19/09/2014 Newswatch


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It is time for news watch. We look back at the coverage of the Scottish


referendum campaign. Hello and welcome to newswatch,


with me, Samira Ahmed. Scotland votes no,


but what is the verdict on how Allegations of bias during the


campaign have been levelled by both sides, so was the BBC impartial


in its reporting of the debate? And what have you been telling us


is the phrase most overused by It has been an emotional week


in politics. The argument over whether Scotland


should become an independent nation So too has been


the debate over heavenly BBC News Some felt the first B in BBC meant


the corporation had an ingrained Unionist bias, others


that it got swept up in the fervour Here are two phone messages


we received earlier this week. You are giving far too much time


to the yes side of the argument There is nothing on television


this morning but Alex Salmond, all the time,


and all the placard showing "yes". I am phoning to make a complaint to


the BBC about the media bias toward My understanding is you should be


impartial in your news stories, but I believe you are in cahoots


with the Westminster Parliament and I believe you are portraying things


in an unjust and incorrect manner and I think you should all hang


your heads in shame. Of those two opposing views,


it is the latter charge of an anti`independence bias that


has been more frequently levelled at the BBC,


sometimes with real anger. Last weekend, a large crowd of Yes


supporters gathered outside the corporation's Glasgow headquarters


to protest about its coverage and in particular the reporting


of the BBC's political editor. Also the subject of attacks online,


Nick Robinson was one of a number of journalists to use extra


security in the run`up to the poll. Feelings have been clearly


running high, and not just Viewer Richard Stanton


is in our Brighton studio. It was absolutely vital that the two


sides got a fair crack of the whip. And what I feel is that


the news values the BBC brought to bear in making


its news bulletins were the news values of the Westminster political


elite and their friends and The things that were treated


as newsworthy, once we had had the balance, the two points of view from


north of the border, Alex Salmond and maybe Alistair Darling or


whatever, the rest of the news was dominated by what was treated


as the big cheeses, the important people, and of course,


they were all anti`union. So we'd get, on a bulletin,


regularly, we would get David Cameron, Ed Miliband,


maybe Nick Clegg, And then we would have maybe


Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon giving another point of view and


then the same on the economic side. Individual companies would get


wheeled out to give their individual points of view, whereas the wider


perspective about the economic consequences of independence,


which may be very different if you take a long`term view,


that was never fully reflected in those news bulletins,


in my view. It is that sense that what is


important is what happens in London and who has got power


and big money in London, I think that is what is so wrong


and the irony is, of course, that is exactly what the independence


debate was about and I am afraid the BBC has made the point for


the pro`independence campaigners. Well, to explore


how the BBC approached its requirement for impartiality


during the referendum campaign, I'm joined from Glasgow by its


Chief Political Adviser Ric Bailey. In terms of impartiality,


how is covering this Referendum any different to,


say, a General Election? Well, I think in any election,


impartiality is absolutely critical for the BBC,


but I think it is probably true to say that in referendums, it is even


more of a challenge sometimes. Look back to 1975 and the Common


Market referendum, right through to the AV referendum a couple of


years ago, and there is something different about referendums, even


above elections, in the sense that there is something about it being


binary, two`sided, yes or no, almost do or die, and in the sense


that it is a one`off, as well, which both sides


care passionately about. They know that the BBC is trusted


by the audience on these occasions and so, of course, they want to put


pressure on and for us, I think it is really important that we assert


our independence and that we cover it impartially, but at the same


time, that we are listening, to make sure we are


getting it right. We know the BBC got


around 5,000 complaints Most of them accused the BBC


of being blatantly pro`unionist, and especially on the economic


prospects, they said the BBC kept wheeling out Westminster


politicians, bankers, heads of corporations,


which are all Establishment voices We are trying to achieve consistency


here, but we are also trying to tell If people are coming out


and saying things, The key to it is, I think, to make


sure you are stepping back and approaching it from a consistent


point of view, so you are trying to reflect those different voices


in all of the different arguments, It is not just a straight yes/no


balance, you also have to think, particularly in your UK`wide


coverage, of how it is viewed in Scotland, how it is viewed in


the rest of the UK, the different audiences, the different levels


of understanding they have about it and again, strive for that


consistent approach to make sure that the different voices are being


heard in a way that the audience has You see, many viewers felt that


the BBC didn't do enough to seek out those other voices,


to fairly present the Yes view Robert Peston did


a big documentary during the summer Robert was on the airwaves a lot,


as were colleagues in BBC Scotland. Do you have to do this


in every single piece, I would argue you are not


serving the audience. Over a long period, you are trying


to get these different voices. In a vast range of coverage we do,


of course, not everything is perfect, but we have reflected


a large number of voices, different formats on different channels, and I


think those voices have been heard. We did get some complaint with


the opposite point of view. Some viewers who felt, actually,


Alex Salmond was Well, again, he was clearly a big


figure in this and, you know, we were not balancing two equals, in


the sense that had on the one side, you had the big three Westminster


unionist parties and on the other hand, you had the SNP, who are


in government here, and the other elements of the Yes Campaign, so


there is not perfect equality here. What you're trying to do is reflect


the two sides, reflect what the big characters are saying,


scrutinise those characters. Part of our job in this is to ask


the difficult questions of the main characters and the politicians


putting forward these arguments, and that level of scrutiny, of course,


when it is as binary and two sided as this, does lead to tensions


and there will be arguments and that is part of it, it is our job to do


that on behalf of the audience. With those tensions,


it is clear there has been some intimidation, even threats made


against journalists, not just from the BBC but more broadly reported


in the run`up to the referendum. I think anybody who has been here


would tell you that this has been an absolutely extraordinary


campaign, a very long campaign. Social media has played a role in


perhaps a way others haven't before. You can mobilise opinion very


quickly and you do have, as I said at the beginning, this very binary


argument, with polarised views. So inevitably, when passions are


based in the way they have been, But I think part


of our job is to resist that, to show resilience, to make sure


our journalism comes through that The referendum has, of course,


dominated the news this week, but should it have done


so to such an extent? Nigel Peake thought not,


writing on Friday... It was the graphics showing


the progress of the yes and no votes on Thursday night


which others complained about. Lynne Steer from Lanark objected


to the headline that was used. Mark Holland's point was about


the colours used in those graphics. And Gerald Ramshaw


had this to say... Earlier in the week,


as Thursday's vote approach, some newswatch viewers spotted that


certain phrases were being repeatedly used on air to convey the


excitement of the impending poll. We will be looking at the latest


opinion polls which, this evening, We are live in Edinburgh


as the latest polls suggest the Three new opinion polls this morning


suggest the result of tomorrow's It is really too close to call


in the run`up to this final day. As the campaign enters


its final hours, the latest polls continue to suggest that the outcome


is just too close to call. By Wednesday, Dave Joslin


from Cornwall was one viewer who had just had enough.


He e`mailed... Many thanks for all


of your comments this week. If you want to share your opinions


on BBC News and current affairs, or even appear on the programme,


do please call us on this number. We are on Twitter and if you ever


miss a programme, you can catch up with it


via our website. That is all from us,


do join us again next week for more of your thoughts about


BBC news coverage. Some torrential downpours in places


and the risk of


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