Yes voters protest BBC 'bias' as corporation defends Nick Robinson and denies Telegraph Proms story

The BBC took took centre stage in the Scottish referendum debate this weekend as protestors gathered outside its Glasgow offices.

Political editor Nick Robinson faced particular criticism from Yes vote campaigners, with some describing him as "corrupt" after a report on an Alex Salmond press conference.

But the corporation defended Robinson over complaints that he had implied the Scottish National Party leader had not answered a question put to him.

The BBC said:

The BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson asked Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond two questions at his press conference on Thursday 11th September. The first question centred on the tax implications of RBS moving its legal headquarters to London; the second on why voters should trust a politician rather than businessmen.

Nick Robinson's report showed the second question on trust, with a script line noting that Mr Salmond had not answered that point.

Mr Salmond's answer on tax was lengthy. Since it was not possible to use it in full in a short news report, a series of clips were included making his central points – the job implications of the re-location of RBS, the accusation that the Treasury broke rules by briefing market sensitive information and his request that the BBC should co-operate with an enquiry. In addition Nick Robinson's script pointed out that the First Minister said there would be no loss of tax revenue.

The BBC considers that the questions were valid and the overall report balanced and impartial, in line with our editorial guidelines.

Elsewhere, the BBC also faced criticism last week after The Daily Telegraph claimed on its front page: “BBC bans all talk of Scottish vote from the Proms”.

Acting director of BBC Proms Edward Blakeman wrote to the newspaper in response pointing out that the Late Night of the Proms “has never been a political platform – and this year is no different”.

He added: “There’s no heavy handed edict banning anyone from mentioning the referendum and as is standard, if it was editorially justified on the night it would be reflected. But just as in previous years, presenters will be reminded that the BBC Proms is a music event, not a political platform.

“As always, we expect any presenter to abide by the editorial guidelines and this includes editorial guidelines around the referendum which we are committed to covering impartially – as you’d expect from the BBC.”

Last week, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in London, the BBC's director of strategy and digital James Purnell said that no contingency plans were in place for a Yes vote win in next week's referendum. He said that this was because it would make it "very, very difficult for us to remain open-minded".

This is despite the fact that it has been claimed by former BBC director general John Birt's that Scottish independence would lead to a ten per cent loss in the BBC's income.

Interviewing Purnell on stage at the RTS conference, BBC Radio 4's Media Show presenter Steve Hewlett suggested that viewers have been "woefully uninformed" on this aspect of the Scottish referendum.

Hewlett said the omission of information could see the BBC accused of having “played along with the ‘yes’ campaign”.

Also speaking at the RTS conference in London, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said that an independent Scotland would lose the BBC altogether.

He told delegates: "If you decide to leave the United Kingdom then you are leaving the institutions of the United Kingdom behind, and clearly one of those… institutions is the BBC."

Yesterday, banners were held up outside BBC Scotland’s HQ, including one saying: “Sack Nick ‘the liar’ Robinson, a totally corrupt journalist these days typical of the British Biased Corporation.”

While Yes campaigners tweeted pictures from the protest, others defended the corporation. Robinson said the #bbcbias tag was “unfair” and pointed to the BBC acceptance that his reporting had been fair.

 

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