12 March 2019

Since BBC Scotland Won't, We Took A Look At Their Editorial Guidelines

Thousands of BBC Editorial Guidelines fill a skip behind BBC Scotland HQ.

Let's take a look at the BBC Editorial Guidelines and try to figure out just which part of these have possibly been applied to BBC Scotland's coverage of Rangers. Misleading or downright malicious coverage that has seen them shamed into apologising to the club five times in a year, including another on Monday.

Skipping over a lot of other aspects that would apply to this very specific situation—the one where BBC Scotland continues to turn out material to intentionally damage Rangers' reputation—we're going to look at a few of the big ones, starting in Sec. 3: Accuracy. Here is where, under 3.2.1-4, the Principles of such endeavours are covered:


We must do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output.


All BBC output, as appropriate to its subject and nature, must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear, precise language.  We should be honest and open about what we don't know and avoid unfounded speculation.  Claims, allegations, material facts and other content that cannot be corroborated should normally be attributed.


The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.  We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences' trust in our content.


We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately.

Now, all of these are part and parcel for news outlets; it's the last two that really need to be covered again in some basic training sessions at Pacific Quay. Five times, and not for mistakes in coverage, have they had to apologise to Rangers in under a year. Five times. None of those "factual errors" corrected "quickly, clearly and appropriately" per BBC guidelines. All handled with groveling apologies communicated in private.

We've a lot to get to here so let's keep moving. Here's Sec. 3.4.26, Correcting Mistakes:

We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately.  Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of unfairness.  An effective way of correcting a mistake is saying what was wrong as well as putting it right.  Where we may have broadcast a defamatory inaccuracy Programme Legal Advice should be consulted.

There's that "quickly, clearly and appropriately" part again. What is so troublesome inside BBC Scotland with executing such simple concepts? We may have an answer under Removal of BBC Online Content, though it is one hell of a stretch on their part:

We should be transparent about revocations, revisions and corrections and explain the specific reasons behind them, unless there are legal or editorial reasons not to. This should be at point of play for on demand programmes or on the same page for text.

One would imagine here lies their cover for failing to acknowledge their ongoing campaign of bullshit against Rangers: "unless there are legal or editorial reasons not to." That's a pretty broad net, and one that's ripe to be manipulated if, say, London wasn't really paying much attention to what was going on up north. (Also, two spaces after a full stop or one? Make your decision for Christ!)

Moving on! Here's some of 3.4, Sources, which may be of interest to a former football reporter who saw his credential for Ibrox pulled:


We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.


When quoting an anonymous source, especially a source making serious allegations, we must take all appropriate steps to protect their identity.  However, we should give the audience what information we can about them and in a way that does not materially mislead about the source's status.

This guidance could have been handy to Chris McLaughlin in the lead up to his press access being revoked. Say, had he just told readers he was willing to handle all Jack Irvine's dirty work, or had he explained how he got hold of a match delegate report before the governing body had even reviewed it.

There's a load more to pick through here, particularly when it comes to both Sportsound and Sportscene, but there's also not enough time in the day. We'll just leave it with these three pretty basic concepts from Sec. 19, Principles:


The BBC is accountable to its audiences.  Their continuing trust in the BBC is a crucial part of our relationship with them.  We will act in good faith by dealing fairly and openly with them.


We are open in acknowledging mistakes when they are made and encourage a culture of willingness to learn from them.


We will use the BBC's online presence to provide proper reporting to the public on complaints we have received, and actions we have taken.

LOL. Not a chance anyone at PQ has even once taken a look at any of that.

But all this is to say that maybe – just maybe – if BBC Scotland followed the rules of their own organisation, they could end their asinine self-imposed ban from Ibrox. Failing that, we could hope for Ofcom to come in and slap them around, although the BBC Trust did previously on multiple instances – all of which did nothing to slow their mad fuckery.

Want to get involved? Check out Club 1872's Media Guidance for Supporters.