BBC man slates Panorama for 'farcical' Scots exposé

By Hamish Mackay and Caitlin Pike

An internal row has broken out at BBC Scotland over a controversial
Panorama programme – Scotland’s Secret Shame – on sectarianism north of
the border.

The war of words has arisen after Glasgow-based David Kerr,
assistant editor of BBC Scotland’s flagship TV news programme,
Reporting Scotland, severely criticised the Panorama programme in a
letter in the BBC’s internal magazine, Ariel.

Kerr, a former
editor of Newsnight Scotland, accused his Panorama colleagues of
broadcasting a programme “that was as flimsy as it was farcical”.

The
documentary accused Rangers and Celtic soccer clubs of failing to do
enough to stamp out bigotry among Catholics and Protestants and claimed
Scotland was blasé about the issue.

Kerr countered in his letter: “Where was this national ‘shame’ to be found?

In discriminatory practices in the workplace, education, housing, healthcare or personal relationships? Seemingly not.”

Kerr said such evidence didn’t exist in a country where the majority of young Catholics marry outside their own tradition.

“No,
Scotland was convicted of being a sectarian society on account of the
actions of a few antisocial young football fans with a penchant for
Irish political rhetoric.

“No voices questioning Panorama’s
dubious premise were included in the programme. As such, the end result
was a piece of journalism that was as flimsy as it was farcical.”

Panorama is normally produced from London but Scotland’s Secret Shame was handled by BBC Scotland.

The
programme producer, Murdoch Rodgers, who is based at BBC Edinburgh, and
Andy Bell, deputy editor of Panorama, responded in a letter published
in this week’s Ariel saying that they believed Kerr had missed the
point of the film.

“Sectarianism is one of the major political
issues of the moment in Scotland with a new law introduced to tackle
it, new measures to deal with aspects of it, and a historic summit
convened to discuss it, all within the past 20 months. That was the
context for our investigation.

“Few would dispute his observation
that religious discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare and in
personal relationships ‘most likely doesn’t exist’ in Scotland. But
does that mean that religious hate and bigoted attitudes are a thing of
the past?

“Presumably, the Scottish Executive doesn’t think so,
or the 30 or so organisations, including Celtic and Rangers FC, that
attended the anti-sectarian summit in Glasgow, or the police and
A&E staff we interviewed, or the victims and their families filmed
in the aftermath of the last Celtic v Rangers match.”

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