I recently read this article by Ian Dunt on the Politics.co.uk website. He was apparently shocked at the “disgraceful” treatment of the Press by protesters at the Tory conference in Manchester. He was particularly incensed that some of the protesters seemed to have a real dislike of the Press, verging on hatred. He goes on to cite several other instances of unjustifiable, poor treatment of journalists.
Not unexpectedly, perhaps, it is a fairly partisan view of the Press with no indication that Ian Dunt accepts that, in Scotland and the rest of the UK, dislike of the MSM generally is caused by a constant stream of one sided reporting, lies and the omission of “off message” truths.
I can’t comment on most of the examples he gives, but it’s telling that, in the Scottish one, he treats three separate incidents, Alex Salmond’s argument with Nick Robinson, the Treasury’s release of information about RBS to damage the independence movement and the demo outside the BBC, as if they were connected. In fact, he states that Alex Salmond’s argument with Nick Robinson was about the RBS release and that argument sparked the BBC demo. This, he claims, was another example of “shooting the messenger”, blaming the BBC for reporting a story of national interest. There’s no acceptance by Ian Dunt of any wrongdoing by the Press.
In the first incident, Nick Robinson took the huff when Alex Salmond slapped him down at a press conference and Nick later went on BBC news and claimed that Alex had refused to answer the question asked, when in fact, Alex had given a detailed answer. Because Nick didn’t like the answer, he lied on national TV. Does Ian Dunt mention this? No he doesn’t.
The second incident was the illegal release of market sensitive information about RBS by the Treasury to the Press, ahead of any statement by RBS themselves, with the sole purpose of damaging the independence movement. Alex is trying to extract an apology from the Treasury about this. The Press were only too keen to lap up the statement without even the slightest attempt to confirm it with RBS. Does Ian Dunt mention this? No he doesn’t.
The third incident is a long planned protest outside BBC Scotland’s headquarters at Pacific Quay about BBC bias in their referendum reporting. This had nothing to do with Alex Salmond or the SNP. It was organised by the YES movement and had been planned for several weeks. Does Ian Dunt mention this? No he doesn’t.
The main dispute I have with the report is its refusal to accept that reporters can ever be wrong, that they are simple conduits by which information gets to the public, that they never knowingly report something they know to be a lie.
In fact, as the Nick Robinson incident particularly shows, this is not true, and it’s this lack of honesty in much of BBC Scotland’s output which prompted the protest.
Unfortunately for the author, by its incorrect reporting of these events in Scotland, this piece only goes to prove what it sets to refute, that the Press are not simply unbiased observers and reporters of events and that there are good reasons for the public to be disillusioned with Press reporting. And it’s not, as the author implies, a concentration on the trivial which has caused the problem. It’s the lies and omissions to fit an agenda set by a small group of people, or even by a single individual, and which denies the public the truth, that has caused the problem.
When the Press becomes the story, they can no longer be trusted.