Why Scottish Broadcasting Matters – Part Fourteen – Kevin Williamson

A few days after Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, set up a commission to look into Scottish broadcasting, he launched an ambitious and far-reaching ‘national conversation’ on whether Scots should remain part of the United Kingdom.

Maybe it was in a fit of pique on the part of the BBC (at the setting up of the commission), or maybe it was unintentional irony, or maybe it was just confirmation that the BBC’s Six O’Clock News bulletin is no longer fit for purpose….. but on the same day that Alex Salmond launched his paper on Scotland’s constitutional future, the BBC’s London-based news editors may have sealed their own fate.

No matter which way you look at it, Salmond’s initiative was a big news story, not just here in Scotland, but internationally. If Alex Salmond’s ambitious project comes to fruition, then the UK will go the way of the Soviet Union, and simply cease to exist. To paraphrase that most quintessential of English comedy groups, Monty Python, Britain will become an ex-country. Deceased. No more.

That this was the biggest news story of the day in the UK is incontestable. Unless perhaps, you happened to be a dyed-in-the-wool British ostrich, with head stuck firmly up yer Daily Telegraph.

So how did the BBC’s Six O’Clock News team choose to report this important breaking story? Lead item? Second item? Not quite.

The lead story was a consumer piece about the recall of plastic toys. It was a precautionary decision by the company, Mattel, which, perhaps, they should have announced through paid advertising in the national press. This was followed by another similar item, on the recall of old phone batteries.

Next up was a lengthy feature on how bad weather and flooding were affecting the English tourist trade this summer. Two lengthy reports were filed from Weston-Super-Mare and the Yorkshire Dales. This particular item could have been carried any day this month, at any point, in any news bulletin. It was what could have been described as ‘a filler’.

Next was a purely regional story about the murder of a young child in London. It was reported that police were not searching for anyone in connection with the tragedy. This was followed by another, again purely regional, murder story.

Next up, Scotland. At last. Except it was about an E-Coli outbreak in Paisley.