Friday 21 August 2015

Nick Robinson v the cybernats (Part 54)

Today's big 'stooshie' on Twitter (regarding BBC bias) concerned the sudden flaring-up again of the deep, historic enmity between Nick Robinson and the cybernats.

If you recall, Nick Robinson had asked Alex Salmond a question at a press conference during the referendum debate which didn't go down very well with either Mr Salmond or his supporters (to put it mildly). Some pro-independence supporters 'went their dinger' so much that they swarmed around the BBC's Glasgow HQ demanding Nick Robinson's 'heid' on a platter.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this week, the BBC's former political editor said he regretted phrasing his question badly but added that Alex Salmond had exploited his question as a diversionary tactic. 

He also compared those protests to something out of Putin's Russia:
Alex Salmond was using me to change the subject. Alex Salmond was using me as a symbol, a symbol of the wicked, metropolitan, Westminster classes sent from England, sent from London, in order to tell the Scots what they ought to do. 
As it happens I fell for it. I shouldn't have had the row with him, which I did and I chose a particular phrase we might explore badly in terms of my reporting and that is genuinely a sense of regret. 
But as a serious thought I don't think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC's headquarters, so that young men and women who are new to journalism have, like they do in Putin's Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs. 
That, you may agree with me or disagree with me, is not how politics should operate either in the UK or in future independent Scotland if there is to be such a thing. 
We should not live with journalists who are intimidated, or bullied, or fearful in any way.
This will run and run (and run).


  1. As much as it pains me to do so, I take the BBC's and Robinson's side on this one. Regarding the accusation of a pro-Union bias overall, across the spectrum of broadcasting, I'm undecided. I didn't see much obvious bias throughout, but then I never saw anything from BBC Scotland, which was apparently the focus of most complaints.

    This specific charge against Robinson, though, is in my mind one for the "Complaints From Both Sides" file. Anything that might make Salmond look bad, or any suggestion that he was wrong, is going to be seen as anti-FREEDOM bias.

    The one thing that this incident does prove, though, is that way too many Beeboids have taken to holding up Paxman's famous incident with Howard as the flagship example of perfect robust, challenging journalism. It's like some sort of personal goal they all have. Robinson would never have done that - or done it quite like that - without Paxman's example becoming - wrongly, in my view - the stuff of legend. I'll leave it to somebody else to explain how this is more evidence of the twisted journalist priorities of BBC journalists.

    1. I'm taking the same side as you here, David.

      I make an attempt to see if there was some kind of obvious bias but didn't get very far.

      From my very close monitoring of one BBC presenter/programme on my old 2009-10 blog, however, I found that presenter to be (to my outsider's eyes) astonishingly anti-SNP, anti-Tory and pro-Labour/Scottish establishment - and blatantly so.

      If that was typical, Complaints from Both Sides wouldn't actually be from 'both sides' at all but from 'two [opposing] sides' just happening to converge on being against the BBC/then-Labour-dominated Scottish establishment.

  2. 'Phrased badly'? I thought the new, young, vibrant BBC mea culpa was 'clumsy'.

  3. I was in Gambia for the 6 months leading up to the referendum and happily missed all BBC coverage. On my return to Scotland I was shocked by the poisonous atmosphere in the country. I do not know whether the BBC reflected this, but I was shocked, shocked I tell you. Even today some people in families are not on speaking terms. But something is wrong if a relatively mild-mannered and relatively unbiased journalist like Nick Robinson felt bullied by the odious Wee Eck and his thugs.

    1. The BBC did reflect that, Grant. And it was considered anti-SNP bias for them to report the tensions. The FREEDOM narrative was that this was some sort of warm and fuzzy movement for independence, all love for humanity and the desire for a fairer Scotland. Any report suggesting there was a raised voice or cross word was attacked as pro-Union bias.

    2. David, That is pretty much what some people in Scotland were telling me. But the damage has been done. The feelings of bitterness have really surprised me. Very sad.

    3. We shouldn't forget the shocking scenes where Farage was effectively prevented by mob rule from exercising his democratic rights.

      I would have voted for independence had I been eligible to do so, but political nationalism always tends to have this nasty side to it.

      We face a Himalayan range of challenges in the UK now but nationalism is not the solution: a clear understanding of the importance of free speech and democracy is the key to meeting those challenges.

  4. Seems excellence in phrasing remains a BBC skill. They really used the term 'branded' when any normal user of the English language would have used 'hailed'?

  5. For a website that's called 'Is the BBC biased', I find it astounding that the commenters have not looked into the crux of the matter - the key thing that many have beef with Nick Robinson - that he reported one thing, when in fact, another actually happened.
    David + Grant - I suggest you read more by Prof John Robertson of UWS.
    Craig, you're closer to the truth, in respect of BBC Scotland, but not representative of Nick Robinson.
    Nick Robinson reported that Salmond 'did not answer' his question. However, he did answer his question. He gave a 7 minute answer. If you watch his answer it's clear the reason why Nick Robinson didn't report it. The whole episode was deeply embarrassing for him and the BBC.
    Anon - re: Farage - the nationalism in Scotland is civic nationalism, not political nationalism - there's a gulf of difference between the two. And is certainly not the type of British nationalism now being mooted. Note that one of those arrested at that incident was English.


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