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BBC admit to breaching own guidelines with immigration story

I have received a reply to my complaint about the BBC shoehorning immigration into Scotland’s election debate in breach of its own guidelines on the use of polls. For once, they acknowledge that they breached the guidelines!

The BBC are allowed to report on and headline polls, but they may only headline a poll if it adds depth to an existing story. They may not use a poll to create a story from whole cloth, which is what they implicitly admit to here.

Dear Sir / Madam,

On Tuesday 10th of March the BBC website reported on an opinion poll commissioned by the BBC into attitudes to immigration in Scotland. The article, entitled “BBC poll suggests 64% of Scots want immigration reduced”, can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-31800374

The BBC guidelines on opinion polls clearly state “We should not headline the results of an opinion poll unless it has prompted a story which itself deserves a headline and reference to the poll’s findings is necessary to make sense of it”.

The guideline exists for an excellent reason, which is that it is not the BBC’s role to determine the political questions of the day, but rather to report on them.

This is especially egregious behaviour in a tense pre-election context. I find it hard to imagine what the BBC hoped to achieve by commissioning this poll in the first place.

Yours
Alistair Davidson

Dear Mr DavidsonAl-Qaeda-Sets-Up-Complaints-Department

Reference CAS-3188145-PXV7MM

Thank you for getting in touch.

The reports on this were taken from a BBC opinion poll which showed Scotland’s attitudes towards immigration. We believe these reports are newsworthy and relevant. We also feel that the stories are of interest to our audience.

We accept that there should not have been references to the poll findings in our headlines, and have now changed the relevant online stories.

We know that not everyone will agree with our choices on which stories to cover, and the prominence that we give to them. These are subjective decisions made by our news editors, and we accept that not everyone will think that we are correct on each occasion. These decisions are always judgement calls rather than an exact science, but we appreciate the feedback that our viewers and listeners give us on this. Please be assured that your comments have been noted and added to our audience log which is passed to senior programme makers and management.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.

My Complaint to BBC Question Time

You can make your own complaint here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/complain-online/

Question Time tonight is in Edinburgh, and has an audience of 16- and 17-year-olds, on the grounds that they will be voting in the Scottish Independence referendum. Independence is clearly a key issue that will be discussed – this edition of the programme has been billed as such.

The panel apparently consists of six guests, four who are against independence, one who is in favour, and one neutral. This is an unacceptable level of bias for a BBC programme.

This is also the week before a by-election, in Aberdeen Donside. As such it is especially important that the major parties in Scotland be represented.

In particular, the Scottish Green Party have only had one appearance on Question Time since the inception of the Scottish Parliament. Contrary to a statement by your spokesperson, they are an entirely separate organisation to the Green Party of England and Wales.

There is clearly room for the Scottish Green Party, given that this is a panel of six. It is hard to understand why they would be excluded, while Nigel Farage makes his third appearance of the year.

Neither Mr Farage nor Mr Galloway’s parties have any representation in Scotland. At the last test they managed 0.91% of the vote and 0.35% of the national vote, respectively, as compared with the Scottish Green Party’s 4.38%.

In future, please ensure a balance between pro and anti independence panellists, and accurately represent the Scottish political landscape when broadcasting from here.

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