Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 16:31 UK

Salmond slams 'metropolitan' BBC

BBC News studio
The report criticised the way network news covered Scottish issues

The first minister has accused the BBC's network news of having a "metropolitan fascination" that causes it to ignore Scottish issues.

Alex Salmond said news about English law and education was often presented as if it affected the whole of the UK.

He was speaking after a BBC Trust report criticised how the corporation covered news in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Salmond set up a commission to review Scottish broadcasting last year.

The BBC Trust, the governing body which represents licence fee payers, criticised the way the corporation reported events in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on its national bulletins and factual programmes and said the BBC was failing to meet its core purpose of helping inform democracy.

The BBC's network news doesn't seem to recognise that there are other areas and nations outside London, never mind England
Alex Salmond
First Minister

Its review found that 45% of people in Scotland believed BBC news reports on national programmes, such as the Six O'Clock News or Radio Four's Today programme, were not relevant to where they lived.

The researchers said 19% of stories involving or relating to devolution were vague or confusing, and of 136 stories about health and education, every one dealt with England alone.

They also found that politicians on network news programmes were almost without exception members of the Westminster parliament.

And they said that storytelling often assumed an English perspective and that it was thought England could stand as a "default location" for Britain or the UK.

'Quirky story'

When Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland did make the news, it was more likely to be on sport and crime rather than devolved policy issues, the researchers said.

Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the trust, said the broadcaster must urgently improve the clarity, precision and balance of its reporting to better reflect devolution.

BBC users across the UK tell us how the national news reflects their nation or region.

Mr Salmond welcomed the fact that the trust had "recognised the failings" which he said had been evident to people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for a long time.

He added: "In so many respects, the BBC's network news doesn't seem to recognise that there are other areas and nations outside London, never mind England.

"We see regular examples of stories about education in England presented as if it's relevant right across the UK, and English law as if it applies in Scotland as well.

"There's also the metropolitan fascination of the news. When things are covered from elsewhere it's usually some sort of funny quirky story at the end of the news, like the Loch Ness Monster.

"That is not the way anyone should expect the BBC network to cover things, and in today's report the BBC Trust have now owned up, accepted and analysed the problem."

Mr Salmond repeated previous calls to establish a Scottish-produced version of the Six O'Clock News - the so-called Scottish Six - which would cover Scottish, UK and international news.

He said it was an issue that the Broadcasting Commission was currently examining.

We recognise that the BBC must remain in step with the changing face of the UK, and that our UK-wide journalism must deliver a range of perspectives
BBC statement

The commission's head, Blair Jenkins, said the report provided "essential evidence" that UK issues were not satisfactorily reported in Scotland, and that Scottish issues were not satisfactorily reported in the rest of the UK.

The commission said it would consider the review before making its own recommendations in September.

The review, carried out by BMRB, also drew on analysis by Cardiff University of BBC network news and current affairs programmes over four weeks in 2007.

The BBC management released a statement in response to the report.

It said: "We recognise that the BBC must remain in step with the changing face of the UK, and that our UK-wide journalism must deliver a range of perspectives and richness of coverage that reflects the diversity of the nations and regions of the UK.

"While there have been improvements in performance, and the report states that BBC News upholds high standards of impartiality and fairness in its reporting of politics and policy in all four nations of the UK, we accept that we can and must do better."

The trust has asked the BBC management to provide a final plan by July which sets out how they will deliver their proposed actions over the next year.

BBC told to improve UK coverage
11 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
'Lack of depth' in broadcasting
30 May 08 |  Scotland
BBC Trust commissions news review
18 Nov 07 |  Entertainment
Lyons says BBC too London-centric
01 Nov 07 |  Entertainment
SNP re-ignites Scottish Six idea
07 Jun 07 |  Scotland


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