Sunday, 25 May 2014

Not in the News - Late May edition

Welcome to the sixth of our bi-monthly series looking back at the stories which the main stream media in Scotland didn't offer much attention to, and comparing them to those that hit the front pages. Our last edition covering the first two weeks of May can be found here.

U Know I'm Petrified! (of facts!)
What is the most important thing for the police to be investigating online? Terrorist cells, virus programmers, fraudsters, no, it's people who tweet factual and sarcastic messages that highlight UKIP policies!
A Green Party blogger re-tweeted an ironic list of '10 great reasons to vote UKIP'. Apparently, making people aware that UKIP intend to cut maternity leave, raise income tax for the poorest, scrap holiday entitlement, privatise the NHS, retract human rights acts, and cut the education budget whilst buying 3 aircraft carriers (all of these claims were sourced) is now worthy of a visit from your local bobby. We would also highlight UKIP's plans to scrap the Scottish Parliament but we're too afraid to do so!

The next coalition government...?
U Know I'm Petrified! (of consistency!)
If you watch BBC coverage then 1) you have our sympathies and 2) you will be familiar with the name Sanya-Jeet Thandi. Ms Thandi was a prominent member of the UKIP youth wing who left the party prior to the European elections. She stated on her blog that the party was running an "anti-immigrant campaign" and trying to "exploit the ignorance in British society". This was the lead political story on the BBC on Wednesday, the 14th of May.

But if you watch BBC coverage, then you will be less familiar with the name Gary Wilson, a Labour Party member who was the no campaign co-ordinator within the Edinburgh East Labour Party. Mr Wilson stepped down from this position and joined pro-independence group Labour for Independence.
"I had to step down from my role as I gradually realised that we are not in fact 'better together'. I have listened to all of the arguments whether economic, social or emotional and I am now convinced that independence is the right thing for Scotland." Gary Wilson, Labour for Independence
Why was one of these people highlighted by the BBC and the other ignored? We couldn't possibility say!
How news crosses a border
The Daily Telegraph showed once again their understanding of finance with their headline in Scotland reading 'die young to fund SNP pension plan'.

The story comes from the fact that people in Scotland can afford larger pensions at an earlier age for the same price we are currently paying due to our lower average life expectancy. A larger pension (or one which starts earlier) would help to alleviate the poverty which is a major contributor to our earlier deaths, but the Telegraph don't want to talk about that.
Reforming how state pensions are organised would also provide benefits and improve sustainability, but the Telegraph don't want to talk about that either.
And the principle of having alternative arrangements for state pensions in Scotland doesn't just come from the SNP, but are backed by experts such as Rachel Homes, author of the article 'Scotland better placed to defuse its share of UK pensions time-bomb', but the Telegraph don't want to talk about that too.

If you believe the pension needs of Scotland should be considered, then don't let the Telegraph know - they may think you're a dangerous separatist!
Of course, if we had pensions like those of our neighbours, and if we didn't have unnecessary and widespread poverty and destitution, which is exacerbated by the Westminster system that the Telegraph defends, then we would see much smaller variations in life expectancy. But we're not likely to see the Telegraph produce headlines about that. At least, not in their pretendy, regional Scottish editions (hint: here, here and here).
Rince and repeat
We don't need to say much beyond our blogs from the 22nd of April 2013 and the 16th of February:

As pointed out by Reverend Stuart Campbell, "It [the 'no' campaign] seems to be set on an infinite loop". As for the Scotsman...we at Sign for Scotland know they can make worse covers than these.
Oil Well that ends Well
"UK's oil, coal and gas 'gone in five years'" was the headline on the BBC on the 16th of May. It follows from countless other stories from 'no' supporting media outlets which have for decades been telling us that North Sea oil is about to run out (you can see links to 29 of them on the Wings over Scotland blog entitled 'The oil debate for busy people').

We've been lied to repeatedly by politicians and London centric media outlets for decades whilst Westminster has wasted our natural resources. What is worst is that many people are left unaware of the real situation. Every journalist in Scotland should be ashamed whenever blatently wrong statements such as "we don’t have the resources – like oil and gas – we’d need to keep Scotland afloat" are made.
Of course, this latest scare this goes against numerous reports of record investment in the North Sea oil industry as well as the UK Government's own internal expections of future revenue. This story has been lampooned repeatedly and shows that the only thing drying up are the excuses coming from the Westminster Defence League.
How valued are journalists?
At the tail end of April, the National Union of Journalists wrote a little to the BBC's Director General, Tony Hall, requesting that the broadcaster resign from anti-independence group the Confederation of British Industry. They stated that the temporary suspension of membership during the official referendum campaigning period wasn't enough. The BBC Scotland members of the NUJ voted to back the following motion:
"This Chapel is concerned by the damage being done to the work of its members, and to the reputation of BBC journalism, by the Corporation's membership of the CBI.

We note that the CBI is seeking to de-register with the electoral commission as a non-party campaigner for the Union. But the damage of assocation remains.

Please, Director General, back your Scottish journalists, allow us to do our jobs, re-assert our impartiality, and immediately resign from the CBI." National Union of Journalists letter to Tony Hall
And the respose from the BBC? To not even suspend membership as previously promised:
"As the CBI is no longer registered with the Electoral Commission as part of the Scottish Referendum Act, the BBC believes that it is no longer necessary to suspend its membership." BBC Statement, Thursday, 15th of May
With disrespectful actions such as this, it is no surprise that internal surveys are showing an increasing disillusionment within the British State Broadcaster's Scottish division.
"When asked if "Communication at the BBC is open and honest" only 10 per cent at BBC Scotland NCA agreed." Newsnet Scotland, reporting on the findings of the BBC's latest internal survey, Sunday 18th of May
Unfortunately, it isn't just the BBC who are ignoring the NUJ:
In the communications, one senior union official expresses his frustration at the refusal of the Scottish newspapers to cover the story saying: "the papers have - once again - ignored us. And largely ignored the story..." Newsnet Scotland, 20th of May 2014
Still, it was hilarious to find that the CBI's 'junior' member of staff who signed the application to officially make the organisation part of the 'no' campaign turned out to be CBI Senior Campaign Advisor Jon Harrison and Senior Political Adviser Richard Maughan. But that is of little comfort to the NUJ, who have to do their best in very difficult circumstances.
When poll results are misleading
Back in the summer of 2013, Panelbase, a polling agency, produced an opinion poll which showed Yes in the lead. The methodology for this poll, where the referendum question was the third question asked, was criticised by experts including Professor John Curtice.

On the 18th of May, ICM, a polling agency, produced an opinion poll where the referendum question was the third to be asked. Professor Curtice 'hasn't said a word about the same problem'. The only difference we can see...this opinion poll showed extra support for 'no'.
"But in this new poll showing a bigger 12% No lead, the referendum question was asked third - which ought to set alarm bells ringing immediately, because we know that responses to later questions can be substantially influenced by the wording of earlier ones." Scot goes Pop, 19th of May 2014
Of course other polling agencies have been doing the same.

The poll could even got the proportion of male and female voters, as well as other factual details available from census information, wrong! There isn't much point in conducting opinion polls if the numbers they produce are wrong. Unless you are using these polls as a campaigning tool.

The story is...Sign for Scotland?
Sign for Scotland received it's first mention on the BBC (although this certainly isn't their first mention on our website...see here, here, here, here, here above and below for just a few examples!). The headline 'Scottish independence: Deaf voters critical of referendum campaigners' with the first line reading 'Scottish independence referendum campaigners have neglected the needs of deaf voters, it has been claimed'. This article was also mentioned on the Limping Chicken and through the BBC's See Hear Facebook page.

Kirsty, at Yes Scotland HQ last year
The story is about the number of Sign Language DVDs of the White Paper has been issued (29). They spoke to John Denerley of Deaf Connections who said "it's ridiculous, shocking, and frankly embarrassing only 29 copies have been ordered." This comment matched the theme of the piece with the article almost entirely focused on the Scottish Government and Yes Scotland, with no direct criticism of the 'no' campaign. The mention of Sign for Scotland came as part of the response from 'Yes Scotland' (neither ourselves nor Scottish Deaf Independence were approached by the BBC).

As we noted in our Facebook response, the BBC report failed to mention the BSL version of the Scottish Government's White Paper (which you can view here: and had received over 500 views by the time of the article being published) the size of our group which now has over 1,000 likes and more than 1,600 followers on Twitter ( or our friends at Scottish Deaf Independence (

The BBC found this information through a freedom of information request. As far as we know, no such request was made on UK government produced anti-independence documents.

We have produced over 20 videos and Scottish Deaf Independence have made even more. Perhaps if the British State Broadcaster did research beyond 'no' campaign press releases they would know that!

P.S. We'd like to say thank you to Newsnet Scotland for posting an article about this story.

Good morning Scotlandshire!
Back in March, Newsnet Scotland started a public fundraiser for the producing an academic study to review an aspect of BBC output. The ambitious goal of £6,500 was reached and exceeded with 259 donors giving an average of nearly £30 each reaching a final total of £7,065.
Newsnet Scotland decided to monitor Good Morning Scotland and the results were startling:

The research team (headed by Professor John Robertson) made several key findings:
  • Broadcasts were balanced, in crude numerical terms, but, in every other respect, unfair to the Yes campaign and favouring the Better Together (no) campaign.
  • Broadcasts began too often with bad news for Yes and, too often, featured heavy repetition of such messages over several hours in a manner conducive to unconscious absorption of warnings.
  • Statements, from the Yes perspective, were often reactive while those favouring BT were commonly initiating.
  • Interviewers intended, too often, to adopt aggressive techniques with Yes supporters while only doing so on two occasions with BT supporters.
  • There was a selection and use of expert witness of dubious credibility and of evidence from partisan sources, the broadcasts were clearly unfair to the Yes campaign.

Certain quotes from the report were disturbing to read:
"A further piece of evidence emerging from these broadcast transcripts which seems clearly to favour BT was the tendency of interviewers and interviewees to interrupt, almost interrupt and to cut in quickly to break flow of statements in support of the Yes campaign. The totals give a ratio of almost exactly 3:1 in favour of BT." Academic Study, May 2014

"The repeated treatment of Sturgeon with multiple interruptions and irritable tones is notable and worthy of reflection. No accusation of deliberate discriminatory practise is suggested but this form of aggressive interviewing directed at a confident and articulate woman and not matched with male equivalents such as Lord Robertson or the former Pentagon adviser is unsettling." Professor John Robertson, May 2014
This report is very similar to one produced in January which found longstanding bias in BBC and STV news programmes. Will the British State Broadcaster react to this analysis? We can think of 193 million reasons why they might not.
And finally...
We loved the story 'Too gutless to even lie' from Rev Stuart Campbell at Wings over Scotland. It covers how a newspaper can manipulate a story in such a way that gives an impression which is the opposite of reality. If you only have time to look at one link in this edition of 'not in the news', then make it this one.
Join us again in June for our next look at what's 'not in the news'!

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