My BBC Complaint

The behaviour of the BBC during the Independence Referendum do far has been dubious to say the least, as Lesley Riddoch says in this latest piece on Newsnet Scotland.

In what was my first ever complaint to the BBC, I had a moan about the same biased animated film. It may not be the best written of complaints, because I don’t think I’m really very good at this sort of thing, but here it is anyway:


“The animated film is totally biased in favour of the “Better Together” campaign. It portrays a one-sided argument, intended to instil fear and insecurity into the general public (of Scotland). It is full of inaccuracies, selectively ignoring (and ridiculing) the arguments set out in the Referendum White Paper produced by the Scottish Government. I feel it is solely intended to mislead and mis-inform the Scottish people (especially the younger generation). I think this disgusting piece of propaganda, so obviously backed by the NO campaign, should be removed immediately and an apology issued as soon as possible.”

But unlike Lesley I received a (nonetheless predictable) reply:


“Thank you for your correspondence regarding our defence animation first broadcast during Sunday Politics Scotland on 13th April 2014 and then made available online. It is really important to us that we receive audience feedback and please be assured that your points are being given proper consideration. We take very seriously any complaints, particularly those of bias. The Scottish referendum presents serious challenges to the BBC and one of them is to appeal to as wide a section of the population as possible. Part of our responsibility as a public service broadcaster is to ensure our audience is well-informed.

The purpose of our animations – this was our second - is to engage casual observers or those yet to focus on the campaign, particularly – but not exclusively – younger voters. Through online links associated with the animation, we then aim to encourage people to read more detailed information. Our animations are meant to be lighter and because they are shorter than traditional features, they do condense the arguments.

To those already well-versed in the debate, they can look a little glib but audience feedback on our first animation suggests it was well-received. Voters said they liked an easy point of access to often complex subject matters.

Incidentally, for those who want more detailed coverage and analysis of the key issues behind the headlines, there is a wealth of material available on our Scotland’s Future pages: 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. There are several issues discussed in the three-minute film: nuclear weapons, forces, NATO, defence jobs and what happens in the event of a No vote. We have represented both sides of the argument in each of them, and they are properly, if sometimes humorously, covered. I would like to reassure you that we will reflect on your complaint when we produce our next animation. We do need to take particular care where a lighter approach meets a complicated subject, and we will very much bear that in mind. We are always keen to hear feedback, both positive and negative, so many thanks for taking the time to contact us.”

So apparently I’m confusing misrepresentation, bias and downright lying with “humour”.