TV Bosses Treat Alba Like The IRA

At the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Britain’s supposedly independent and impartial broadcasting stations submitted in the main to Margaret Thatcher’s diktat that they starve all Irish republicans of the “oxygen of publicity”. Historical and current affairs documentaries that might have given viewers across these islands a more informed understanding of the seeming intractable conflict were either not commissioned or kept off air. The only way producers of the news bulletins could think of getting around the ban was to dub soundbites from Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness with the voices of actors.

They haven’t done anything like that so far with Alex Salmond or Kenny Macaskill – to the disappointment of the actors’ union equity, no doubt. Instead there has been an almost complete blackout of Scotland’s new breakaway party Alba. For broadcasters in this country to treat any perfectly legitimate, peace loving movement as if it were a terrorist organisation is not just a scandal but probably a breach of the guidance the regulator Ofcom issued to them at the start of the campaign (as I will explain).

To what extent this stems from caving in to pressure from rival party spindoctors, or just their own deep-seated, instinctive bias against the most effective advocate of Scottish independence in modern times, we’ll never know. But we do know they don’t want us to know anything about Alba’s alternative vision for our nation – and certainly not to discover how popular this is starting to become among Scottish voters.

There has been no proper exploration on either the BBC or STV of polls suggesting an immediate surge of support for Alba. The Panelbase survey this week suggested that this brand new breakaway party is on course to make a big breakthrough by seizing a seat in all of the eight electoral regions. That polling organisation has consistently shown Alba with around six per cent support and poised to leapfrog the LibDems in terms of both share of the votes and the number of MSPs it will command in the next Scottish Parliament – remarkable given how it did not even exist before this election campaign got underway. The Scottish press knew this was a big story and gave it appropriate space and projection.

Polls showing support for Alba are studiously ignored

Yet, when the country’s most respected psephologist, Professor John Curtice, sought to point up the significance of these findings on the BBC Scotland channel’s flagship news show The Nine the other night, there was no attempt by the anchorwoman Rebecca Curran to pick up on that angle. Ordinarily, this might just be put down to her not being a particularly acute political interviewer but it is doubtful whether the much sharper Martin Geissler would have responded any differently.

There seems to be a concerted effort underway throughout the far northern branch office of the BBC to act as if Alba is making absolutely no impact. Indeed, anyone following this election campaign only through the corporation’s grotesquely biased coverage could be mistaken for thinking that Alba remains nothing more than the name of the BBC’s Gaelic TV channel. Word appears to have gone out from the powers-that-be at Pacific Quay to deprive the party of the oxygen of publicly – doubtless in the hope that they can help to strangle at its birth.

All of the TV stations have barred its distinguished leader from all of the Scottish leaders debates. Their justification for doing so is that Ofcom rejected a complaint lodged by Alba about the exclusion of Alex Salmond. But in its controversial ruling the regular stated: “Broadcasters must also give due weight to the coverage of parties during the election period, taking into account evidence of past electoral support and/or current support.” (Emphasis added). Given their failure to respond properly to the Panelbase polls and the significance attached to them by the country’s leading polling expert, all of the U.K. broadcasters are arguably guilty of breaching that clear instruction from the body that oversees their adherence to the balance and impartiality requirements.

To her credit, Sarah Smith did make some mischief with Mr Salmond’s return to the political fray when she chaired the first of the main party leaders’ debates. She forced Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie into addressing the Alba factor and to speculate on what it might portend for their push for independence. But that was a brief one-off, and Alex Salmond wasn’t present himself to express a more positive perspective on why he has returned to the frontline of Scottish politics.

The new party has been repeatedly savaged on air

From the moment Alba was launched, it has been repeatedly savaged on air by leading presenters. To any fair or reasonable person there is no credible way of defending how Mr Salmond was treated on the airwaves when he announced his intention to seek a comeback to elected office. His encounter with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News was a more aggressive form of interrogation than police detectives are permitted nowadays to conduct when interrogating murder suspects. Anyone tuning into it unaware of the outcome of the Alex Salmond trial would never have guessed that Scotland’s former First Minister was acquitted by a female majority jury on all 13 of the feeble charges laid against him by the Crown prosecutors.

But the prize for a live on-air assault and battery must go to Gary Robertson for his brutal mugging attempt on Radio Scotland’s poor imitation of the Today programme. Because he has conducted a number of interviews of his own on the Russian news channel RT, Mr Salmond was expected to apologise for every controversial geopolitical manoeuvre by Vladimir Putin in recent years, along with the alleged poisoning in Salisbury of the renegade spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter by Kremlin agents. The fact that the Scottish Government has no powers to pursue its own defence and foreign policy – hence such matters are completely irrelevant in any current Holyrood election – was a basic point the ex-FM struggled to make on Good Morning Scotland because Mr Robertson rudely interrupted every time he tried to do so.

Sadly, this all matters because the Beeb remains, by far, the dominant source of news – north, as well as south, of the Border – because of the vast publicly-funded resources at its disposal. Yet anyone who wants to get a proper handle on how the most crucial Holyrood election since the dawn of devolution is shaping up must switch off their TVs and instead surf the blogosphere – whilst still being legally compelled to purchase a TV licence fee.

It’s at a time like this – when the survival of the British state in its present form is under serious threat – that the BBC reminds us that it is, ultimately, the British state broadcasting service.

18 thoughts on “TV Bosses Treat Alba Like The IRA

  1. I seem to recall that it was the “oxygen of publicity” of which the republicans were to be starved.

    Otherwise congrats on the new blog, a worthy addition to Wings (where I learnt about it from your comment), Craig Murray, Barrhead Boy and Gordon Dangerfield.

    I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well spotted, Dude. Just a careless typo, which I’ve corrected thanks to your eagle eye. I did refer to oxygen of publicity correctly further down the text. Hope you continue to like this blog and do whatever you can to spread the word about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The dubbing of Sinn Fein politicians voices by actors was the broadcasters’ workaround for the legislation not them following it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a fact John but I’d argue broadcasters at that time could and should have taken a strong, united stand against British state censorship during the Troubles rather than sit back and watch a few brave rebels like Alasdair Milne being deposed as DG of the BBC for doing so. More importantly, I don’t see what broadcasters at the present time need to workaround except their own instant and instinctive bias against Alba.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, at the time I viewed the dubbing as an appropriate response. It essentially made a mockery of the legislation.

        That applies irrespective if one viewed SF as a legitimate political party, or simply the mouthpiece of a terrorist organisation. As it rubbed the governments nose in just how pointless and futile their attempt to silence the SF spokesmen was.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, now that I think back on it, you’re right. So I’ve reframed the reference to the dubbing. Keep keeping me right JB and spread the word!


  3. Great article Rob and welcome to the blogosphere your blog will help counter the neglect of the unionist MSM !
    I was watching Brian Taylor chat to Bernard Ponsonby on STV the other night and not mentioning Alba! It reminded me of the 2003 Scottish Parliament election when I was press officer to the SSP despite running at 10% in the polls and having the best known politician in Scotland at the head ( Tommy Sheridan) we found it very difficult to get coverage. After the election I was on a panel representing the SSP discussing the Scottish election results, it was chaired by Brian Taylor who introduced me as Hugh Kerr representing the SSP. I began my speech by congratulating Brian for uttering the words Scottish Socialist Party something he had managed to avoid for the whole of the election campaign! We of course won 6 seats and got 7% of the vote rather similar to the result I expect Alba to get at the election!
    Hugh Kerr

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know Hugh, you’d think as journalists they’d welcome an injection of fresh drama and uncertainty just to get their own juices flowing a bit more. But no they prefer to protect their pals.Thanks for your kind words, Hugh. I hope you will recommend this new blog to others. Got some more posts in the pipeline which I think you might like.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Call me old fashioned, but in a democratic society, the media have a duty to allow all the candidates in an election to have their say, so that voters can decide on the evidence presented to them. There is nothing that Alba has done which merits their exclusion from basic democratic precepts. We have seen the unrepresentative time and coverage given to ukip and other radical leave factions, none of whom had any electoral base or popularity in Scotland.
    The continued smearing of Alex Salmond, despite the herculean efforts of the SNP and their lackeys to prosecute him, is an entirely political manoeuvre, in order to avoid the scenario of the SNP being challenged and held to account by another independence party, who threaten their hegemony.
    The media should have no role in this political scapegoating, and allow a free and frank debate on the
    SNP’s record and their promises. Instead we get a faux debate, where the SNP avoid many of the issues around their record and performance, substituting mealy-mouthed platitudes, uncosted promises and unchallenged claims on their poor record in performance. The media are obsequious to a fault with Sturgeon, and there is no doubt the SNP keep broadcasters and journalists on a tight leash – they are all known to each other in the small goldfish bowl of Scottish politics and are easily compromised and rewarded.
    The tragedy of this coronation masquerading as an election is that the Scottish people are denied a robust debate where the credentials of the SNP are put under the microscope. No journalist seems willing to provoke Sturgeon to her crew. The presumption is that we have a ruling clique who are not to be challenged, who are entitled, and jealously gatekeep the independence movement, refusing to recognise or support the far wider movement and their often excellent ideas. They have hijacked a cause for their own preferment, luxuriating in high state salaries and benefits, showering jobs and favours on their allies, who in turn keep them in office by ignoring the dubious legalities and actions of their bosses.
    Alex Salmond and Alba threaten to shake up this cosy cartel, and for their pains are silenced, ignored and besmirched daily.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks, that should have been ‘or her crew’ obviously.

        But what can be done? How do we recover the separation between the executive, the civil service, the legal and police services and the media? They have all merged into one ruling clique. At least Alex Salmond is aware of it, and has proposed some changes, which is of course an even more powerful reason to keep him out of any debate, or media interviews. It is chastening that we are descending into a tinpot one party state, with little scrutiny or the ability to hold the government to account. Meanwhile most Scots carry on, oblivious to the chicanery and gaming of the system by the Sturgeon mob, blissfully unaware of the actual state of affairs, or the evidence in the Salmond trial – none of it reported in the media, but plenty of inaccurate, misleading impressions and suppositions published and broadcast instead.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “… Indeed, anyone following this election campaign only through the corporation’s grotesquely biased coverage could be mistaken for thinking that Alba remains nothing more than the name of the BBC’s Gaelic TV channel… ”

    The point is well-made Jag, but, remember, it was BBC Alba that brought us extensive coverage of both the theft of our seas when the maritime boundary was shifted arbitrarily in England’s favour, and also the McCrone Report. It was the first time each had been given widespread and deep analysis – by the excellent political team at BBC Alba. Sometimes, things ain’t what they seem even as they seem what they ain’t.

    First-rate article, by the way.

    Lorna Campbell


    1. Yes it’s fascinating how BBC Alba, like TG4 in Ireland, can sneak onto our screens some fairly subversive stuff that would never make it onto any of the anglophone channels. Hope you’ll become as regular a commenter here as you are on a couple of other sites I follow closely. Assuming you’re the same Lorna Campbell…?


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