The Bastardisation of the BBC


Crowds protest outside BBC (Propaganda Unit) Scotland

“Assuming that the BBC is for the people, and the Government is for the people, it follows that the BBC is for the Government.” John Reith, 1938, first Director General of the BBC, speaking in favour of appeasement of Hitler’s territorial ambitions

‘Bastardisation’ is my creation. It conveys exactly a process over a number of years. In no special order: discarding integrity, the diminution of funds, implementation of gargantuan salaries, the contraction of output, the withdrawal of decision-making to London, the squandering of license money on cancelled projects often in many millions of pounds, even greater salaries, sacking talented staff in place of competitive submissions from freelancers and independent production companies UK-wide yet stealing their ideas, the elevation of the mediocre, BBC Scotland treated as an outpost – the betrayal of a nation it purported to serve, oh, before I forget – banker-level salaries.

The rot starts at the head

The BBC’s own respected Newsnight journalist, Paul Mason, felt so moved he went public on the reason for his resignation, his disgust at the way the BBC has turned itself into a purveyor of half-truths and deceptions. He tweeted:

“Not since Iraq have I seen the BBC working at propaganda strength like this. So glad to be out of there.”

Sarah Smith’s ‘Titanic’ was an unintentionally amusing moment, the only one, in a pathetic litany of despicable propaganda organised by the BBC to derail the result of the Referendum. As a former executive employee I am ashamed to have thought that place the apogee of a writer’s career. In fact, it is difficult to write about the BBC with any degree of impartiality and still hold back disenchantment and rage. The BBC proved itself a stalwart of Westminster ideology,  a mouthpiece for the anti-democracy lobby.

Scotch on the Rocks

The BBC did the dirty years earlier when just before the first vote on devolution it transmitted a third-rate drama serial entitled Scotch on the Rocks. Adapted from his novel by Tory Minister, Douglas Hurd, one ultimately close to Thatcher, it portrayed Scotland full of erstwhile tartan terrorists.

The central group was a paramilitary organisation ‘operating on the fringes of,’ but really affiliated to, the SNP, ready to blow up anybody in their quest to rid Scotland of the English. It worked. It put the fear of the loony among us and helped blight the reputation of a legitimate political party.

A stushie blew up – if ‘blew up’ is the best phrase – in BBC Scotland’s face. The BBC declined to commission more episodes, announcing it had wiped the tapes. (They exist to this day. What the BBC says publicly is not what it thinks or does privately.) But the damage was done. The myth of a Tartan Army laying in weight among the heather was given substance.

BBC Scotland Education Department

The second rout of SNP influence happened internally. One of its most respected departments, its education wing, was led by a nationalist sympathiser, Sinclair Aitken. He employed producers of a like-mind, mainly because they had excellent knowledge of Scottish culture and history, and knew how to weave their erudition into entertaining and informative programmes for Scottish schools.

Sinclair was a character and a half; outspoken, fearless, protective of his staff, a man able to get the best out of them creatively, and a lover of the malt. Whether that or a natural confidence fired his boldness is uncertain, but he was often heard telling senior management where to go when they dared tell him to tone down the Celtic, or make do with less money. Sinclair Aitken didn’t last long after that. He succumbed to the war of attrition between BBC London and BBC Scotland. He left to enjoy more malt.

No rank escaped the knife

Sinclair was always asking for greater support from BBC London. Two BBC Scotland controllers who tried to do just that were brutally banished into the wilderness, Alistair Hetherington, (sacked 1978 – a respected editor of the Guardian newspaper) and Alasdair Milne, (sacked 1986 – by Joel Barnett of the ‘Barnett Formula’). Both Scots who dared to ask BBC London for greater financial and programme autonomy.

By a combination of budget cuts, Birtian inter-departmental competition, rampant commercialisation of facilities, vast inflated salaries for executives and producers, the bonus culture, (study recent history of corrupt banks) things went from bad to worse.

Under Birt’s cost cutting intricacies BBC Scotland lost any relevancy to Scottish culture, and its education department lost its presence in the diaspora of Scottish life. What little respect was left for educational programmes forfeited respect under the maladroit hand of James Boyle, BBC Scotland Radio controller, the man who went on to give birth to the bureaucratic sleeping policeman that is Creative Scotland.

Scotland at Six News

There was also the call for a Scotland at Six, an international angle to Scottish news, extinguished in double-quick time by BBC London, though the pilot programme was adjudged excellent. BBC London brooks no international outlook on its watch for a ‘province’. BBC Scotland is seen as provincial station and that’s the way it must remain.

BBC’s then director general, Greg Dyke, encouraged by a BBC Trust report, concluded a Scottish Six filled with international news was a good thing. Birt – that bloody man again –  thought the idea ‘totemic’, a motivation to the potential break-up of the Union. (Quoted from his autobiography.) The idea had the backing of the Broadcasting Council of Scotland, a group consisting almost exclusively of Tory and Labour sympathisers, and only one SNP supporter, but they too were over-ruled.

To a limited extent, Gaelic Television’s Eorpa fulfills the indigenous cultural role now, but it’s more of a documentary series rather than hard daily news. It enjoys a steady niche number of viewers. In any event, London’s power elite probably think it has too little influence to be a threat to their colonial hegemony. Besides, who wants to read subtitles?

Referendum Spoilers

What did BBC do prior to the Referendum vote on the 18th of September 2014, that places it squat in the latrine of infamy? It showed in Times bold type it was a state broadcaster not a public broadcasting company. It did all it could to promote and protect the status quo, upholding conventional wisdom and authority. “If the BBC is for the people, and the government is for the people, it follows that the BBC is for the government” said Lord Reith, its first director general, a buttoned-up Scot on the make.

Alarmed by a poll that showed the Yes vote in the lead for the first time, 50% against 49%, and with only days to go to the vote, BBC exploded into action.

‘Exploded’ is the only adjective to use because the BBC had little time left to alter the course of events. Faced with a challenge to its very existence by the SNP government, knowing an alternative broadcasting service would be the outcome of independence, criticised by academic and writer alike for its insistence on being wholly irrelevant to Scotland’s culture, and battered by the sight of thousands of protesters outside it Glasgow Pacific Quay headquarters, BBC had to move fast.

Brown’s Dissembling Gets Prime Time Slot

After running a series of specious programmes on how Scots felt about their democracy presented by shallow celebrities and stand-up comedians that amounted to an expenses paid jaunt to the tourist spots of Scotland, the BBC gave an hour’s prime time television to Gordon Brown, a man without a role in the Referendum.

Hated by the British Establishment, considered a grossly inept prime minister, he had barely attended the House of Commons since his humiliating exodus from Number 10 Downing Street, and never visited Scotland’s parliament once.

For television and press, Brown gave an oration to a hand-picked group of the elderly and the meek, held behind closed doors, no press to ask awkward questions, an oration packed to the gunnels with untruths, disinformation, and terrifying tales of lost jobs, careers, freedoms, and pensions. His core announcement was that he personally would guarantee more powers for Scotland if it voted No, and he would agree a timetable with Cameron and his cohorts to implement those powers. No similar uninterrupted or non-analysed hour was given to Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister.

Esler and British Intelligence

Then there was the mystery of journalist, and erstwhile presenter of Newsnight, Gavin Esler, presenting a glaring piece of puffery about an obvious, to all except Esler, fake “grass-roots” (his description) anti-independence movement called ‘No Borders.’

He did not present it as it was, a phony British intelligence unit without a shred of credible evidence to support its claims. He did not ask where it had acquired its largesse in such a short time. His narrative was without any questions or scepticism.

To increase puzzlement further, Esler presented his advertisement to viewers before No Borders had announced its arrival to the public. Esler’s feature was the announcement.

Bird and Darling Comedy Duo

The  BBC’s next move was to employ Jackie Bird, a newsreader not known for trenchant interrogation of flaky politicians, to interview the ‘leader’ of the No campaign, the ill-at-ease Alistair Darling.

She began the chair-to-chair, toe-to-toe interview by asking a loaded question. “What do you feel about more powers for Scotland? … let’s call them Devo-Max…”

Why Bird used the ambiguous term ‘Devo-Max’ is a mystery. Devo-Max was not on the ballot paper, nixed by prime minister David Cameron as his condition for signing the Edinburgh Agreement. Nor should it have been discussed because the terms of the Referendum barred politicians from offering additional incentives in the last days of the debate.

Waiting in the wings ready to exploit the interview, arch enemy of more democracy for Scotland, ermine calling, Alistair Darling seized on the topic and waffled to the best of his ability the Union was a benign relationship. He was not challenged about his claims and assertions.

In another interview, a concerned Jackie Bird, faced with the ‘shocking’ rise of the Yes vote, asked her Tory politician guest in genuine alarm, ‘What are we to do?’ (On leaving the BBC, Bird announced she’d like to become a Tory MP.)

By suggesting extra powers that allegedly constituted Devo-Max, Bird was placing in the public mind the idea that a No vote would not be a negative vote, not a vote against one’s kith and kin. Darling duly answered he was always ‘all for’ more powers but with Scotland remaining in the Union. This was misleading. He was on record stating the opposite contention, we should expect a ‘flood of tears’ if new powers were granted.

The Vow Wows

The next day the Daily Record tabloid paper, (impossible to call it a ‘news’ paper, a rag that only tells its readers what to think), published its infamous ‘Vow’ on the front cover, a promise made by the three Unionist party leaders of more powers (unspecified) if Scotland voted No. BBC gave the empty Vow full coverage in all news bulletin’s, radio and television, plus political discussion ‘shows,’ in contravention of Referenda rules.

Almost immediately Gordon Brown announced he had a swift timetable agreed for a commission to pull together a list of new powers. He gave no evidence of how he had secured a timetable. He would see to it Westminster kept its promise.

He made that claim by hijacking an already existing Internet petition as if his own, demanding signatories to make London keep its promise that he himself said he would guarantee. He couldn’t and did not. Not a single one.

Insults and Lies

The BBC’s intervention was topped by one of their London-based political reporters – a confirmed Tory activist – who asked First Minster, Alex Salmond, why the public should trust his judgement rather than the barons of big business who deal in millions of pounds every day, as if a leader of a government handled no more than a few pennies, and all businessmen are honest. The question arrived when Salmond was in a temper at the false news the Royal Bank of Scotland was moving staff south, in truth only moving its brass plaque. The BBC omitted to make the truth known.

The BBC journalist’s question issued from a claim by an oil millionaire that North Sea oil was running out, his prediction contradicting his other claims by millions of barrels. Then came alarms of the SNP cutting emergency wards in hospitals, a false announcement. One piece of black propaganda followed another.

The Mad Hatter’s tea party was now in full swing, and the result was obvious on the bleak morning of September 19th when it became clear a large number of Yes voters had switched to No.

The BBC, acting as a mouth-piece for the British government, was successful in altering the course of Scotland’s history, delaying the modernisation of its democratic structures and restoration of civic rights, ensuring the continuation of its existence as an outpost of British imperialism … at least for the medium term.

But BBC executives had no reason to be smug.

Although the BBC, still in auto-pilot anti-SNP mode, reported Unionist thugs attacking disappointed Yes voters in Glasgow’s George Square as a battle both started, it did not stop the backlash. A politicised nation energised for empowerment was not going to take the crap and go home to watch BBC television, blissful they had been hoodwinked.

The Scottish nation wanted political change. Real change.


In 2014 John Boothman, head of BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs, was sent to another job in London. Boothman had lost a grievance complaint against him taken out by Zoe MacDonald, a BBC camerawoman and daughter of the late nationalist politician Margo MacDonald, after she recorded him being abusive about her and her mother. There had been other complaints from staff of bullying. The claim of impartial news gathering took another blow.


This entry was posted in BBC, Scottish Independence Referendum. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to The Bastardisation of the BBC

  1. Great piece. Thank you.

    I think the blossoming of new and alternative news and comment in Scotland since September is also a clear sign that people are realising just how much the BBC cheats and deceives the nation.

  2. jimnarlene says:

    An accurate account of how they shafted Scotland.

  3. Grouse Beater says:

    There are so many warning signs offered by the BBC to its real role – BBC London’s veto over-riding a ‘Scotland Six’ news programme – international news from a Scottish context, a good pilot well received – told us how much BBC Scotland is a trading post.
    Can’t wait to see the demise of BBC Scotland and the phoenix of a public broadcaster arise from its ashes devoted to the nation’s good.

  4. Big Mac says:

    Thanks for this.
    Sums up my feelings quite well.
    I now do not view BBC.
    Other TV stations and Newspaper media are / were just as bad.

  5. Grouse Beater says:

    Remembered many more examples, Big Mac, but like a painter knows the moment the artwork is finished, I felt the essay says all it needs to say. Sorry if the content makes for dispiriting ready. Got me depressed composing it! Anyhow, you’re welcome to pass it on to those interested in the subject.

  6. It certainly isn’t a comfortable read but the experience of the referendum has certainly opened my eyes to the unbridled control that the elites have over the flow of information throughout the west but particularly in the Anglosphere. This has been used to all too complete effect on the people of Scotland.

    Firefighters often speak of the triangle of fire; oxygen, heat and fuel. Remove one and you break the cycle.

    In the case of our enemies, I suppose we have the Westminster parties, compliant broadcasters and compliant press. If we accept this model then there is a golden opportunity to remove one element from Scotland next May.

    This will be a bit more difficult whilst the other two elements are intact, but perhaps with the emerging free media we can start to undermine the already declining papers at least. The National is a reasonable start but it’s still owned by Newsquest and is, I believe outsourcing peoduction to Wales if a friend in the business is correct.

    We badly need home owned non-corporate presses. The new news channel looks very promising though!

  7. diabloandco says:

    Thank you – absolutely excellent summation of what these lying , manipulating bastards did and are doing.

  8. Grouse Beater says:

    Yup. Still practising insurgency on behalf of the British establishment.

  9. Fortbill says:

    This article is of course deadly accurate but it leaves me sad, but determined to continue our move towards independence. As one of the thousands who campaigned, delivered leaflets, knocked on hundreds of doors and attended a multitude of agricultural shows and events with our YES tent, I know the effect that the MSM had on the vote.

    It was close just so close, the threats to pensions and the targeting of the elderly in my opinion made the difference, it is this generation who is the least likely to be internet literate and were targeted deliberately by project fear and the BBC.

    No matter how much I reassured people that their state pension was safe in an independent Scotland, my reassurance didn’t have the same authority as someone “on the telly”, and for this age group the BBC still carries that authority, their word is like that of a respected doctor and someone knocking on their door can never have that advantage.

    Their distrust of the internet also played a part for this generation, the often publicised cases of paedophiles being caught by pictures on their hard drives, of children being groomed through internet chat rooms also fostered the believe that anyone using the internet to promote a campaign was untrustworthy.

    Without an unbiased media we will struggle in future to win an independence campaign, if as is looking increasingly likely we do win a large number of Westminster seats, it must be our No1 priority to devolve broadcasting powers, just as important as getting rid of Trident!

  10. David Anderson says:

    The BBC are in dire-straits regarding the License fee , because so many Scots refuse to pay it after Indyref. They have shot themselves in the foot. Now, I hear that the Chief Exec is calling for a household Tax to pay for the BBC, payable by every household. I say “bugger” that and privatise the BBC I am sure no one would care. But, hurry up and do it Mr Cameron you don’t have long in office.

  11. Mary Vasey says:

    Spot on GB excellent article AYE

  12. Grouse Beater says:

    Thanks, Mary – and I left out so much more skulduggery! 🙂

  13. tccokey3 says:

    We don’t need a phoenix rising from the ashes of the (gangster BBC) we must have a totally different Scottish group with no connection to the afore mentioned organisation. The members of the new news group don’t necessarily have to be Scottish, just as long as they are good at their jobs.

  14. dave oh what says:

    Great point regarding the firefighter analogy. All energy in this direction is well placed. Vote, just vote.

  15. Dan Livingston says:

    Excellent piece of information, gives all the information without becoming drawn out and repetitive. I will definitely share this.

    The only paper I buy is the National. I don’t watch BBC (Biased Bullshit Coruption) and never take anything on the “NEWS” at face value anymore.
    Thank you for this information.

  16. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re welcome, Dan and welcome here. 🙂

  17. jomtaylor says:

    Excellent article, very timely in reminding us just how duplicitous the BBC was in the run up to the referendum (and afterwards). I also struggled to convince my father that his pension would be safe in an independent Scotland. Unfortunately, as you say many elderly people were too afraid to vote yes as the British Brainwashing Corporation had successfully done it’s work.

    I too shall be sharing this.

  18. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you for spreading the word. 🙂

  19. When you realign the North Sea border, and take 6000 square miles off Scotland ,that is one sure way of losing votes “for ever”. If you are so dumb and don’t understand that you should not really be a politician. that includes those of other parties that went along with the realignment including Sir Robert Smith Lib Dumb

  20. Fantastic piece of real journalism – eloquently written and 100% accurate. Shared…

  21. hopper69 says:

    So glad I have found this.
    Makes it so easy to pass on to people I know who mock independence.
    Hopefully this will at least make them vote SNP.

  22. Grouse Beater says:

    Please pass it to others. 🙂

    Maybe people will open their minds knowing it comes from a former insider, an executive, my years at the Beeb arguably a creative wasteland but an eye opener politically.

    There was more, the way a news item on independence was presented, positive elements that were edited out – for example, Kevin Bridges interviewed three young lads keen to vote. He later admitted they all said they’d vote Yes, but BBC edited that section out.

    And so on, and so forth.

    And they are up to their old tricks again … more soon..

  23. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say superb blog!|

  24. Duncan Mitchell says:

    I have not seen this before but, it confirms a lot of things which I suspected at the time. I was one of the protesters outside BBC HQ at Pacific Quay and was not surprised at the way it was misreported by BBCScotland.
    How can we prevent a repeat by the State Broadcaster?

  25. Grouse Beater says:

    I’m a great believer in organised protest, letters, a website dedicated to recording media instances of propaganda and basic unfairness, that sort of thing. I particularly endorse marches. When strength of opinion is seen in the form of a voluble group opponents of civil rights realise their power is challenged. Crowds also convey political messages to non-participators. Martin Luther King new the efficacy of marches. Changes may be small at first but in time the message gets through – in a democracy power lies in the people. Either people take back power or we give up and allow the elite to siphon it off.

  26. Arron Blue says:

    Excellent article. Can’t understand why people in Scotland give money to the BBC.

  27. Still a powerful essay re-reading it years later and still relevant.

    Organised protests – yes, – but, – too old (70’s) for marches, too illiterate to write punchy letters, so how to make an effective point/statement directed at biased BBC ?

    Shoddy goods shouldn’t get full price !!!

    To stop paying the tv tax is a lonely protest and too draconian for most folk, but what if we organised a web page for folk to sign up to threatening to switch to a Black & White Licence unless the BBC mends its ways ?

    Lots of colourful metaphors there for a master wordsmith such as yourself.

  28. Auld Bob says:

    In the immortal words of a great actor, “Play it again Sam”.

  29. Grouse Beater says:

    Many thanks – I’m pleased it still has a relevance.

  30. Grouse Beater says:

    You request is my pleasure!

  31. Great article GB written with honesty and passion.

    This constant and never ending STREAM day and dailly of denigration , lies and utter jackie baillie ( pish ) is still having effect . Although we all know that the SNP SG are hogtied and edited OUT of any meaningful response to this drivel they are still failing to take advantage of LIVE BROADCASTS to challenge the bbc lies.

    When FM questions are being broadcast NS should take EVERY opportunity to highlight the crass deliberate lies and misinformation being spouted by the bbc and illustrate the contempt and disgust they have for Scotland the SG and the people of Scotland . Until this is done repeatedly and forcefully the BRUTISH BULLSHITTING CORPORATION will continue to rubbish Scotland and Scots

  32. Grouse Beater says:

    Thanks, Robert.

    I’m always saddened by what I have to write about BBC Scotland. It’s a hogtied institution. We really do need our own autonomous broadcaster – as Catalonians have theirs.

  33. Interesting read. Here is a short clip of the Scotch on the Rocks propaganda drama you mentioned in the piece:

  34. Grouse Beater says:

    I remember it well. Can’t blame the actors who need the work for not perceiving what the plot is really about. Most just speak what they’re given to read.That aside, it was indisputably brazen black propaganda dished out by the BBC.

  35. James Cormack says:

    I used to support the principle of a state media free from annoying and juvenile adverts so in my youth I supported the BBC. However, its decline and the decimation of its standards over the last few years has been both embarrassing and annoying. I seldom buy newspapers now, even though I am an avid reader and I never watch BBC ‘Scoatlund’: its content is twee and infantile and it avoid any serious political discourse. I now watch the Gaelic channel, even though I don’t understand a word.

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