Lay off our journalists, says BBC Scots boss
● Donalda Mackinnon said channels’ news was used as a ‘political football’
The outgoing head of BBC Scotland has described criticism of the public broadcaster’s news output as “frequently unfair on our journalism teams”.
Donalda Mackinnon, who will leave her role in the autumn, has called for an end to “politically-motivated” attacks on the BBC’S journalism.
She said the broadcaster’s coverage was frequently used as a “political football” as she defended the success of BBC Scotland’s new channel, saying “audiences have told us how much they’ve appreciated our output”.
The outgoing head of BBC Scotland has called for an end to “politically-motivated” attacks on its journalism – as she called on critics to show “a little recognition of our output in its entirety” when the country emerges from lockdown.
Months before her departure from Pacific Quay, Donalda Mackinnon said its news coverage was “frequently used as a political football when journalism that doesn’t accord with a particular viewpoint upsets someone or other”.
BBC Scotland’s most senior executive declared that criticism of its news output was “frequently unfair on our journalism teams, who try to the very best of their ability to ask questions of those in power that the public don’t get the chance to ask, and ask questions that those in power would sometimes rather we didn’t ask.”
Writing in the industry magazine Broadcast, Ms Mackinnon, who will leave her £180,000 job at the end of this year, said that the criticism levelled at it was “most often” unfair on its news teams and also “deeply unfair” on the majority of its other staff.
Ms Mackinnon announced her departure in February – a year after the launch of BBC Scotland’s new channel. When she was appointed director in 2016 she admitted there had been a “lost of trust” among a “significant number” of viewers in Scotland as a result of its coverage of the 2014 independence referendum.
The channel has been met with a mixed response, with some shows proving a hit with viewers but lingering concerns over the performance of flagship news show The Nine and the level of its funding.
In her Broadcast article, Ms Mackinnon writes: “As a publicly-funded broadcaster, the BBC is, of course, well-used to being in the public eye about our news coverage, frequently used as a political football when journalism that doesn’t accord with a particular viewpoint upsets someone or other.
“I know that criticism focusing almost entirely on our news output is frequently unfair on our journalism teams, who try to the very best of their ability to ask questions of those in power that the public don’t get the chance to ask, and ask questions that those in power would sometimes rather we didn’t ask.
“Often, for whatever reason, those who criticise do not seem to realise, or choose to ignore, the fact that journalism exists is to cast light on matters of public interest and to challenge those in authority, no matter their political colour. But while that criticism is, most often, unfair on our news teams, it’s also deeply unfair on the majority of other staff.
“Over the last two months audiences have told us how much they’ve appreciated our output.
“It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that much of the politically motivated criticism around our news won’t come back as we return to whatever counts for normality but it would also be nice to retain just a little recognition of our output in its entirety.”
John Toner, Scottish organiser for the National Union of Journalists, said: “Journalism is a vital part of our democratic society. Equally, legitimate criticism of journalism is also vital. But BBC journalists have been on the receiving end of unacceptable abuse for many years now.
“BBC journalists strive for accuracy and are committed to ethical guidelines. It is important that their critics of all political hues remember this.”
0 There have been concerns over news show The Nine