jacked in politics to do a TV show was Michael Portillo….

    Anyway, the first question I would ask him as a hypothetical guest on his show would be: how did a guy with your economic background manage to fck up the currency question so spectacularly?

    As for RT, I’ve seen some great interviews there, like the one with Julian Assange conducted in the embassy of Ecuador…

  22. Thom says:

    My bum is sair sitting on this fence but sit I will until AS delivers his programme and we will see content rather than speculation.

  23. Clive Scott says:

    Mike, making excuses for the vile propagandist Britnat BBC just because they also produce mind rotting trash such as Strictly shows very poor judgement on your part. You should use your platform to encourage non payment of the TV licence fee. G

    1. I clearly wasn’t doing that as already clarified on this thread for the hard of thinking. It’s hard to debate with people who can’t or won’t actually read what you’ve written. I was simply making two points: one that what you like or don’t like is subjective and two that the BBC’s output is made up of 110s of production companies and isn’t some monolithic beast.

      Ive written extensively for years about problems with the BBC. Have you read none of that?

  24. Martin J Taylor says:

    Chris Hedges’ weekly show ‘On Contact’ is shown on RT. Not having a TV or being a license payer I watch it on youtube. Same place I watch Redacted Tonight, and Watching the Hawks, both RT shows. Content wise I find ‘On Contact’ to be the high bar; Hedges interviews the likes of Dr Cornell West & Noam Chomsky, and other such ‘dissident voices’. Hedges is a much decorated author and journalist, he’s a gifted orator. I wish we had a couple of writers and orators half as good as him – but we don’t. Hey ho.

    Anyway, Hedges fights the good fight, and he has a show on RT. I wonder what tipped the scales in favour of him doing ‘On Contact’ on RT? He’s a principled man. A good man. He’s not naive, he must have weighed the pros and cons. Maybe he wasn’t getting any other offers to produce a half hour weekly show with significant reach. I don’t know. I do know, if and when he stops doing his show, the world will be a poorer place for it.

    Maybe Salmond can only get a show picked up by RT. I’d love it if he had a show on STV or BBC Scotland or Channel 4, or 5, or Sky News, but maybe they just wernae beating down his door. No doubt Salmond thinks he has broadcast chops and reckons he can add value to the mass of content that’s out there.

    When i watch ‘On Contact’, I don’t think, oh I’m watching On Contact on RT, I focus on the content, which is excellent. Same with ‘Breaking the Set’ when it was on. I think if it’s good enough for Chris Hedges…then it’s good enough for Salmond. I have a higher opinion of Chris Hedges than I do of Alex Salmond.

    I wonder Mike, if you could get in touch with Chris Hedges and ask him how he manages to cope with the fact that he does a show on a channel that is funded by a country that you quite correctly describe as “an authoritarian state with an appalling record on human rights, assaults on media freedom, homophobia, aggressive military intervention, murky covert black ops, support for sick regimes abroad and violent repression of dissent at home.” I mean that, but maybe not in those exact words. I’d love to hear his take.

    1. Thanks – will look at that now.

      I suppose the argument specifically about Salmond’s choices is will it affect his and by extension the independence movements credibility in the long run?

      This is a slightly different argument from the utility of using RT if you are a freelance radical?

  25. Redguantlet says:

    I agree with those who defend at least some of the journalism of RT. Just as I defend some of the journalism of Al Jazeera. It’s about a plurality of outlooks and, above all, a reasonably well informed viewing public who can discern bullshit from real news.

    Also, as one poster notes above, both Al Jazeera and RT, as well as all of the European national broadcasters I can think of, offer free news services at least which you can watch live outwith the UK.

    Not so with the British Bastion of Colonization. The BBC, with its head up its own arse as usual, obviously thinks it is a cut above the rest of the world’s broadcasters… you can listen to BBC radio free, but not watch BBC TV. Which is bizarre in this day and age.

    But defending RT is one thing. Salmond doing a show is another – there or anywhere.

    He is free to do as he likes of course, but he is the former First Minister of Scotland, and his name is cognate with the cause of Scottish independence.

    Everything he says is going to be scrutinized and taken to be a representation of what the SNP thinks about this or that issue. He is putting himself before the SNP, clearly so, and some of his comments will not chime well with the SNP government.

    Can I just add that Alex Salmond is not a journalist. He is not a talk show host. He is not a comedian. He has no background or training or experience or obvious talent in any of these fields…there are a lot of people who do have who are unknown to the wider public.

    Which is to say: Salmond and his TV show are just another expression of the rancid and mediocre celebrity culture which we live in….

  26. Euan Dunsmore says:

    As I understand it the Government (Treasury) is who determines that we in the UK must pay a duty for having a reciever and that they will give the BBC a portion of that for the production of programmes. To meet with the requirement of the Conservatives the BBC now have to offer a great deal of air time to free and independent producers and this they do. My friends in Kent and Cambridgeshire believe fervently that the BBC news output is completely biased towards the left. My friends in West Yorkshire and Liverpool believe fervently that the BBC news output is completely biased towards the right. My colleagues, from when I was in employment, from India, Pakistan, Nepal. Phillipines, South Africa and Zimbabwe all said that only the BBC was impartial with News. (As did my friends from the USA. It would seem bias is in the eye of the beholder.
    What would we replace the BBC with and how would we pay for it. I note the monthly payments needed for the Murdoch group media and would certainly not be prepared to pay so much for so little. I note there is little comment here about that fair and unbalanced Fox News, a news programme that is always biased in favour of republican and far right politics.
    RT is paid entirely by the Russian Establishment and it is fair to say they will require output to always be favourable to Russia and the government. Always.
    Thus frothing at the news outlet your politics has decided as unfair is a waste of breath and usually off putting to folk who make use of their intellect to make up their minds by checking up on all sides of the argument.

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