BBC Scotland is facing claims that it breached its editorial and commercial guidelines by allow pro-union campaign group Better Together to use the broadcaster’s Glasgow HQ and an in-house crew to film a cinema ad.
The BBC has denied there was any breach of its guidelines and said that political parties can use facilities on a commercial basis, but concerns have been raised by former BBC broadcaster Derek Batemen that the BBC is operating in a “grey zone”.
Better Together commissioned creative agency BD Network to make the ad, The Scotsman newspaper reported. The agency sub-contracted work to production firm Early, which the Scotsman reports was co-founded by former executive producer at BBC Entertainment Martyn Smith.
The advert was shown in cinemas last month, but cinema chains including Odeon, Cineworld and Vue later decided to ban all referendum advertising from outlets.
BBC guidelines state: “Any activity involving a third party that could potentially undermine the BBC’s editorial integrity must be referred, in advance to the editorial policy department. Examples of such organisations include: political parties, government departments and foreign government; lobbying organisations…”
Guidelines also state that the “value and reputation of the BBC brand may be damaged if any part of the BBC is seen to be associated with inappropriate third parties”.
The revelations will fuel speculation over the state broadcaster’s impartiality in Scotland ahead of the independence referendum. BBC Scotland was forced to defend its position earlier this year after a report from academic Professor John Robertson suggested that coverage had been damaging to the Yes campaign.