Vote! On the BBC/First Minister spat

Another Saturday, another tale of nonsense from the BBC.

This weekend, the state broadcaster has given us two upon which to grind our teeth.

First, the astonishing decision to axe the Janice Forsyth show from Saturday morning schedules.  Now, I would admit that I only occasionally listen to it   It’s on at an awkward time for me, I’m usually out the door by then, busy with bairns’ stuff.  But when I do get the chance, well it’s pretty much perfect Saturday morning listening.  Great choons, a witty and articulate presenter, interesting guests, good chat.

But the Saturday morning schedule does seem a bit jumbled.  News review followed by sport review followed by a magazine show.  The mix doesn’t quite gel, although maybe it doesn’t have to.  Maybe if BBC Scotland was thinking about the diverse needs of its potential audiences, the mix hits the mark.

And it’s this issue that bothers me most about the decision.  Where is the diversity in BBC Scotland’s approach?  The plan is shockingly two-dimensional:  chat through the day, music at night.  Anything falling between those stools will be jettisoned.  Our brains are so unsophisticated it would appear, that unless the BBC helpfully puts everything into wee boxes for us, we cannot cope.  Words fail me.

I also can’t help suspecting that the BBC is guilty of some pretty unsophisticated thinking of its own – and it’s also fairly unsavoury.  What kind of chat are we likely to get on a daytime schedule that is already dominated by sport – football in particular – and male voices?  Hmm?

More innane wittering on about football?  More blokes gathered in a cupboard joshing and puffing themselves and their opinions up?

Don’t get me wrong – I like my football, I love pottering about on a wet Saturday with my radio tuning in to matches.  It is not unknown in my house for all the radios to be tuned to different matches simultaneously – it can be exhilirating if also confusing.

But that isn’t the point.  It is simply unacceptable for the state broadcaster, paid for by the public purse, to exclude one half of the population from its daytime Saturday schedule.  There are few enough female voices on Radio Scotland these days – even though there is no shortage of excellent female journalists and broadcasters in this country – without a whole day being allowed to become male dominated.  Moreover, since when did the whole population “like” sport and only want sport from one half of the weekend schedule?

I may, of course, be getting ahead of myself.  Maybe the slot will be filled by a chat magazine show that discusses “women’s issues” – a kind of Caledonian women’s hour.  Now that would be interesting.  Or a politics discussion show with only women participating – again, an interesting concept.  Or at the very least maybe it will be a show fronted by a woman talking about stuff other than sport.  But I hae ma doots.

In any event, this, and the storm of protest on Twitter this morning, is a shot across BBC Scotland’s bows.  If the plan was to fill the Saturday morning airwaves with more innane football drivel and remove a woman from the slot and replace her with a man, well they might want to tear it up and think again.

But this is not the only example of bizarre BBC-ery (it almost deserves a noun in its own right;  for meaning, think fuckwittery).  After arranging for the First Minister, Alex Salmond, to appear on its big build-up to the Calcutta Cup match this evening, the BBC has pulled the plug.  Apparently, it’s too politically sensitive a time, too close to the local government elections (still more than three months away) to have a Scottish politician on the telly talking about rugby and what the match means to Scotland.

Now, those who object to any politician getting involved in talking about sport or muscling in on any big sporting occasion have a point.  There is a principled case for keeping it all very separate and therefore, avoiding the possibility of stumbling into delicate territory.  But a blogpost on the pros and cons of the relationship between sport and politics is for another day.

And this would be fine if the BBC was in any way principled about this but it isn’t.  There have been plenty of times when politicians have been allowed, nay encouraged to be involved in big sporting occasions.  Olympics anyone?  Indeed, it’s not just politicians:  look at how fawning everyone is when a Royal deigns to mix it with the hoi polloi on mass participation activity.  Just like the Royals, politicians do this cos it’s populist and popular.  And the BBC has always enabled it – until now.

The final point is that Alex Salmond is not just any other politician.  He is the elected First Minister of Scotland, our highest public representative and it is entirely within his job description to appear on the telly on the day of a big sporting occasion and talk about his hopes for a Scotland win but probably – as he would have done – about what such an occasion brings to Scotland and means economically and socially to Edinburgh, in particular.  Some may not like it because it’s Alex Salmond getting to comment on all of this, but that is his role, just as it would be Johann Lamont’s if she were First Minister.

The excuses trotted out by the BBC are paltry and small-minded and belittle Scotland.  There is a place for our First Minister, whatever his or her hue, to be part of the coverage of today, until and unless it changes its policy and produces a blanket ban on ALL politicians and public figures (including Royalty) appearing on its platforms in connection with big sporting occasions.

But maybe, you don’t agree?  Then vote!

And in the interests of fairness, here is the question framed differently

7 thoughts on “Vote! On the BBC/First Minister spat

  1. I have consulted with an obscure American-based academic specializing in marketing – as I believe is now standard practice – and regret to inform you that your question is biased and weighted distinctly in favour of those who believe Salmond should not have appeared on the programme.

    Specifically, your wording “But maybe you don’t agree. Then vote!” naturally encourages people to disagree with the proposition …

    Doesn’t seem to have impacted the result much though! Maybe people aren’t quite as stupid as the Unionist side think?!

  2. Judging by the result, it’s probably better he didn’t appear! He’d have got the blame.

    To be honest, I’ve no time for any politician sticking their nose into a sport unless they’ve actually been an active participant. Even further, I can’t stand listening to the pundits either. All I want to see is the sport being played with the minimum of commentary. I can see when they score a try.

    The SNP must be careful how they deal with this. Remember the money wasted on the court case for the Westminster leader’s debate? I’m not condoning the BBC’s actions, but there are more important things to be getting on with that picking fights with the BBC over a rugby match.

  3. Maybe there’s something in this framing lark, because when I read the wording of the second question, I suddenly realised I had been totally taken in by your wording in the first question, and in actual fact I not only support the BBC decision, but I’m appalled it has taken them this long to implement it. They had him on The One Show a couple of months ago, and due to the non-political nature of that show, my guard was down and just seeing him there suddenly made me more suggestive towards independence, and when he started speaking, I could feel myself reaching for a piece of shortbread and a glass of whisky. It’s like he had violated my mind. If there had been an independence referendum ballot at hand at that moment, I would have accidentally voted “yes”.

    Alternatively, this is just a perfect example of the kind of inherent bias in the media that Noam Chomsky & Edward Herman talked about in Manufacturing Consent. The BBC probably don’t even know they’re doing it. They do the same with Palestine – watch this clip and see them censoring the word “Palestine”.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00f15g4

    The BBC are an absolute disgrace.

  4. They could of got Johann and/or Ruth to balance the obvious Scottish bias.

  5. 2 questions on the same ballot? My brain can’t cope with that, being a simple jockish doughnut. Glad you didn’t precede with “Do you agree…” or I’d have to reboot.

  6. The idea that the BBC was worried it might have impact on Scottish local council elections in May is bizarre. a) It’s rugby and Salmond agreed not to talk politics. b) Salmond’s good but he’s not that good. In other words, my vote is – it’s a piece of nonsense.

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