Tuesday 24 September 2013

James Naughtie: Mr Impartiality?

Last Wednesday marked the start of a year's worth of BBC coverage of the September 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Leading Radio 4's coverage of the story will be Today's very own Scotsman, James Naughtie. He will still be doing Today, as well as presenting a twice-weekly stint on Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, and acting as Radio 4's chief reporter on the story. So a busy year for him then.

Last Wednesday's Today kicked things off Jim's big year, and gave Radio 4 listeners their first chance to here how even-handed James Naughtie would (or wouldn't) be in reporting the story. 

Jim is known for his Freudian slips (if that's what they are). There was Jeremy...er...Hunt, of course, but also his classic "If we win the election..." to Ed Balls in 2005 (hastily amended to "If you win the election"), suggesting (to many) where his sympathies lie.

Would his interviews with two leading figures from either side of the independence argument on that morning's Today demonstrate that James Naughtie is likely to be scrupulously unbiased over the coming year - barring Freudian slips?

Please listen for yourselves to both interviews:

The interview with Alistair Darling, Labour (anti-independence)
The interview with Nicola Sturgeon, SNP (pro-independence)

If you have listened to both interviews, you won't need me to tell you that they were very different types of interview. The one with Alistair Darling was gentle, almost cosy, nearly a fireside chat compared to the tough, interruption-laden scrap with Nicola Sturgeon which followed. 

That was down to James Naughtie, and the tone he chose to adopt with each guest - collegial with Mr Darling, antagonistic towards Ms Sturgeon.

You would have thought that he would have sought to showcase his even-handedness on this of all programmes. He chose not to.

It doesn't bode well, does it?

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