Lay off our jour­nal­ists, says BBC Scots boss

● Don­alda Mackin­non said chan­nels’ news was used as a ‘po­lit­i­cal foot­ball’

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By BRIAN FER­GU­SON

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

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