Friday, 22 January 2010

A look back in anger !!

It’s been quite a week for political news coverage in Scotland; Buckfast, Maldives the NHS and Balmoral - all featured this week in the Scottish main stream media.

However, what of balance, factual accuracy, objectivity and informed analysis?

Let’s take a look shall we ....................

Monday 18th Jan: BBC - ‘British Buckfast Corporation’

BBC Scotland brought us the investigative gem called ‘The Buckfast Code’. This particular broadcasting low point featured the infamous North Lanarkshire aperitif in all of its glory and was trailed by the BBC as though they had unearthed the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant.

The story was deemed so important that pretty much the entire Scottish media gave it the VIP treatment with prominent banner headlines suggesting that the brew was the ‘devils potion’ and that imbibing it begat a demonic possession resulting in the possessed ‘ned’ becoming a bottle wielding threat to society..

Of course the problems of anti-social behaviour are all too serious for those unfortunate enough to suffer at the hands of such unruly youths and life must be close to intolerable for many. However why BBC Scotland sought to spend valuable resources on a drink pretty much confined to areas of North Lanarkshire and Ayr was never fully explained.

The story was rather fortuitous for one party though; the Labour party, who had until then been battered by wave after wave of criticism on the sea of the ‘minimum pricing’ debate. Indeed Labour’s English Health Secretary Andy Burnham caused further problems for Labour in Scotland when he endorsed minimum pricing as a means of combating England’s alcohol related health problems.

So, when BBC Scotland decided to highlight this particular alcoholic beverage, Labour MSP Richard Baker wasted no time and quickly grabbed the metaphorical ‘Bucky Bottle’ and used it to launch an attack on a sensible Scottish government policy.

Buckfast was of course the very product that Labour had previously used in order to justify refusing to back minimum pricing for alcohol – they pointed out that its price would not be affected by the policy. So the BBC decision to spend taxpayers money ‘investigating’ the same product was fantastic good fortune and of course purely coincidental.

Minimum pricing of course is not about Buckfast drinking neds, nor any other anti-social louts but is in fact about the health of the nation and has the support of health professionals and the police.

Anyway, the state broadcaster’s ill timed intervention has muddied the waters of this particular debate and instead of informing the Scottish electorate it has in fact merely served to confuse them.

Exclusive Update - 23rd January:
Newsnet Scotland can reveal that due to the UK exposure given to this programme the French have got wind of it and, as their grapes and brandy are essential ingredients, they are angry that 'the Scots' appear to be claiming their products cause violence and anti-social behaviour. There may be repercussions as a result of BBC Scotland's clumsy and perplexing decision to target Buckfast in the way that they did.  Newsnet Scotland will publish more information in due course.



Tuesday 19th - ♫ Press release me - let me go, for I don’t read you anymore ♫

At last month’s Copenhagen summit on climate change the First Minister signed a treaty with Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed. An essentially symbolic gesture that helped highlight the problems faced by the islands as a result of climate change and rising sea levels. It also drew international attention to the ambitious green targets set by the Scottish government, targets that drew plaudits from many international observers.

In a response to a freedom of information request by Labour MSP George Foulkes it was confirmed that the First Minister now hopes to visit the islands as part of his scheduled visit to Delhi where he will attend the Commonwealth games.

The Maldives visit will allow the First Minister to consolidate the treaty and help build relations with the tiny group of islands whilst also using it as a platform in order to highlight Scotland’s growing reputation as the place to be for those seeking to invest in renewable energy; promoting Scotland is something that Alex Salmond is never slow in doing.

Now national leaders and heads of state frequently make visits to foreign countries, indeed there is very often a mutual benefit for both sides and in this case the potential to use the visit in order to promote Scotland’s renewable industry is obvious.

However Tuesday January 19th saw The Scotsman, The Herald and The Daily Record all producing articles attacking Scotland’s First Minister for this apparent heinous crime.

So, how is it that all three of our newspapers can have placed the same bizarre ‘Salmond Under Fire’ interpretation on what is a pretty mundane story that might even offer a small opportunity to benefit Scotland?

The Press Releases:
Press releases are the life blood of the [lazy] political reporter and the scourge of democracy.

These political statements are very often facts that have been doctored and twisted into a grotesque caricature to be circulated amongst the ‘hack dealers’ of the press who then lace the already ‘doctored’ story with their own peculiar ‘ingredients’.

By the time it reaches the ‘client’ [us] the original facts are often distorted to the extent that they are no longer recognisable and the story is reduced to no more than a bile laden vindictive poison pen letter. Well worn terms and clichés are wheeled out as we are told that there is ‘fury’ over something or other and that the subject of the article has ‘suffered a blow’ or is ‘under fire’.

Is that what happened with the Maldives story?

Well the fact that all three newspaper articles contain identical sentences and paragraphs does indeed imply such an occurrence. Descriptive passages of narrative are repeated word for word in all three newspaper articles:

For example all three contained this:
“The First Minister wants to call in at the islands in the Indian Ocean on his way to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.”

... and this:
“Officials stressed that Scottish expertise in renewable energy could be harnessed and promoted across the world through the link.”

... then this
“Last month Mr Salmond signed an agreement with the republic's president”
“on how Scotland can help the low-lying islands cope with rising seas, blamed on climate change.”

... and finally this:
“The travel plan was revealed following written parliamentary questions from Labour backbencher George Foulkes.”

There were more similarities of course but by now I’m sure you now get the drift.

So, the evidence suggests that a straightforward visit by the FM has been manipulated by an unknown source for political purposes and then circulated to Scottish newspapers who very obligingly have printed it in the form of a prominent article whilst adding their own particular brand of pejorative terms and phrases – the visit became a ‘jaunt’ in one newspaper.

This week saw yearly circulation figures released that showed just how perilous a state some Scottish titles are in. One wonders if they have any respect at all for the intellect of their readership given the quality of some of their ‘articles’.


Wednesday 20th – ‘Time’ travel sickness

Imagine picking up a copy of The Scotsman and seeing a headline that proclaimed ‘Banking industry continues to thrive’ or The Herald running with ‘Brown vows no more boom and bust’ or even The Daily Record stating ‘Holyrood 2007 - Labour ahead in poll’.

You would wonder if these papers had taken leave of their senses or if you had wondered through a time warp and arrived in 2006. Of course such headlines would be ridiculous, no one would cite something from three years ago and present it as the situation today.

Well no one that is with the exception of independent charity The Nuffield Trust who did exactly that when they produced a report using out of date data collected around three years ago and came to conclusions on today’s NHS in Scotland.

The ‘report’ was subsequently ‘seized on’ [couldn’t resist that !!] by every Scottish newspaper and trumpeted by the ever ‘impartial’ BBC Scotland.

Reports in Scotland are commonplace, there is nary a week goes by without one or other report making it onto the front pages of our newspapers. Mostly they are put together by well meaning professional organisations, often they are used by political parties in order to justify a policy or political stance, all quite proper and understandable.

However, the manner in which this scathing report was accepted at face value by the whole of the Scottish main stream media suggests that they are totally indifferent to the integrity of the conclusions the report makes and by extension shamefully unaware of its shortcomings.

As we have already stated, this report used data that was some three years out of date – it covered the term when Labour and the Lib Dems formed the Scottish administration. To present a 2006/7 snapshot of the Scottish NHS and presenting the ‘image’ as today’s Scottish NHS is simply incredible.

In a radio broadcast on Radio Scotland that evening a spokeswoman for the trust stated that she would be “very surprised” if the trends identified in 2006/7 had not continued to the present day. That statement alone is jaw dropping in its admission; it suggests that those behind the report have simply assumed that everything is still as it was three years ago. Had they not heard that Labour and the Lib Dem administration in charge when their report data was compiled were no longer the government?

However, it turns out that the Scottish NHS isn’t actually as bad as is being presented. Indeed if one were being honest then the NHS in England has some very serious problems and they are getting worse as the rush to privatisation continues amid the obsession with administrative targets.

Even more damning was the revelation that staffing figures used by the report were flawed. Apparently the staff levels for Scotland includes dentistry, an area which the English figures do not include. Also at First Ministers Questions on Thursday the First Minister revealed that the figures for the Scottish NHS claimed by the report were off by a staggering 27%.

To say this report isn’t worth the paper it is written on is a breathtaking understatement. However don’t just take Newsnet Scotland’s word for this - I recommend reading the following letter sent to The Herald in order to fully appreciate the remarkable failings of this report.

The letter is entitled 'NHS report makes unhealthy points'.
Click Here For Letter ..... then scroll down.

Surely the Scottish main stream media – especially the BBC – would have noticed that the report was based on data that was three years old. They should surely have checked the veracity of the figures with the Scottish government before letting loose with the headlines that we eventually saw – every one of them presenting a three year old snapshot that itself was based on very badly flawed data.

The report writers even think that the Scottish NHS is answerable to the UK Treasury – bewildering ineptitude.

There is one area that has indeed deteriorated this last three years – the Scottish press.

You can also listen to Prof Alyson Black of the Centre for International Health Care, Edinburgh University as she discusses the report by clicking here. Fast forward to 1hr and 17 mins. The recording will be available until 27th January.

Update - 24th January:
The Nuffield Trust has admitted using incorrect data in their report - Click Here. (Thanks to the Newsnet Scotland reader who drew this to our attention.)

They were informed of this by the Scottish government on the 19th January, the day before the report was published.

How odd that when interviewed by Radio 4's Today programme on 20 January, Ms Dixon, the trust's director, felt unable to confide any doubts on the topic.


Thursday 21st – 'Up the garden path'

So to First Ministers Questions and arguably one of the most cringeworthy and disconcerting performances from Labour’s Iain Gray.

Cringeworthy due to the refusal of Gray to move away from the subject when it was clear that the First Minister had demonstrated the issue raised by Gray been handled according to proper procedure.

Disconcerting as it became evident that someone had leaked confidential communications between the Scottish government and Westminster and had possibly compromise the security of the royal family.

The Scottish government called for an inquiry into the leaking of the information.

Rather than give yet another run down of the accusations and claims emanating from Labour in Scotland we have decided this time to simply provide a link to the actual FMQ session itself and thereby allow the reader to witness for themselves what transpired.

After having done so then a quick perusal of the Scottish press will provide the opportunity to determine the accuracy or otherwise of our journalists.

To watch First Ministers Questions then click Here

After watching the exchanges then I urge you to read the following press reports to check for accuracy:

The Herald

The Scotsman

The Press & Journal

The Record

31 comments:

G Bain, Aberdeen said...

Its not difficult these days to access the facts behind the story and, with a bit or reading, form your own view of the accuracy or otherwise of the reporting in the media.

I formed the habit years ago, especially post devolution, mainly so I could figure out whenever a story described as "nationwide", applied to the whole of the UK or just part of it.

I worry that only a tiny minority of people do their own digging. And I worry about the effects of a constant drip-feed of mis-information and poor quality journalism in the mass media.

What can be done about this?

The Wiki article (forgive me, I am not expert in the topic) on the Role of Journalism in a Democracy lists nine guidelines for the profession:

1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

Its not that a couple of these points slip from time to time, the whole set has been forgotten utterly. I am not aware of any mainstream news in Scotland that holds to these principles. This is dangerous.

newsnet said...

Thank you G Bain for an excellent and interesting comment.

Gedguy said...

Sadly, this type of journalism(?) has manifested itself only after the SNP took power in Scotland; or has it? It makes one wonder if there has ever been ANY investigative journalism in Scotland when it comes to the Unionist political parties.

Desmo said...

Like you, G. Bain, I have learned to read between the lines of just about every current affairs article published, although I must confess that I formed my habit long before devolution, 1984, to be exact.

During the Miner`s Strike of that year, a sizeable number of pickets had gone to Orgreave Colliery so the Police numbers were just as big, apparently swelled by officers wearing no service numbers.

Out of the blue and without warning, the mounted division of the Police drove at the gathered miners in an orchestrated charge with batons swinging. Countless miners, some with their wives and other relatives were seriously injured either by the galloping horses or their riders indiscriminate use of their weapons. Most had flesh wounds but many required hospital treatment.

This caused understandable outrage in the ranks of the miners far enough away to avoid injury themselves, so they responded by charging at the Police.

What followed resembled Civil War, a bloodbath if you like, between men fighting for their very livelihoods and a Police Force with instructions to use all necessary means.

The BBC, though, put together a news article that reversed the chronology of the charge and subsequent counter-charge so that the license-payer was left with the clear [and deliberate] impression that the Police were forced to use a Cavalry charge to repel a rampaging horde of hooligans and thugs who had attacked them first. What this portrayal amounted to was as close to the opposite of what really happened, and, I repeat, it came from the BBC.

I`m not an academic, nor am I an activist for any organisation, but that event, in 1984, is the one thing that compelled me to watch very closely those we`ve elected to serve us, AND those who serve them, even that bastion of fairness and objectivity, the BBC.

mythbuster said...

Sorry, I think once again you're reading more conspiracy into these stories than is justified. Let's take a balanced look at each of the stories:

BUCKFAST

You are right to point out that "minimum pricing is not about Buckfast drinking neds", but then this report never mentioned the issue of pricing at any single point! As we both know, pricing is irrelevant to the debate about Buckfast, but should Labour's cynical attempt to focus on that one issue preclude the BBC from examining ANY other issue related to Scotland's booze problem?

Heck, even the SNP Government admits the debate about Scotland's relationship with alcohol goes well beyond the issue of minimum pricing - as their recent BIll makes abundantly clear!

There is a real issue about Buckfast in Scotland and even if it is largely confined to parts of the West of Scotland, that's where the majority of Scotland's population is and, by extension, where most alcohol-related deaths occur - so it's a perfectly apt journalist endeavour.

This worthwhile investigation revealed new figures which quantify for the first time the link between Buckfast and violence in the Strathclyde Police Force area. It also examined the hitherto little-reported link with caffeine content. If countries like Ireland, Holland, Australia and Sweden are issuing warnings about caffeinated alcoholic drinks, then surely Scotland might want to think about something similar given it has more problems than any of the aforementioned countries?

But the main conclusion which the programme ended on was about the need for plastic rather than glass bottles. Not a hugely politically contentious point I would say.

Once again, your inability to see an issue beyond an SNP vs. Labour political spat leads you to believe that every report is a conspiracy. Normal people watching this report would have taken it at face value as an interesting examination of one, albeit important, drink. I'm for minimum pricing but I didn't walk away from this programme thinking that policy was a bad idea. Rather, I discovered that Scotland booze problem is multi-faceted and requires a variety of approaches. Something the SNP Government has made clear on countless occasions.

mythbuster said...

THE NUFFIELD TRUST NHS REPORT

It would be remiss of any news outlet to suppress research from a respected health charity into the productivity of a service that is facing severe public sector cuts - regardless of whether or not there are flaws in it. Does the media have a duty to expose those flaws? You bet it does... and it did! - although you're biased reporting managed to overlook this.

BBC Scotland's first broadcast report on the issue was on Good Morning Scotland after 06.30. Health Correspondent Eleanor Bradford was perfectly impartial, giving the Nuffield's views before adding:

"From everyone I spoke to yesterday… there are two major flaws. They don't take into account the geography of Scotland, it's far more rural. The second reason I have reservations is what they measure. The number of outpatient admissions is not the best measure of a health service. Indeed, tomorrow I'll be reporting from the Isle of Bute on machines which monitor people's blood pressure - that means they're not going into hospital, something this report would have reported as a failure!"

If that's not impartial then I don't know what is! Not only did Bradford highlight the flaws in the report, she would be doing a report the next day re-adressing the balance!!

>> "Surely the Scottish main stream media – especially the BBC – would have noticed that the report was based on data that was three years old."

Actually they did - and made this entirely clear in every report. So nobody was trying to suggest this was the fault of the SNP government! If anything, the report was more an attack on Labour's record!

>> They should surely have checked the veracity of the figures with the Scottish government before letting loose with the headlines that we eventually saw.

They did. But it takes time for any government to rebut the detail of a report that's just been published, however all Scottish Government responses were reported by the BBC on the day and the next day's papers were full of headlines such as:

"UK health report flawed" (Press & Journal)
"Health statistics apology demanded" (PA)
"Nicola Sturgeon hits back at claims rubbishing Scotland's NHS" (Daily Record)

Nuffield did however say they felt the conclusions were still relevant. I agree that's perhaps pushing it a bit, although as Gordon Brewer asked of a guest on Newsnight Scotland (playing Devil's Advocate before you get all paranoid!): "Can we really say that Labour mucked it up for 10 years, and the SNP have sorted inefficiency in the space of 2 years?"

Regardless, my overwhelming reaction was that while there were some serious flaws in the report, it was nonetheless a worthwhile line of enquiry by Nuffield and it prompted some serious debate about productivity and whether we should be monitoring this a lot more closely in the future given public sector cuts.

newsnet said...

"You are right to point out that "minimum pricing is not about Buckfast drinking neds", but then this report never mentioned the issue of pricing at any single point!"

Strange then that Labour MSP Richard Baker who appeared on the programme turned up the next day on BBC Radio Scotland and proceeded to conflate the two issues.

Just a coincidence of course that the very drink that the BBC decide to target is the one that Labour had already used in order to justify their oppsition to minimum pricing.

"There is a real issue about Buckfast in Scotland..."

No there isn't, it makes up 0.5% of the alcoholic drink purchased in Scotland.

"parts of the West of Scotland, that's where the majority of Scotland's population is ..."

The majority of Scotland's population is not in the West of Scotland.

Those parts of the West of Scotland affected by Buckfast are certainly not the majority of Scotland.

You seem to want to throw around the word conspiracy a lot. It isn't conspiracy, it is clumsy certainly and may even serve to cause problems for Scotland (more of that later).

It is clear that Labour saw this story as an opportunity, no sensible person would argue otherwise.

Whether the programme was simply happenstance that aided Labour or whether it was a deliberate attempt at muddying the minimum rice debate is anyones guess.

Given the recent behaviour of the BBC would anyone be surprised if it was the latter.

Feel free to offer your opinion on the other three stories covered by Newsnet Scotland - Oh, did you watch FMQ's? Richard Baker makes a fool of himself again - you won't find it in any Scottish mainstream news outlet though.

We would have loved to do a piece but simply don't have the resources.

Once again though, many thanks for your comment.

mythbuster said...

You say that Buckfast isn't a major issue in Scotland as "it makes up just 0.5% of the alcoholic drink purchased in Scotland". I don't dispute that very fact (indeed it was mentioned in Ken MacDonald's programme!). What you clearly failed to pick up was that DESPITE the small market share of this drink, it is nonetheless disproportionally responsible for alcohol-related violence in Scotland.

What Richard Baker choses to say during a live programme is up to him (although I'm sure he was tackled impartially by the interviewer). Given Labour's current performance they'd blame the SNP for the rain! But the media must not be fearful of investigating important issues just because a political party might make hay of it. Unfortunately it's always the case that the party in power gets the flack for anything happening on its watch, but I don't think anyone watching the documentary would have come to the conclusion that this influenced the debate on minimum pricing.

Incidentally, I didn't hear you complain on the multiple occasions when BBC Scotland reported on how just about every health professional backs minimum pricing - and when Labour politicians were attacked on Good Morning Scotland!

mythbuster said...

>> "Feel free to offer your opinion on the other three stories covered by Newsnet Scotland - Oh, did you watch FMQ's? Richard Baker makes a fool of himself again - you won't find it in any Scottish mainstream news outlet though."

Steady newsnet, I can only respond to one story at a time! I love though how you're so keen for me to move onto other stories before we've properly debated the previous ones!

It doesn't surprise me that Richard Baker made a fool of himself again, but that's hardly a NEWS story! lol

Seriously though, these kind of issues (ie. the performance of particular opposition politicians) is more apt for a political analysis programme. The nearest UK example would be something like BBC1's This Week or The Daily Politics where there's in-depth comment on how politicians perform. There's a bit of that at the end of BBC Scotland's FMQs coverage, but granted not enough.

I think what comes across in your blog is that you are a real political junkie. So am I. But even I can see that how Richard Baker performs in Parliament isn't of much interest to the wider public - certainly not enough to warrant headline news!

mythbuster said...

Oh, and just to add to your perennial point about how BBC reports are picked-up by opposition parties. Clearly ANY story that's negative about anything in Scotland is going to be seized upon by the opposition and used to criticise whatever government is in power. That's just what oppositions do - and equally what all parities in power have to accept. But are we seriously saying that the media, for that very reason, should only report good news stories? Like, for example, ones which can only be favourable to the SNP Government? Well not unless we're living in a Communist dictatorship we can't!

newsnet said...

"it is nonetheless disproportionally responsible for alcohol-related violence in Scotland."

Be carefull, you are making the same [flawed] assumptions as the Scottish media and these serious claims may have repercussions for Scottish trade.

On the NHS story:
The trust made aware that the report conclusions were based on flawed data prior to publication but chose to publish anyway.

In subsequent radio interview trust spokepeople did not make this clear, they continued making their claims.

Also the BBC most certainly did NOT inform the listeners in every broadcast that the report was based on out of date data.

The report was so badly put together that any diligent news organisation would have torn both it and the reputation of the Nuffield to shreds by now.

You have made a stout defence of the BBC - it will be up to others to decide whether there is a case against them and/or the rest of Scotland's main stream media.

Anonymous said...

Great work as usual.

This garbage is intensifying all in order to protect the UK State. Does this break some EU media law?

Think it's time to put an article on Wikipedia under various translation with regards to so-called "Scottish" media.

mythbuster said...

A study of inmates at Polmont Young Offenders Institution showed that "43% of violent offences, or offences involving alcohol and young offenders" involved Buckfast. That suggests a signficant problem.

But the aim of Ken MacDonald's investigation was actually much more modest. As he puts it, he "simply wanted to find out why it had acquired a reputation, particularly in the Central Belt".
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8462042.stm

His article - and the programme - were completely impartial, giving both sides of the debate (including your point about the low market share of Buckfast). It's up to the audience to decide what side they come down on.

Re. the Nuffield report, both Eleanor Bradford and Gordon Brewer effectively DID tear it to shreds, but that doesn't mean to say there aren't some findings and some areas of enquiry that are worth discussing.

Interesting that you started arguing how the BBC NEVER pointed out the date of the survey, but now you're saying it was only in SOME reports - which, funnily enough, I didn't see either on GMS, Reporting Scotland or Newsnight! Perhaps you can refer me to the evidence? Good journalism relies on backing up your claims. Merely stating "the BBC did this" or "the BBC did that" doesn't make it true - as we've discovered with the unsubstantiated claims you've made in previous postings. And you have the cheeck to criticise Nuffield's patchy findings! lol

(PS. Readers will note how you chose to cherry-pick just two facts, neatly sidestepping all of my well-reasoned arguments above. Funny that.)

mythbuster said...

Just listened back to the interview with the Nuffield spokeswoman on GMS at 0710. Here's an extract from what the presenter Gary Robertson said:

"The Scottish Health Secretary has attacked the Trust, claiming they've passed their judgement on out-of-date information."

CLIP OF STURGEON

Gary Robertson then puts it to the Trust spokeswomen during an interview: "The Scottish Government says your date is out of date... It's three years old."

Doesn't sound like much of a cover-up to me!

newsnet said...

"Interesting that you started arguing how the BBC NEVER pointed out the date of the survey"

I said no such thing.

Mythbuster, defend the BBC by all means, however your posts contain many factual inaccuracies already pointed out by me.

You have now resorted to attributing views and comments that I have not made.

That is unfortunate.

mythbuster said...

newsnet, this is about YOUR factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims about a lack of "impartiality" by BBC Scotland. The brevity of your response given the number of arguments I've given you is pretty pathetic to be honest. It's clear you haven't got a leg to stand on with some of the weak arguments put forward in your blog.

At risk of repeating myself, going back to your original claims:

* You say it was "never fully explained" why the BBC spent resources looking at Buckfast given it is largely confined to North Lanarkshire and Ayr. Yes it was - the link I sent you was Ken MacDonald's full explanation. And if you don't think the link between Buckfast and 5,000 crimes isn't a problem then you're living on a different planet from me. So what if it's geographically confined? If 5,000 people were ill as a result of living near Dounreay, for example, should the BBC also disregard that??? Of course not.

* You go on about "minimum pricing," yet this was never even mentioned in the report - indeed, the conclusions were centred on the merits of plastic bottles vs. glass ones - hardly controversial.

* You say the report "confused" the electorate and "muddied the waters" of this particular debate. Yes, if you accept the debate was about minimum pricing - which, AGAIN, it was not!!! So I don't know how anyone can be confused!

* You point to the report being used by Labour, yet fail to recognise that any negative report is inevitably going to be used by opposition parties. The BBC cannot be held responsible for what politicians say - and so long as a 'right-to-reply' is given to all sides of the debate (which it was) then what can the problem be? The only alternative is for the BBC to only report positive stories which cannot possibly impact on the SNP government!! I realise you'd quite like that - but the rest of us would rather not like in a Communist state!

* Re. the Maldieves story: you refer to a number of paragraphs in different Scottish newspapers being the same and come to the conclusion that this is some kind of plot "manipulated by an unknown source for political purposes and then circulated to Scottish newspapers who very obligingly have printed it in the form of a prominent article." Yes, it's called the Press Association - a respected news source which papers pay to reproduce, hence the duplication! I've already pointed this out, but you didn't respond, no doubt because of your embarrassment!

* You mock the "ever impartial BBC" re. the Nuffield Report, despite the fact that all coverage contained both sides of the debate, including refutals from the Scottish Government. You've still not addressed the fact that Eleanor Bradford and Gordon Brewer, among others, highlighted the failings in the report. But, hey, that's not convenient because it doesn't fit your agenda.

mythbuster said...

And on your denial that you said the BBC never pointed out the date of the survey, does this quote from your blog not suggest pretty much the same thing?

"Surely the Scottish main stream media – especially the BBC – would have noticed that the report was based on data that was three years old."

Well, yes, it DID notice because it pointed to the fact in every report I watched/listened to/or read on the issue last week. This is nothing but exaggeration on your behalf.

That is rather unfortunate to say the least.

newsnet said...

Thank you for your comments Mythbuster - a different perspective is always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable about the Nuffield Trust.

We can now see that this whole thing has been a propaganda exercise designed to undermine the integrity of the democratically elected Scottish Government.

The damage has been done and I very much doubt this admission by the Trust will receive publicity to the same magnitude of their spurious figures.

Scotland is in the grip of propaganda that puts you in mind of Russia. We do not live in a democracy here same as other Western countries.

By the way, mythbuster (also Group Captain Mandrake, Alex, sm753 et al) is trolling you. He's trying to flood your blog and simply spoil the good work your doing.

He has misrepresented your points and put words in your mouth and these are easily sufficient reasons for banning him from posting. I hope that you do.

Professional outlets such as the Scotsman and Herald have taken action to prevent posters from posting where they have seen it necessary. I think you should do the same with trolls like him who are not looking to offer "different perspectives" but are simply trying to wreck the excellent work you're doing.

Yes, I understand your dedication to democratic principles and your determination to allow others to air their views. But this is the internet, and it requires a specific set of rules when it comes to facilitating free speech.

In short, mythbuster is trying to scupper the facility of free speech that you are providing.

It would be nice if we had some genuine and sincere unionist activists to debate these matters with but, sadly, they are few. Their online presence seems to be more about provocation than engagement. But that, I suppose, is the only tactical option open to them given the inherent weakness of their argument.

Lara

Robert said...

I think that the BBC are extremely careful (and clever) in that they will have a report early on which is essentially just a Labour handout and it is not until afterwards that they throw in a few timid questions and caveats. I have often taken GMS to task with matters they report on as I commute early in the morning.

Of course, it it usually just the early report that the casual listener (or reader in the case of the papers) will take in.

As is often said, it is the constant drip-drip of misinformation and 'leanings' of these outlets which is most concerning. I take everything with a big spoon of cynicism now.

Keep up the good work,
Robert

newsnet said...

Robert and Lara

Thank you for the kind comments.

I am aware of the posters you refer to, mythbuster may or may not be the same posters(s).

I have had dealings with such posters before and the modus operandi is always the same - draw the opponent into a time consuming nebulous debate where the argument constantly and subtlely shifts.

Little assertions are made that are inaccurate and are often acompanied by deliberate misrepresentation.

One could spend one's entire day answering such 'factoids' only to be confronted with another two in the next comment, on it goes ad-infinitum.

The cleverly placed insult is another ploy as is the claim that somehow by not responding to each and every comment then you have admitted defeat.

However I'll give mythbuster the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

The comment feature:
It is experimental at the moment, the real purpose of the blog is twofold:

1. To allow people to subscribe to the Newsletter (almost 600 at the time of writing).

2. To comment on issues that fall between publications of the newsletter.

Please promote the blog/newsletter as often as you can - it is appreciated.

mythbuster said...

Anonymous writes:

>> "We can now see that this whole thing has been a propaganda exercise designed to undermine the integrity of the democratically elected Scottish Government."

Are you being serious? This report also criticised the Wales NHS (Labour) and said Northern Ireland (Coalition) had too many managers per head. I'm pretty sure Nuffield have better things to do than spend their time trying to concoct ways of attacking the Scottish Government!

The errors they made were significant, but you'll note from the press release that "Based on the new figures for medical staffing, Scotland's ranking relative to the other devolved nations on crude productivity for medical staff changes, but there is no change relative to England, or the North East of England." So their conclusion still stands.

As for the media not investigating the figures properly - journalists are not statisticians or health economists and they have to take a lot of things at face value. What they must do is give a range of voices a chance to comment on the results (inc. the Scottish Government, health economists etc.), then let people make up their own mind. And once again I repeat that BBC Scotland's health correspondent was highly sceptical about some of the report's findings and made this abundantly clear on-air.

I think that most people would agree that the report was flawed in many areas, but nonetheless raised an important issue, if nothing else to highlight how we could do with proper figures on productivity!! - esp. now that the public finances are coming under strain.

Material considered inflammatory has been removed from this comment - it made accusations about the blog administrator.

newsnet said...

The default on this blog will be to allow all comments.

However this is not The Scotsman and the kind of comment that pervades that newspaper will not be allowed.

mythbuster said...

newsnet, I'm not sure what was especially inflammatory about my post, but let's not get bogged down in a debate about process! Perhaps though you could suggest a more constructive way for us to debate? As you've already hinted, in future I will focus on one or two points rather than try and answer everything... but I do hope you will engage and respond to such points on their own merits.

Also, perhaps you would allow me to write a blog entry for your site explaining my thoughts on why the media comes under such attack from sites such as your own? In the name of impartiality and all that.

Robert writes:
>> "I think that the BBC are extremely careful (and clever) in that they will have a report early on which is essentially just a Labour handout..."

Could you give me an example of this? The Buckfast and Nuffield Reports weren't based on any Labour handout, but you may be referring to something else?

takhisis1 said...

While it is probably true that the Nuffield Trust report has since been proved to faulty goods. The problem with the media at present is their default setting is to attack the SNP government.Case in point, Thursday morning all papers I read were calling for the Environment secretary to be fired over the so-called Path scandal which was obviously a non-issue 3 days before the papers were ever printed.
This coupled with an apparent lack of showing up or reporting the problems of the other parties is what is driving to people to feel that the Scottish media is propaganda rather than impartial reporting

newsnet said...

"Perhaps though you could suggest a more constructive way for us to debate? As you've already hinted, in future I will focus on one or two points rather than try and answer everything... but I do hope you will engage and respond to such points on their own merits."

Focus on anything you wish and 'answer' anything you wish.

I respond if I feel it necessary.

"Also, perhaps you would allow me to write a blog entry for your site explaining my thoughts on why the media comes under such attack from sites such as your own? In the name of impartiality and all that."

The comments are for responding to the blog.

I'm wary when people use generalised terms such as 'sites such as your own'.

What sites fall into this category?

Anonymous said...

What frightens me is that Richard Baker could become Justice Minister IF Lab were to win the next election the man has never lived inthe real world,you only have to read his cv.I saw his performance on FMQ and the look on his face made me cringe.

Anonymous said...

Marvellous article by Ian Bell in the Herald today which is relevant to this blog entry.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/ian-bell/these-are-numbers-you-simply-cannot-count-on-1.1001695

How refreshing it is to see an article in a Scottish newspaper that accurately reflects the major part of Scottish public opinion.

Lara

mythbuster said...

newsnet writes: "What sites fall into this category?"

Generally any sites which allude to a deliberate anti-SNP Government bias on the part of the media. Ones which, in my view, hint at some kind of conspiracy or institutional bias, yet when you scratch beneath the surface there's little evidence to support the conclusion.

newsnet said...

I have scratched beneath the surface and believe that the evidence is overwhelming.

We can take as a starting point the Jeremy Paxman live BBC broadcast in the midst of the Holyrood election campaign when he confronted Alex Salmond with a fabricated poll result.

There are numerous examples since then, some subtle like Brian Taylors 'divide by zero' trick question and some - like Ms Catriona Renton - quite blatant.

Read this blogs articles on the Megrahi release that cover the behaviour of the BBC or even seek out Kenneth Roy's articles on the same, they are illuminating.

The press in Scotland are absolutely partisan - but they are free to be so as they are private companies.

Sadly this has to be my last post to this particular thread - I've a newsletter to put together.

The last word can be yours though.

Anonymous said...

I would like to make a point in regard to the "buckfast code" one of the boys interviewed who is currently serving time for stabbing a 50 year old man with cancer and rupturing his spleen had been drinking buckfast on the night of the offence and im dissapointed that it made no mention to the numerous illegal drugs he had taken as well as drinking buckfast (this was part of his defence in court including numerous others to try and get a lighter sentence). This boy was also a repeat offender but the focus should not be on what they drank or took but how to prevent it and unless you look at the whole picture you cannot tackle the problem.