On Friday 6th March just after the 1:00 PM news Radio Scotland broadcast it's weekly 'Brian's Big Debate' programme, a news and current affairs debate show. The programme featured Roseanna Cunningham for the SNP, Murdo Fraser for the Conservatives, Alistair Carmichael for the Lib Dems and Michael Connarty for Labour - Magnus Linklater of The Times was also present.
One section of the show featured a question from an audience member that asked:
Has the SNP been unfairly excluded from the forthcoming TV general election debates?
Below is a transcript of what followed when Roseanna Cunningham (RC) tried to answer the question:
BT is the shows host BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor.
RC: "Well yes; and I.."
BT - attempts to interrupt but is prevented as RC continues to answer
RC: "..actually think the vast majority of people in all political parties know that that's the answer, they're not going to admit it because actually this proposal benefits them and it's the way of politicians and politics, eh, never to give away what they think is their own advantage. But the truth of the matter is actually it's democracy that is let down by this decision and I'm sorry that the BBC has got itself into this mess ..."
BT interrupts ... "and SKY" ... he talks over RC ... "and ITV"
RC: "... well no actually we've had many ..."
BT interrupts louder, the tone is of a mocking rebuke... "and SKY" ... "and ITV"...
RC tries to continue: "... We're having ..."
BT simply talks over RC ... "there are three debates"
Some panel members and parts of the audience take this as a cue and start laughing
RC tries to keep the flow of her answer: ... "... We are having very productive discussions with SKY, which is ... which is more than could be said ..."
BT interrupts, talking over RC, this time the tone is confrontational as he abruptly barks: "which resulted in what !! ?"
RC: "Well you'll, you'll be told when the time is right."
Some audience members are clearly enjoying the hectoring of RC and begin laughing again
RC continues: "... Which is more than can be said for the BBC ..."
RC tries to continue but is simply taked over by BT who has decided rather than allow RC to answer his
question that he will answer it himself.
BT: "It resulted in a 90 minute programme going out on SKY exactly the same as the BBC"
RC is now forced to have an argument with the supposedly impartial BT whilst at the same time give her answer to the original question posed by the audience member.
RC tries to continue: "Brian, I realise that you want to pursue the party line on this ... from the BBC"
BT again interrupts: "Well, no, no - I'm just, I'm just pointing out that there are three 90 minute debates and that's all I'm pointing out"
RC tries to continue her answer: "But the truth of the matter is that the BBC didn't even have the courtesy to
discuss this with the SNP in the first place"
RC: "Now we're going to have three debates, one will be on what are effectively domestic issues and most of that will involve devolved areas of responsibility and the debate will have little relevance to Scotland. The other one will be about economy about half of which will be relevant to Scotland but unless they are going to blank out the bits that are not relevant to Scotland ..."
BT angrily interrupts again and completely talks over RC: "The economy bits are on ITV, the domestic ones are on SKY; it's nothing to do with the BBC Roseanna that, that really is wrong" ... he is showing signs of frustration and a little anger.
RC tries to continue: "... or strap line saying that ..."
RC tries to forcibly continue her answer: "We are, we are, we are ..."
BT interrupts again - this time to correct his previous incorrect interruption: "I beg your pardon, the economy one's on the Beeb ..." the rest of BT's statement is unintelligable due to both he and RC trying to speak.
RC continues: "... we are in the question now of democracy and I think everybody knows it but nobody wants to say it because as long as they benefit from that manipulation they'll keep their mouths shut.
BT: "Thanks for that - "
some members of the audience burst into applause, cheering can be heard
BT flippantly: "Enthusiastic applause and even a little cheer there - well done"
Michael Connarty then starts speaking ...
Brian Taylor overstepped the mark by deciding to ditch impartiality and allow his own opinions to overrule his professionalism. That on at least one occasion he was wrong simply compels his error of judgement. He did not employ devils advocate but rather became a de-facto member of the panel and continually hectored and interrupted Roseanna Cunningham as she tried to answer a question.
It is clear that Brian Taylor thought that the BBC were being singled out by Roseanna Cunningham but it was wholely wrong for Brian Taylor to effectively abuse his position as a BBC employee in order to involve himself in the debate.
Roseanna Cunningham was not allowed to finish sentences and was routinely spoken over by Taylor, this had the effect of diminishing the points that she was trying to make.
Moreover Taylors opinions were at times subjective and he may well have influenced many undecided voters or listeners by his repeated interjections.
You can listen to the show by clicking HERE, the part in question starts at 24 mins 40 secs in.