A Formal Complaint To The BBC


Background on “No Borders”: The No Campaign, The Tory and Bankrupt Britain

Dear BBC,

We’re writing to submit a formal complaint regarding a lack of balance from your coverage of the “No Borders” campaign launch. We are dismayed that this criticism is even necessary, however the coverage from the BBC of the newly established “No Borders” campaign has been disproportionate, unbalanced and failed to meet basic standards of journalistic criticism, highlighting an overall trend in the independence debate coverage.

We will set out the reasons for our criticism and invite you to respond.

On the point of proportionality, “No Borders” are unique amongst registered participants in receiving the level of coverage given. A range of grassroots Yes organisations have already registered, with more expected, and none have received anything close to comparable coverage. This includes several organisations, such as National Collective, who predate the foundation of either of the lead campaign groups Yes Scotland and Better Together. In contrast, “No Borders” only launched this week and have, so far, undertaken no public engagement, unlike the countless meetings and events organised by grassroots Yes campaigners. For these reasons, giving the level of coverage to “No Borders” is clearly highly disproportionate and gave an exceptionally misleading account of the state of the campaign on the ground.

Hourly UK-wide coverage

(via Wings)

The multifaceted and vibrant grassroots movement for independence has been consistently overlooked by the BBC and the case for independence frequently painted as the sole orchestration of Alex Salmond and the SNP, as was the case in the introduction to the BBC’s coverage of the “No Borders” campaign. The representation of the “No Borders” campaign was not only uncritical, but the involvement of musicians feature prominently. With this in mind, no approach was made to National Collective, as the artists’ movement for Scottish independence, to offer a counter view.

Since National Collective began two years ago there has been no equivalent hourly news coverage from the BBC. This is despite holding a launch event in Glasgow, a multitude of packed grassroots events being organised by our members throughout Scotland and a major scandal over donations to Better Together that saw two of our members threatened with legal action from Ian Taylor and the world’s largest oil trading company, Vitol Group. The only mention from the BBC of the significant role National Collective played in holding Better Together to account over Ian Taylor’s donation came courtesy of one paragraph on the website and The Guardian’s Severin Carrell as a guest on Newsnight Scotland on April 10 2013. In the interests of balance, we would have expected – at the very least – an invitation to National Collective to respond in the package, or equivalent coverage given to Yes campaign groups. There have been plenty of occasions for you to do this – for example, you could have aired the footage which you recorded at our #donorgate press conference. Even this level of balance would have given a disproportionate level of importance to “No Borders”, but would have at least given both sides of the campaign an equal airing.

National Collective channeled via The Guardian’s Severin Carrell

In the interest of impartiality, viewers would have reasonably expected the No Borders to be challenged on several points:

  1. Why do No Borders have a fundraising target of £500,000 when the spending limit is set at £150,000 during the regulated period, and there is now only a very short period of time in which the surplus spending could be spent?
  2. How has No Borders raised such a large sum of money so quickly without any pre-existing profile?
  3. Why has it taken so long for a grassroots No campaign involving the creative arts to be established?
  4. Does a group founded by a millionaire truly represent a grassroots people’s movement?

The failure of the BBC to challenge “No Borders” on these points is even more significant considering the lack of voice given to equivalent campaigners from the Yes side.

This complaint has been prompted by the specific case of the coverage given to “No Borders”. However, we unfortunately feel that the failure to fairly give both sides an equal hearing has been present regularly through the BBC’s referendum coverage. For example, the article “Sillars v Galloway: How the independence debate is dividing the left” chose to illustrate the two campaigns through an official Better Together image contrasted with a kilted man holding a hand-made cardboard sign unrepresentative of the tone and content of the wider Yes campaign. This sort of editorialising seems designed to marginalise the arguments made by Yes campaigners, and this is before the question of the level of coverage given to a politician who couldn’t hold his deposit when he stood in Glasgow in 2011.

We hope you take these criticisms on board and attempt to ensure that future coverage of the independence campaign is truly balanced and reflects the reality of the grassroots Yes movement. We are also grateful for the two opportunities that BBC Scotland has afforded us to appear on Newsnight (and one debate) over the past two years, but we believe that this representation must be extended to achieve more holistic representation of those campaigning in independence debate. To this end, National Collective openly invites BBC journalists to attend our Yestival events that will be taking place this summer.

Yours sincerely,

National Collective

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There are 26 comments

  1. Dave Morris

    Well said, folks, and keep up the good work.

    As fearful an undecided voter as there ever was, I hate the cavernous lack of debate in this referendum, and it’s solely down to a No campaign based on and spin and, frankly, silence. I may not be yet be a Yes voter, but the No campaign and established media which so obviously seems to support it are showing me absolutely nothing to vote for.

  2. Chic Kirk

    how about national collective starting a petition to the bbc in regards there biased reporting which would be signed many thousands of supporters and yes activists

  3. Joe Murray

    Well said. You will no doubt receive a reply justifying their editorial stance and absolutely denying that they biased towards the No Campaign and that they work hard to give a fair and balanced view. They are completely unrepentant, because they think they are untouchable.
    Here is part of a reply I received after complaining about their animation on nuclear weapons and defense in Scotland:

    “You suggest the animation is biased against Scottish independence and/or the Yes Scotland campaign. We are, of course, absolutely committed to impartiality and – while I suspect you will not agree – I sincerely believe this animation to be impartial.”

    Well, you can watch it for yourself here and make your own mind up:

    1. cynicalhighlander

      The BBC (Bettertogether Broadcasting Corporation) with the rest of the MSM is the last line of defence that the UK has because their ground troops are few and far between and any other shenanigans will be scrutinised at home and abroad. Does the UK have any real friends outwith these shores?

    2. disqus_zZA6sDUpNy

      I just watched this video. I’m furious and frustrated. Something has to be done about the BBC. Will someone please get up a petition of complaint to the BBC Trust? I would do it but I’m researching and writing some essays that I’m requires to do for acceptance by the Church of Scotland. With that and helping my local YES Scotland group, I really don’t have time.

      1. Adam Neilson

        The reason BBC Scotland/London is continuing with it’s proven unionist bias is simple.
        Even if the Trust does decide to investigate, that process will take about 6 months – and by then it will all be over.
        Scotland will have either started the process of full independence, and BBC Scotland unionist executives and editors will be relocating south, or we will still be part of the UK and the same executives and editors will be being hailed as heroes (HoL and other honours will be pending).
        But yes – a very public petition is required – although at the moment only the Sunday Herald would report it !

  4. Steve Letford

    What must be asked is ‘At what level are these decisions being taken? Has there been a (minuted) meeting where management have set out their policy and agenda? Is it individual producers? Is there some sort of tacit understanding that this is the way that management want programmes to lean? I have been told that many at PQ are afraid to put their head above the parapet and question what is happening as there is a genuine fear that when job cuts come that they don’t want to have been seen as not toeing the line.

  5. noahpetshop

    The YES campaign ,Alex Salmond and his wee sidekick of a budgie Sturgeon have no answers to any of the important questions being asked of them. The YES campaign has no substance whatsoever !

    1. disqus_zZA6sDUpNy

      I wonder what planet you’re living on. Clear answers have been given regarding all the questions people raise. Absolutely certain answers can never be given to many questions, by the anti-independence brigade nor by us who favour independence. The Better Together (sic.) campaign have not given any answers. All they say are broad generalisations, repeating false claims that they make about Scotland, and talking about sharing risks and burdens on the UK’s “broad shoulders”. The shoulders may be broad but the bones are broken. We will have some certainties with a NO vote: a reduction in Scotland’s budget, forced to keep Trident on the Clyde, forced to abandon free health-care, NHS privatised for the profit of a few instead of being a public service for the benefit of all, abolish free bus passes for seniors, continuing war on poor people, continuing to pay for the unelected House of Lords, more squandering of our oil money, a reduced representation in the Commons, being unable to sway legislation in Parliament, continuing to be governed by wealthy Eton/OxBridge toffs who live in mansions where bedrooms are unoccupied, and who know nothing about living in a council house or how to scrape by on minimum wage or benefits, by a neighbouring nation, who give low income workers a 1% wage increase while they award themselves a 9% income (not wage) increase.

      I have lived in 6 countries on 4 continents. None of the people of those nations would consider voting to be governed by a neighbouring nation. Yet many Scots are planning to vote to continue to be governed by the neighbouring nation to the south. Just to say, “I’m going to vote for the Scottish nation to be governed by our neighbouring nation to the south” shows just how crazy that is.

      1. noahpetshop

        Actually I am very well informed, but proper information is certainly not coming from Alex-in-Wonderland and his motley crew. Only fudged answers and in some cases downright lies to all legitimate and sensible questions ! Currency ? EU membership ? Defence ? Pensions ? Borders ? Immigration ? Investments ?
        “Yes” people sound like communists to me, or living in “benefits street” ! All you do is condemn the present UK without presenting SENSIBLE alternatives. SNP policies are destroying Scotland now never mind if independent. Our roads and social services are disintegrating due to the curb on Council Tax rises. We need jobs, yet no new power stations nuclear or coal. Removing Trident would see another 6,000 jobs disappear, how can we be in NATO, a nuclear defence org. yet tell them remove trident from our waters ? Your friend quotes the NHS as an area that will lose out, but NHS is devolved to Holyrood now !
        I know whose heads are in the sand alright !
        So go and really think about the real issues and come back with realistic answers to the questions that not one of the “YES” crowd has proffered yet.


          Lumping the biggest ever Scottish grassroots movement of professionals, creatives, intelligent people and switched-on supporters-of-change, into categories of communism or benefit recipients, is phenomenally small-minded. Makes me not want to read any further, so I didn’t.

          1. cynicalhighlander

            You are not arguing anything other than trying to smear AS which is project Fears strategy and it isn’t working if you ever deem to go to an open public debate and open your mind to reason.

        2. cynicalhighlander

          That reads as I hate Alex Salmond and the SNP and they are liars so I am voting no because I have my own unionist preferences.

          Try reading the White Paper on Scotland’s Future before posting your unsubstantiated nonsense as nobody on this planet can stop us using Sterling after indy and Trident directly supports only about 800 jobs according to Hansard of the UK gov.

          1. noahpetshop

            Excuse me but the White Paper contains no answers ! Only dreams of Alex-in-Wonderland ! I do not want to live in an extreme nationalistic, authoritarian state, where the state takes everything and re-distributes it as it thinks fit.
            I want to keep more of what I have, not have more taken from me by the state, to furnish £3k a night trips to New York for Eck !

          2. cynicalhighlander

            So you aren’t interested in democracy and are quite happy for Westminster to take all of Scotland’s earnings and hand some of it back, your next door neighbours are waiting in anticipation for your pay packet at the end of the month as that is what you seem to want.

          3. ross

            I will return your comment “authoritarian state, where the state takes everything and re-distributes it as it thinks fit” so what was westminster doing when it privatised the post office and sold it off undervalued to its “friends trusted to not sell it off for a profit” and in regards to the “communist” remarks, quite frankly insulting please take your views elsewhere.

  6. disqus_zZA6sDUpNy

    Hi Noahpetshop! Perhaps when Scotland is independent we’ll meet and be friends. Right now I must challenge you in a friendly way about the white paper. It’s considered by international scholars to be well researched and well presented. The data it presents are drawn from UK Government reports and reports of well-reputed International scholars. Everything that can be answered has been answered, but the anti-independentists keep repeating their claims, even though they must know that they are lying and spouting propaganda.

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