Monday, 4 January 2010

It’s snowing – but is it lying?

It seems that every few years, humanity is warned by doom-and-gloom merchants that a planetary alignment will take place in the near future and cause chaos on Earth.

Of course, it is not astronomers that give these warnings, but instead, zealots (cults, psychics and assorted charlatans) who have very limited knowledge of the night sky or the solar system in general and who may have another agenda entirely.

In Scotland we experienced just such a perfect alignment on 4th January this year when not planets but the four main Scottish news outlets aligned themselves perfectly and predicted chaos, doom and the end of civilisation .............. in Scotland.

The cause of this imminent disaster was an apparent lack of grit with which to treat our roads and pavements.

The four main news outlets were perfectly synchronised and ran with the following headlines:
  • The Herald (Safety fears as drivers warned salt running out)
  • The Scotsman (Scotland 'risks running out of road salt' amid Arctic fortnight)
  • The BBC (Road grit levels 'critically low')
  • The Record (Scotland faces grit panic as cold weather supplies run low)
So, what was it that led to this prediction of disaster for our road networks?

Well, Fife council had apparently been let down by suppliers and had called on the assistance of the Scottish Government in order to acquire emergency stocks of grit and salt. The council had complained that the supplier who delivered less of the rough stuff than the council had expected and they needed help to source an alternative supply.

Bob McLellan, the council's head of transportation, said: "Our supplier has let us down badly and we are now in the position that we are likely to run out of salt altogether.”

Were other councils in the same predicament that Fife found itself in with regards to levels of grit? The answer is no, Fife council were the only local authority to find itself in this position. Indeed the BBC themselves confirmed this in their Scottish web site.

The only other local authority to express any concern was Renfrewshire council who stated that they were prioritising the use of grit. Further reports confirmed that there were plentiful supplies already arranged for delivery and that 18 councils would be receiving delivery either that day or the next.

So, this was not a national problem at all but a local situation that was being addressed by the Scottish Government who had been contacted by Fife local authority.

How can a local situation be so misreported by not just one news outlet but by four of them in pretty much the same manner and at the same time?

How is it that all four of these news outlets managed to place the same emphasis (salt/grit levels running out) on their respective story?

We don’t know of course, it is possible that they simply misread the situation and misinterpreted Fife council’s Bob McLellan when he said:
"Most, if not all Scottish councils, appear to be in a very similar situation and stock levels are at critically low levels in many councils across Scotland."

However that excuse cannot be used by the BBC who by their own admission had contacted all local authorities to find out the situation. The best they could do was report that Renfrewshire council were prioritising their gritting.

Suspicions are raised though when we see Labour MSP’s appear in these articles attacking the Scottish Government: Labour's John Park was reported in The Record as stating that he had already written to transport minister Stewart Stevenson asking him to investigate the problems in Fife.

Park said: "This situation is now critical and I am calling on the Scottish government to step in now to help Fife Council out of this mess."

This was a strange statement, given that the Scottish Government had already stepped in and helped resolve the situation in Fife.

Later Labour MSP Charlie Gordon also uses the story to attack the SNP:
The Labour transport spokesman said: "The Scottish Government appears to be saying this morning that everything is under control but the evidence does not support that with many roads and pavements still covered by snow and ice."

What the Scottish Government had said was that there was no shortage of salt and grit but that there were ‘pinch points’ like Renfrewshire and Fife – altogether different from the picture that our media were trying to portray.

Charlie Gordon seems to be saying that because we have snow and ice on many pavements and roads that things are out of control. Of course no amount of grit or salt will remove snow and ice from all pavements and roads, we need a thaw for that.  However, those local authorities who have allowed pavements and roads to deteriorate to an unacceptable level should be taken to task.

Conflating the original inaccurate allegations of a national shortfall of grit and salt with the policies of individual local authorities looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate.

That may be what this story was about all along !!

Update: 5th January:
That evenings Newsnight Scotland focused on the situation regarding Scotland's roads and the severe weather. Their reporter Julie Peacock made the following statement:
"John Swinney said that there is enough grit to go around and clear ALL of Scotland's roads"

As far as Newsnet Scotland is aware John Swinney has never made any such claim. What he did say was that there are sufficient supplies of grit in order to satisfy council needs.

A very subtle alteration of the meaning of Mr Swinney's statement by the BBC !!

After the recent apology to SNP Minister Alex Neil one would have thought that the BBC would have been reluctant to yet again misrepresent an SNP minister.

Apparently not .....

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Never mind pavements, on the Island of Mull, some roads in the north of the island havent seen a bit of grit at all. We've just returned from there, lucky to get away in one piece. I'ts one thing not gritting in the middle of towns but entirely another matter when your livelihood depends on getting to a B road at the end of a 3 mile long sheet of ice. Some road engineers in that area need to lose their job, for allowing their workforce to be so lackadaisical in their application over the holiday. It's only by sheer luck that nobody has died. I don't really care about politicos trying to score points off each other, but it really isnt funny that pensioners are virtually imprisoned in their own homes, running out of food and fuel, because of the lack of a bit of forethought by those in charge.

Anonymous said...

And what do Messrs Brown and Hairdryer Roy do since it's their Fife region? If nothing then what really is the point of these MPs in Westminster! Not even half-a-job.

newsnet said...

To comment 1:
I sympathise with your plight and the plight of pensioners since my own 75 year old father in law was hospitalised days before Christmas after slipping on ice outside his home (thankfully he is now OK but sore).

My gripe is that there are very many places that have yet to see a council workman, for whatever reason.

As usual however the media have decided to politicise one aspect of this and the result is this manufactured scare story.

It allows the opposition (Labour) to mount attacks on the SNP but prevents the reality of the situation from being addressed.

I live in North Lanarkshire and the local authority have never targetted the pavements nor many side streets. Gritting wasn't necessary in the early stages, just a snow plough along the street.

They announce today that school carparks and the surrounding areas will not be gritted, however a timely intervention when the snow was fresh would have minimised the chances of people slipping.

We saw no snow ploughs nor any workmen about when the snow was relatively soft and would have been easy to clear.

Some elbow grease and a bit of overtime for workmen would have prevented pavements becoming packed down and iced over.

So, whilst the media have their fun by first running an accusatory non story and then highlighting understandable government denials, the real issues around local authority planning and response to the weather will not be scrutinised.

Why were Fife council the only local authority to run out of grit and salt and who are the suppliers they are blaming?

Why was there so much inaction in the early days before the snow became compacted?

newsnet said...

To Comment 2:

To be fair to Brown and Roy this is none of their doing, it is also none of the Scottish Governments doing - the Scottish Government should be commended for acting promptly and sourcing the supplies of grit and salt that were urgently needed.

We need to consult with every local authprity to ensure both that planning for such weather is adequate and that local authority policy is also fit for purpose.

What contingencies are there for unexpected severe weather? Are there overtime restrictions or shift patterns in place that would/did prevent timely action being taken?

Ignoring pavements and footpaths completely as seems to have been the case is unacceptable.

The media, either by design or bad luck have deflected attention away from local authorities and onto the Scottish Government.

Cheap point scoring and helpfull headlines for Labour - but at what cost?

Anonymous said...

Newsnet,

I wonder if Mr Roy new the grit suppliers?? That might of helped!!

Or even Mr Brown?

So, has the GE campaign started?


Keep up the good work, many thanks.

Gedguy said...

To be fair to local authorities it is their job to prioritise the work. It is obvious to all that the main roads and pavements have to come first and any other place would have to come second. There is also the cost to be taken into account. Even in the good times local authorities could not afford to cover every road and pavement in their area; it just wasn't/isn't feasible. I was under the impression that there were by-laws in Scotland were the responsibility to clear the pavements was down to the people whose property bounded that pavement. I know when I was a lad I looked forward to the snow, not just because of the wonderful hours of fun that we used to have with our sledges but also I made money (sometimes a tanner a go) clearing the pavements in front of peoples' houses when, for what ever reason, they couldn't do it themselves. I remember my mother forcing me to clear the pavement and path of a pensioner neighbour of ours and she threatened me not to take any money for it. Of course, I did. It would have been wrong of me to insult that pensioner by not taking the threepenny bit. The point is that it is ridiculous for people to insist that it is the councils job to clear all the snow away.

newsnet said...

Fair points Gedguy.

I can only speak for North Lanarkshire but there appears to have been no effort whatsoever to clear pavements and footpaths.

Anyway, you probably will have caught the gist of my blog that my major gripe is with our national media who seem to have decided to contrive an issue where none existed - grit shortage - and used it as a stick with which to beat the Scottish Government.

Labour MSP's have appeared in these articles and broadcasts like a bad smell.

ljay said...

There has been no effort to clear paths and many roads in Hamilton (South Lanarkshire Council).
My Grandmother hasn't been out since xmas eve cos she is scared of slipping.
My street is bad but not treacherous but then i live on a major bus route and have seen a gritter.
However, i have a family member who works for south lanarkshire council and knows that due to "lower than required stock of grit" gritters were out in the hamilton area driving around with no grit in them!!!
The gritters were being told to only put in a half load but drive the full route so that when the snow cleared they'd have enough to grit the roads!
My Driveway and the path outside are clear cos i did it myself, like Gedguy said, it is your responsibility!! people are lazy now and expect it all to be done for them! It was the same when i lived in a Flat in Edinburgh, it used to be everyones resposibility to keep the close clean, Our top landing was the only bit that was clean cos the only people that did it were me and the Old Women next door!!!

Robert said...

To be fair to the councils (again :-) ) they have had to use what would normally amount to a full winters worth of salt in the last couple of weeks. How much should they stockpile? Two years worth? Are you willing to pay for that? Would it keep for the (perhaps) twenty years till we have another spell like this?

Let's stick with the blogtopic though folks.

Robert (EK)

Anonymous said...

The old burgh by-laws were done away with years ago so property owners do not clean the their bit of pavement. In fact if you do there is a case for the council to say they are not libel for it as they did not clean the pavement so you could end as having liability.

Anonymous said...

Oh for goodness sake... this paranoia on the part of SNP supporters is comical.

There was nothing at all inaccurate in the BBC online story. It merely reported the fact that grit levels were low across the country. Regardless of whether supplies totally ran out, it was clear that many councils cut back on gritting in order to preserve stocks. It's simply not true to say that only Fife and Renfrewshire expressed concern. The article mentions 'critically low' reserves in Dumfries and Galloway and also issues in North Ayrshire.

Indeed, similar problems were experienced by councils in England - so it's not just a Scottish issue.

The BBC website made no suggestion it was the Scottish Government's fault. Of course, opposition party comments will be published. That's called impartiality. So long as both sides are reported - and they clearly were - that's fine. It's up to the reader to decide which side of the story to believe.

But, hey, let's not let the facts get in the way of a baseless BBC-bashing session. Or should perhaps the BBC just report the words of Alex Salmond? Jeez.

newsnet said...

"...this paranoia on the part of SNP supporters is comical."

Call it paranoia if you like, indeed laugh if you like but one council being let down by a supplier was not a national shortage.

If you read the headlines on Monday it was clear that the agenda was to present this isolated case as the norm across the country.

At no point was there a national shortage of grit/salt in Scotland.

The story was a fabrication and asking opposition MSP's to comment on a fabrication is not impartiality, it is orchestrated news manipulation.

As far as the BBC is concerned you might want to address the very clear misrepresentation of John Swinney's remarks.

Indeed at FMQ's today Labour's Iain Gray himself again misrepresented Swinneys remarks.

If the BBC do not want to be bashed then they have to cease from attributing views and comments to Scottish Government ministers that they do not make.

I ask again:
How is it that a solitary local council hours from being unable to grit its roads becomes a national front page headline suggesting a national shortfall of grit?

Please do not insult our intelligence by suggesting good husbandry and a sensible prioritising of their grit supplies by other councils constitutes a national crisis.

Levels are indeed respectively low, that is due to the extreme weather. But at no point whatsoever was Scotland in danger of running out.

Thank you for taking the time to comment - I hope you are one of the 530 plus people who have registered to receive the newsletter.

You might even want to contribute an article - we operate a free policy on publication.

Anonymous said...

>> one council being let down by a supplier was not a national shortage.

The BBC did not describe it as a "national shortage" (although I don't think that would have been entirely inaccurate). Instead, all its headlines and stories carefully employed the phraseology used by the councils, i.e. "extremely" and "critically low" supplies.

And it's simply not true that only one council had issues with supplies: Fife ran out of stocks; Aberdeenshire said stocks were "extremely low"; Dumfries and Galloway reported 'critically low' reserves - they even had to commission haulage contractors to collect and deliver new supplies from Wales; North Ayrshire said supplies were "critically low"; Orkney said it was running short of salt; West Dunbartonshire said salt supply was "critical low"…. I could go on.

You're right to say only one council actually ran out, but statements from some councils conceded that when stocks get dangerously low it becomes prudent to prioritise - and that means that some roads and pavements will not be treated. I'm sorry, but that IS an issue. Granted, not a national emergency, but then the BBC didn't say it was! Neither did the BBC suggest it was the Government's fault.

>> The story was a fabrication and asking opposition MSP's to comment on a fabrication is not impartiality, it is orchestrated news manipulation.

No it was not a fabrication, it was based on statements from councils. It's perfectly justifiable that opposition MSPs will comment on it.

>> As far as the BBC is concerned you might want to address the very clear misrepresentation of John Swinney's remarks.


John Swinney made his remarks about the pavements situation live on Good Morning Scotland - i.e. unedited. I can find no online article - and don't recall any broadcast one - in which the BBC selectively misrepresented his remarks. Indeed, Brian Taylor in his blog today said:

"While Mr Swinney might perhaps have phrased his comments a little more judiciously, I don't think it was quite the bloomer suggested by Mr Gray. The minister said that, in a number of the communities he had been out and about in, there had been "perfectly adequate walking conditions". However, Mr Swinney went on in the next breath to stress that there are parts of Scotland where there are problems."

If that's not fair and impartial, I really don't know what is.

newsnet said...

Thank you for your comment anonymous.

The BBC's very first headline that day did indeed suggest that the problem was a national shortfall.

The subsequent statements from councils you mention came in a later alteration to the original article. However the numbers of local authorities suggesting lowl grit levels etc are themselves low and absolutely do not suggest a national shortage or national levels critically low.

The BBC have regional pages if some councils have problems - they placed the 'criically low' headline on the main national page. I repeat - salt and grit have never been critically low on a national level.

I know when John Swinney made his remarks about the pavement. The point I made was that they were subtley altered by Iain Gray.

Check the actual statement against Gray's version - they are not the same.

The other misrepresentation from the BBC was on Newsnight Scotland in an outside broadcast by Julie Peacock. BBC Iplayer will allow you to view the item which comes right at the start of the programme.

The quotation on this blog is an accurate transcript of what was said.

John Swinney's office has been contacted and confirmed that no such statement was issued by the Finance Minister.

If you wish to believe that there was a national shortage or that national supplies were critically low then you are free to do so.

However the misrepresentation by both Iain Gray and more importantly the BBC are both verifiable facts.

You may also be interested in the recent BBC apology (never broadcast and never reported by any mainstream media outlets).

Catriona Rention was the culprit then - there is an item on this very blog that will furnish you with the details.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to post your comment.

mythbuster said...

>> The BBC's very first headline that day did indeed suggest that the problem was a national shortfall.

That's just not true.

I have searched back through ALL the stories published on BBC News online that day and there was no mention of a "national shortfall". Listening back to Good Morning Scotland (still on the iPlayer), every mention of the story is careful to point out that only "SOME local local authorities are reporting low levels of salt".

However, there was still a perfectly valid - and potentially widespread - issue to report:

At 07.36 Bob McLellan, head of transportation at Fife Council, explained to GMS how they were not getting the amounts of salt they had ordered and, given that everyone in the UK relies on the same 3-4 suppliers, "everybody is effectively in the same position". Mr McLellan went on to say that he'd spoken to 7 or 8 councils who were facing similar issues.

Now, that kinda sounds like a story to me. If Fife Council are running short and they aren't getting the amounts of salt they ordered from the suppliers, and those same suppliers provide stocks for many other local authorities, then that rather suggests there might be an issue across the country. Not in every authority granted, but then the BBC didn't say that.

Indeed, after the interview, the presenter made it clear that "not every council is in this position" and went on to give a list of some of the councils they'd phoned and what they'd said. Perfectly fair and balanced reporting, no editorialising or spin there… just the facts.

>> I know when John Swinney made his remarks about the pavement. The point I made was that they were subtley altered by Iain Gray.

How can the BBC be held responsible for what Iain Gray says?! I've already quoted Brian Taylor's blog where he highlighted just how selective Mr Gray's quotes were. So, far from muddying the waters, it was the BBC who exposed this.

>> re. Julie Peacock's quote: "John Swinney said that there is enough grit to go around and clear ALL of Scotland's roads"

I think most viewers are intelligent enough to realise that statement wasn't designed to be taken entirely literally. Clearly not EVERY road, track and piece of tarmac gets gritted. I agree she could have phrased that better, but we really are getting into the realms of pedantry here. And it certainly doesn't reflect badly on the Scottish Government.

In summary, I put it to you that you've been unable to provide me any evidence regarding your main complaint. I have searched high and low to find out if you might be right... and yet nothing. Meanwhile, I have given you numerous examples of how the BBC fairly and accurately reported this issue, all of which you can find online.

You're very quick to criticise the BBC (and other media outlets) for their alleged misreporting, yet you don't appear to apply the same high standards of journalism to your own articles.

mythbuster said...

Furthermore, you seem to suggest that this story has been fabricated (or at least exaggerated) by Scottish Labour purely to attack the SNP. How then can you explain the stories in the UK media today highlighting the issue of shortages across the country? e.g.

Low salt reserves mean councils are forced to grit more thinly.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/07/snow-clearance-low-grit-supplies

and

Even the Labour Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, is warning that the country faces grit rationing!!!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/6951169/Big-freeze-difficult-decisions-over-road-gritting-lay-ahead.html

So either Scottish Labour has a hold over the entire UK media, or there is indeed something actually in the story the Scottish media reported at the beginning of this week!

newsnet said...

Mythbuster:

I had drafted a reply to your post - sadly the cyber gremlins appear to have eaten it.

This one will have to wait.

Anonymous said...

Now that salt/grit is running low in England, and the Labour Government at Westminster has not introduced a national snow helpline, will anyone in the Scottish media ask Iain Gray if he condemns this?

Brian Hill said...

I think we need one major rally at the mound in Edinburgh, George Square in Glasgow or even outside BBC Scotland in Glasgow with leading Ministers (not Alex at this stage)condemning the so called Scottish Press for their obvious anti Scottish Government bias.

Academics and 'Independents' could also be on the platform. It need only happen once to alert the voting public to what's going on (those who need to be alerted, others can see for themselves).

Thereafter it wouldn't matter if the media maintained its bias (though I think they would water it down....World opinion, especially European).

What do others think?

newsnet said...

An interesting idea Brian - one that I would fully support. The difficult part is organising such an event and persuading prominent figures to attend.

Joan McAlpine in a recent blog remarked that the media in Scotland were the real opposition; something many people have been saying for some time.

There is even a growing resentment in England towards the BBC who are fast becoming a bit of a laughing stock amongst many.

More and more people are neginning to question the licence fee. If these people become organised then that really spells trouble for the state broadcaster.

There are those who would suggest criticisms of the BBC are the result of paranoia - Mythbuster above for example.

However when faced with very real evidence of bias the paranoia accusation quickly evaporates - see Mythbuster again who completely ignores the Catriona Renton episode and also excuses the recent Newsnight Scotland misrepresentation of John Swinney's remarks.

The most recent news manipulation is the 'polls' showing a Labour 'lead' over the SNP. The Record states it is 11% whilst The Scotsman suggests an amazing 19%.

The numbers used in order to make these claims is statistically meaningless and as such any claims based around them are ridiculous - these newspapers know this.

I would say to Mythbuster that his comment pointing out the apparent grit problems in England are entirely irrelevant, the fact is that on 4th January there was no national shortage of grit and salt in Scotland.

Finally:
The Sunday Mail are running a quite extraordinary story based on claims by the owner of the Peacock firm that allegedly let down Fife council.

The firm are claiming that they warned some councils of a grit shortfall - six months ago.

This unbelievable example of foresight is all the more remarkable given that this firm didn't apparently stockpile grit and salt in order to make a killing.

mythbuster said...

>>When faced with very real evidence of bias the paranoia accusation quickly evaporates.

Oh I'm terribly sorry, I didn't realise that for an accusation to be truthfully held it had to be repeated ad infinitum! I'll repeat it again: you are paranoid about anti-SNP BBC bias (though I admit the press is a different story!). Take the polls for example. To suggest (as I think you might be) that they are only used as a stick with which to beat the SNP is paranoia in the extreme. All newspapers report polls - some are bad news for Labour, some bad news for SNP and Tory. Of course, we can all question just how useful/accurate polls are, but that's a different matter. What I can tell you is that the politicians follow them very closely.

>> See Mythbuster again who completely ignores the Catriona Renton episode.

The true sign that someone is losing an argument is when they divert from the original debate (which was about grit reporting) to find something they're a bit more sure about! I agree the Renton situation was a travesty. But does one rotten egg's actions suggest the BBC is institutionally anti-SNP? (Again, not defending her actions - she should rightly be sacked!)

However, I don't want us to get bogged down in this - not because I'm not happy to debate it (happy to do so on another thread) but simply because it's letting you off the hook! You have singularly failed to address my detailed reply about the grit story and the fact that BBC Scotland at EVERY opportunity went out of its way to make it abundantly clear that not all local authorities - or even most - were facing a grit problem. Time after time after time they said this on GMS, and it was no different on the web. I've provided you with evidence which you can listen back to, or read online. By contrast, you've given us none to back your rather flimsy argument!

You know Mythbuster, the saddest thing about your paranoia is that you probably imagine I'm a rabid Unionist who will defend the BBC against all attack. In actual fact, I'm not (see Renton comments above). I'm pro-independence and sceptical about much of the BBC's output. But this "everyone's against us" mentality just gives the nationalist cause a bad name. It's like you've all taken a leaf out of the Alastair Campbell/Peter Mandelson school of debating - i.e. assume everyone's against you and just keep complaining in the hope that you'll grind the buggers in the media down!

newsnet said...

"But does one rotten egg's actions suggest the BBC is institutionally anti-SNP?"

The apologies by the BBC in the context of either independence or the SNP are many.

The newsletter (as well as Scottish Review) covered the BBC's behaviour over the Megrahi release.

Please read my Megrahi article on this blog [ninestone cowboy] - it covers Glenn Campbell's excursion to the USA in great detail and with transcripts of his broadcasts - one sided is too kind a description for this presenter.

There are journalists who have been effectively blacklisted by the BBC in Scotland for taking a balanced view of the independence argument, the most recent being Iain MacWhirter - a Unionist and excellent journalist.

Kenneth Roy was also 'blackballed' by the BBC for daring to criticise the corporation.

I believe BBC Scotland are indeed institutionally anti SNP - you clearly disagree.

I appreciate you made a typo in your last paragraph - your point however was still understood.

On the polls that I mention:
The 'polls' used in these two recent claims of a Labour lead are UK polls, there is no Scottish poll - the Labour lead is invention from a Labour press release.

You say:
"The true sign that someone is losing an argument is when they divert from the original debate."

No; it is sometimes necessary in order to address accusations introduced into the debate as you did when you suggested paranoia.

Paranoia is the typical knee jerk response from Unionists who refuse to accept that BBC Scotland are not capable of being partisan but actively.

In order to destroy the allegation of paranoia it is necessary to begin to show examples of the bias.

The argument is neither won nor lost, it simply branches quite naturally into other areas.

You say:
"you probably imagine I'm a rabid Unionist"

It doesn't matter what I believe you are, what matters is that we both hold strong opinions - we do not agree with one another.

Finally, BBC Scotland did indeed alter it's original presentation of the grit story, web articles were edited as were the headlines.

The original headline and reporting of the story was presented in a fashion that led the listener/reader to believe that there was a national shortfall of grit.

From that moment the seed was planted and within hours we had the usual statements from Labour MSP's criticising the Scottish Government.

Once again though, thank you for posting a comment. I will take my leave of this particular thread as I have a newsletter to produce for next Sunday.

Mythbuster said...

>> The original headline and reporting of the story was presented in a fashion that led the listener/reader to believe that there was a national shortfall of grit.

All online articles are archived publicly on the website and I've gone through every one and can't find any reference to this. Indeed, your own original article quotes the headline as "Road grit levels 'critically low" - no mention of the words "national" and "shortage" there. Given these words are central to your argument - indeed, they're all your argument hinges on - one wonders why you didn't mention this in your original article?!!?

But let's just take you at face value and say you're right and that the original evidence was doctored. I'd nonetheless argue:

1. The use of "national", while I think is lazy, isn't entirely inaccurate. Every council in the UK depends on the same 2-3 salt suppliers, so if even only a few councils are having supply issues at any given time, it stands to reason that's down to a shortage at the NATION'S suppliers. Therefore it's a national shortage. i.e the nation's reserves are dwindling to the point some councils aren't getting what they ordered!!

2. Your allegation of 'institutional' bias over the snow story is based on one alleged headline on one alleged online article which allegedly appeared for a very short time. If indeed this was the case, it would most likely have been a mistake and certainly not an example of an institutional bias. For there to be an institutional bias there would need to be a group of senior people telling junior journalists to write stories in an anti-SNP manner. Is this what you are saying? And if so, how come every piece of broadcast media that morning went out of it's way to make it clear this was a story affecting only a few councils?!!? If it's an institutional bias, they're not making a very comprehensive job of it!

3. To accuse the BBC of over-egging the pudding to criticise the SNP Government is ludicrous. Labour are perfectly capable of making hay out of this issue without headline editors having to hand it on a plate to them. As it was Labour made an arse of themselves over this in Parliament - as BBC Scotland's Brian Taylor point out in his blog. Yet you fail to acknowledge this point because it doesn't suit your argument of anti-SNP bias!! I'll bet there's a blogger somewhere alleging Taylor was anti-Labour in pointing this out!

>> There are journalists who have been effectively blacklisted by the BBC in Scotland for taking a balanced view of the independence argument, the most recent being Iain MacWhirter.

Iain MacWhirter, to this day, regularly appears on BBC Scotland (he was on Newsnight and GMS a few weeks ago). Even if he was blacklisted (I've no idea), it certainly wasn't because of his views on independence!!! The blacklisting allegation came straight after the critical views on BBC Scotland he submitted to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission. Now you can argue whether that's fair or not, but it's got nothing to do with his view on independence! This is just utter ridiculousness.

Are we now saying BBC Scotland bans anyone with independence-friendly arguments from getting on air? Gerry Hassan is certainly not anti-SNP and he's never off BBC Scotland!!

Re. Glenn Campbell and Megrahi… I'm keen to engage you on this debate and I will do once I have a bit more time. So stay tuned!

Oh, and thank you for posting your replies.

chuka said...

There is a website called newssniffer that continually records news feeds and then allows visitors to view the differences between versions. It can be interesting to see how a story can evolve and change focus over time.

For instance,check out this grit story:
http://www.newssniffer.co.uk/articles/296739/diff/11/12

The title changes from "'No road grit left' says council" to "Ministers deny salt supply crisis" between versions 11 and 12....

Jacobite said...

Can I wish a belated happy new year to one and all on here. I've just got back home (merchant navy) and have a PM asking how the non payment of the EBC licence fee is going.
I'll be getting in touch with my solicitor soon to see how things are going but in the meantime the anti Scottish propoganda and lying machine will not be getting a penny from me until they start complying with their own charter.

newsnet said...

Looking forward to hearing what the brief says Jacobite.

mythbuster said...

chuka, thank you!

We have proof at last... and it turns out Newsnet was wrong. Take a look at this evidence:

http://www.newssniffer.co.uk/articles/296739/diff/1/2

This is the article of the same headline Newsnet quotes in his original article - "Road grit levels 'critically low'".

It was indeed altered throughout the day, mainly to add additional quotes and the likes. But, low and behold, I can find no mention of a "national shortage" or anything even like it in ANY of the versions of that page.

I'm not here to say the BBC never gets it wrong, but let's put an end to the falsehoods which pass for "journalism" on this site.

mythbuster said...

Chuka says:

>> "The title changes from "'No road grit left' says council" to "Ministers deny salt supply crisis" between versions 11 and 12...."

There's no inconsistency between those two headlines. The former is a claim attributed to Fife Council which said it had no grit left for a period of time. The latter is a response from the Scottish Government to acknowledge that, while there are "pinch points" in some areas (like Fife), there's no nationwide supply crisis. Something, incidentally, the BBC made abundantly clear online, on radio and TV all day.

nipper05 said...

Any update on the development of not paying Licence fee.

ps great blog/newsletter

Jeanne Tomlin said...

"Ministers deny salt supply crisis"

I hate to tell you, Mythbuster, but that kind of phrasing is generally used to imply that Ministers are "denying" something that exists.

That in fact gives the strong impression that there is a salt supply crisis which the government is trying to hide.

Taking a strong and critical look at the BBC is NOT paranoia and your applying that pejorative to people who do so shows your own prejudice. They brought the scrutiny on themselves by their undeniable history of bias which you somehow decided didn't matter.

newsnet said...

The moderator has rejected a comment posted by the poster called mythbuster.

The poster answered the point made by Jeanne Tomlin regarding the denial headline but then went on to claim that he had been attacked by Jeanne Tomlin.

There were other nebulous and subjective claims and accusations contained in the comment.

We have filtered a comment from mythbuster before - we refuse to do it again.

mythbuster said...

(Not that you'd publish it anyway, but this is a personal message to you, newsnet)...

I originally engaged with your blog in an attempt to understand the psyche of the 'cybernats'. I say this as a nationalist myself... perhaps that explains why I've spent so much time investigating your claims (any unionist would just laugh at your blog and move on). Could there be something in what you say?

Some of the accusations you make - including those against Ms Renton - are perfectly valid. It is indeed a disgraceful error (or indeed deliberate bias) by a former Labour councillor. There's also some lazy journalism around. I just don't believe, however, that all of this adds up to an institutional bias that inflicts a large part of the BBC's output.

I believe your perception of individual instances of failure (some of which may be valid) has clouded your view of just about everything the BBC comes out with. So reporting facts from a health research charity is automatically a disgrace because you heard ONE report where the dates of the survey weren't mentioned - and you still can't tell me when this was - that's piss poor journalism on YOUR part!! I'd say if indeed this was the case, then it was an individual error because, as I painstakingly pointed out to you, EVERY report I heard made it abundantly clear when this report was carried out and how sceptical the BBC's health corr was in the validity of the findings. You fail to acknowledge this because it doesn't fit your narrative.

It's also clear that you have been completely inaccurate on many occasions - including not realising the reasons for similar press reporting on the Maldeves (it was the Press Association!) Yet, you never address these points... indeed, you rarely address the vast majority of perfectly reasonable rebuttals I give you.

That is why you have lost any credibility in my eyes. That's a great shame.

It's also a great shame that you've resorted to censorship rather than respond to criticism of your articles. There was nothing inflammatory in my last post and your decision not to publish it shows your uncomfortableness with views which contradict your own. Indeed your blog contains nothing else BUT people who agree with you.

You refer to "nebulous" and "subjective" claims - that is merely your opinion and certainly no reason to censor a debate.

As for "accusations", Jeanne Tomlin accused me of "prejudice"! Does she not get censored? Or do different rules apply for those who agree with your line?

In closing... everything you accuse the BBC of - partiality, biased reporting, refusal to give due prominence to dissenting opinions - you are far more guilty of yourself. I'm so glad you're not in journalism!!