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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 July 2007, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Newsnight poll complaint upheld
Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
Jeremy Paxman interviewed Mr Salmond prior to the elections
The BBC has upheld a complaint from a viewer following an interview with Alex Salmond by Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman.

In the special programme, "Act of Disunion", filmed before the Holyrood election, Mr Paxman quoted the results of a survey of business.

He said 50 of the biggest companies in Britain had been contacted by producers and none of them favoured independence.

However, most companies contacted had actually declined to give their views.

The editor of the London-based programme has since been spoken to about the "importance of clarity and transparency".

Mr Paxman began the 16 January interview with Mr Salmond, now first minister, by saying: "We spoke to the 25 largest companies in Britain and the 25 largest companies in Scotland and none of them favoured independence".

The results of the exercise did not warrant the claim that none favoured it
The BBC's ruling

The complaint made to the broadcaster said that no details had been given of the poll which gave rise to the statement, and that the statement was misleading.

The BBC's ruling, published on its complaints website, said: "Newsnight had not commissioned a formally-conducted poll or opinion survey, but had conducted its own straw poll of the companies concerned (though putting the same questions as had been used in a survey previously commissioned from the polling organisation ORB).

"This was an acceptable way of taking a snapshot of business opinion, and there was no requirement to publish further information about the basis on which it had been arrived at.

"However, the great majority of the companies contacted had declined to express a view on independence, so the results of the exercise didn't warrant the claim that none favoured it, or the implication that the biggest Scottish and British companies were ranged against it."

It added: "The finding has been discussed with the editor of Newsnight and his senior management team, who have been reminded of the importance of clarity and transparency when reporting and describing snapshots and straw polls of opinion on stories and subjects (as distinct from fully-fledged scientific polls or surveys)."

The BBC issued an apology to Mr Salmond in June after the abrupt way in which Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark ended an interview with the first minister.

Pete Wishart, SNP MP, said: "This seriously suggests there is a problem with the London media's attitude to Scottish politics."

He added: "It is an extraordinary series of events from the BBC in London and it's time for the organisation to not only consider its attitude not only to phone-ins and game shows, but how it treats Scotland and the new administration in Scotland."


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