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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Is Scottish news second class?
A constant theme in the calls and e-mails from viewers, listeners and online users is that the BBC doesn't give enough coverage to Scotland and Scottish issues.

Some people even suggest a change of name to the EBC - the English Broadcasting Corporation.

NewsWatch put some of the points raised to the BBC's deputy director of news, Adrian Van Klaveren.


Stewart Heddle is just one of the viewers concerned about the number of stories which refer only to England and Wales. "Many of these items refer to changes in the law, health, education, which although we have devolved government in Scotland, still do apply to us," he said.

Stewart Heddle
Stewart Heddle: Many stories ignore Scotland
He cited a number of examples but was particularly annoyed by a recent report on bowel cancer.

The introduction said: "It kills almost 50 people in this country every day. But now it's hoped a new campaign to stamp out bowel cancer will bring that figure down. Two million testing kits will be sent to people in their sixties in England starting next April."

Mr Heddle said the phrase "this country" appeared only to refer to England, completely ignoring Scottish statistics.

"My major concern, however, is that this scheme has been running in Scotland for almost two years yet we were not informed whether or not it has been successful." Another viewer, Nena Elliot, agreed: "A news story could be enriched by the inclusion of comparisons."

Adrian Van Klaveren
What we're trying to do is pick up on the most important news events of any particular day and there are days where there are specific policy announcements which do apply only to England and Wales and we do need to explain those to our viewers in those nations.

We do try to say specifically where changes involve only England and Wales and so on, so that is one part of what we seek to make clear to audiences - what legislation applies to which parts of the UK and what doesn't. And of course in a post-devolution world there are far more issues around that than used to be the case.

What we also try to do, though, is pick up on important things that are happening in Scotland and reflect those back to the rest of the UK. That was the debate around hunting with dogs for instance, congestion charging in Edinburgh. There are particular Scottish stories which we think do resonate across the whole of the UK and we try to make those clear to our UK audiences as well.

Bowel cancer statistics
Do these figures refer to the whole of the UK?
We can often say that things don't apply in Scotland. There is then a separate body of journalism which you can do about what exactly the situation is in Scotland, which we do do when we can. But on each and every story there simply isn't the time or the airspace to be able to go into great detail about how things are different in Scotland.

I agree that on the bowel cancer report I think actually we missed an opportunity there to be able to say we can understand this story better by looking at what has gone on in Scotland, what the actual experience has been there.

There are other occasions when we have done that on subjects and tried to highlight from the Scottish experience what the experience might be subsequently in England and Wales. But on that particular occasion I think we missed a trick.


Other viewers say the national news rarely covers Scottish issues. "If we're going to be a united kingdom, a country, we should be more supportive and understanding of each other and have a knowledge base of what's happening in the UK as a whole, not just about what's happening in England," said Dot Mackie.

Alistair McLeod said the UK was being indoctrinated by English news. "England therefore hears virtually nothing about what happens in the 'regions'", he argued.

Adrian Van Klaveren
There is a problem - and it has changed since devolution, clearly - that Scotland has become more different from the situation in the rest of the UK and that's something we have to be aware of.

Adrian Van Klaveren
Adrian Van Klaveren: "We could always do better"
We have to make sure our journalists understand what the powers are of the Scottish Parliament, to understand which stories apply to which parts of the UK and which don't.

I think we could always do better - there are instances where we do get things wrong. It's often a lack of precision, a lack of really understanding exactly what the language we're using actually means, getting across to people the impact of this story and the variances that are involved in it.

That doesn't always come through in a compressed news item so I think that's one issue that we face.

But we are seriously interested in what is going on in Scotland. We employ six reporters and correspondents specifically to report on what's going on in Scotland. That's over and above the whole BBC Scotland Reporting effort.


Laura Holden wrote: "Why does the BBC still treat news in Scotland as second rate?" People say comparable stories in England are given preference.

Many singled out the protests surrounding the
Fran Sadler
Fran Sadler: "Spitting feathers" at G8 coverage
G8 conference, which they say received little coverage compared to news of London's successful Olympic bid.

"The day of the G8 I was spitting feathers," said Fran Sadler. "There were thousands of riot police, armoured vehicles, businesses were vandalised, shops were closed, most people didn't work, the place just ground to a halt."

Mark Dawson commented: "Running battles in the streets of Surrey would have had hundreds of cameramen and reporters on the streets in minutes."

Adrian Van Klaveren
I think it was a particularly newsworthy day in terms of the range of events happening. The Olympic decision did take very many people by surprise - there was an awful to report there, a lot of reaction to get into.

But it's not true to say we didn't cover the incidents going on around the G8.
Car being attacked
Viewers say violence at the G8 summit was under-reported
I think overall there was a large amount of coverage on News 24 and elsewhere. We sent very large numbers of people to cover the events around the G8; it just so happened it coincided with the Olympic decision.

On almost any other day it would have got more on, but the Olympic decision was, I think, a surprising, very important long-term story and people really did want to know what had happened and the reaction to it.

I don't think we do treat news from Scotland as second rate. There are many interesting things that happen in Scotland, there are important events there. I think the reality of the UK is that 50 million people live in England and five million live in Scotland, so inevitably there is going to seem like there is more English news, I suspect, in that sense.

But we view news from Scotland with the same weight we view news from England and that's what we are committed to do and we will keep working hard to try to achieve that.


A common complaint is that events in English locations are referred to by the relevant town or county, whereas Scottish events are referred as happening simply "in Scotland". Viewer David McLaren said: "Why do you insist on referring to Scotland as a foreign country?"

Adrian Van Klaveren
I think when we do that it's a mistake. We should be precise with our geographical descriptions in Scotland as with elsewhere in the UK.

We should give the county name, the city name or whatever. There are times when we lapse and we have on occasions simply said "in Scotland" and that's wrong when we do so. It's not right for us as a UK service to be talking about Scotland in that way.



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