Published on 11 March 2014, Newsnet Scotland.
Professor John Robertson published a report of his findings concerning bias in the reporting of the referendum by broadcasters over a year-long period.
He collated the total news items that were broadcast during this time and scored them according to criteria that would suggest bias. Negative bias towards the Yes Campaign was found throughout the activities of all the broadcasting organisations, but it was BBC Scotland that demonstrated the most occurrances.
One very obvious finding was the way Alex Salmond was personalised with the Yes Campaign to the extent that viewers were given a distinct impression that the whole campaign was centred on the hopes and aspirations of Alex Salmond - instead of the shared objectives of the movement in general. No corresponding personalisation was found for leading figures in the No campaign.
Bad news was highlighted and analysed in greater depth when it had a negative impact on the Yes Campaign.
The Yes Campaign was perceived as just an SNP venture by marginalising the other independence groups. The Better Together Campaign was promoted as a joint affair with all three Unionist parties involved. When discussions were recorded, on many, many occasions, the views of the Yes Campaign were balanced by the views of each of the three Unionist parties - instead of a corresponding single voice for the No Campaign. This lead to a 3:1 ratio bias in each occurrance.
These are just some of the findings from Professor Robertsons research. However, when he released the report, the BBC took an extremely dim view and denied there was any substance to his findings. They also contacted his superior with their concerns and went to great lengths to discredit the validity and impartiality of the Professor's work.
The allegations made by the BBC Scotland Chiefs and their concerted attempts to discredit the academic reached the ears of the Scottish Government who requested both parties to appear before the Culture Committee. In this video, we see Professor Robertson facing questions from Committee Members. This was the morning session - the BBC Scotland Chiefs (four of them) appeared in the afternoon session.
Professor Robertson was questioned by the cross-party committee. From the outset, he stated that his research was impartial - or indeed was as impartial as an individual could make it, since everyone has some sort of personal leaning, but having said that, his experience and academic objectives would ensure that these personal issues were never allowed to influence the way he performed the research.
What is interesting is how the Unionist members of the committee quickly latched on to the possibility of this as a weakness, and asked some rather personal and disparaging questions. For example, a Conservative member asked him directly if he was Pro-Independence. The Professor replied that he felt he did support independence, but that this would have absolutely no bearing on his findings as he was only concerned with scoring the events according to a distinct set of criteria. This was ignored by the Committee Member, who pressed him further on his political leanings and tried to twist the results to show this was a big factor in arriving at the figures reported.
A Labour Member also attacked the Professor on the grounds of comments he had made about a Labour figure - again this had nothing to do with the matter in hand, but the attempt was made to discredit the Professors impartiality. Not to be outdone, a LibDem Member tried to say that the Professor would see similar patterns of bias towards the No Campaign if he expanded his research base to include David Cameron and George Osbourne.
So, all three Unionist parties actually demonstrated their lack of impartiality on the committee by trying to discredit the impartiality of the Professor and his findings. Since his report was pointing a finger at positive bias towards the No Campaign, the Unionists showed their true colours and tried to silence the threat. The SNP members were even-handed and asked relevent questions. The difference in style between these two groups is stark in contrast.
Watch and learn, then compare these questions to the ones asked by the same people in the afternoon session with the BBC.
Here are some comments from those who watched this video back in March, 2014.
"You do not need a professor to prove bias, individuals make up their own minds, now as far as the BBC and the News media are concerned, they are 100% biased, any company that is connected to the 'system' and for the newsprint media that would be the owners, will have a given agenda to affect the outcome of any referendum. If you watch any Salmond interview by the BBC or indeed any channel, you are left in no doubt about the bias, and to pick any one of Warks interviews with Salmond is a classic example of not only bias but downright rudeness."
"It was thanks to Newsnet Scotland that I first became aware of the UWS report and found it on-line. It only served to confirm what many have known or at least suspected for a good number of years. (At least since Kirsty Wark's time)"
"I think the professor was always on a hiding to nothing. I am at present reading 'The Establishment' (which I thoroughly recommend) which lets you see in no uncertain terms just how rotten to the core our system (political and otherwise) really is! I would have been surprised of a different result to his studies purely on the past record of the british media in general!"
"God love him, he is purely an academic doing his job and did not (clearly seen from his reaction) expect the Spanish Inquisition. Well Professor if you are reading this. I am immensely proud of your work regardless of your political affiliation or non-affiliation. I do however fully understand now why academics with a passion for a better society would be as well talking to a brick wall....."
"They don't seem to grasp the message, It should be balanced coverage."
"I'm so grateful that my sociology seminar tutor linked this for us to watch. I wish he was my professor... Such a well spoken man!"
"Did Neil Bibby even read the damn thing? It seemed to me he only turned up to attack the Prof. Shameful."