Hundreds of people gathered outside BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow at the weekend for a demonstration highlighting alleged ‘BBC bias’ in Scottish independence referendum coverage favouring the No campaign.
The protest shone a spotlight on claims of bias that have spiralled since the publication at the beginning of the year of research by University of the West of Scotland media politics professor John Robertson, which showed an apparent pro-No weight in broadcast coverage in Scotland ahead of the referendum.
According to Professor Robertson’s research, between September 2012 and September 2013, BBC Scotland broadcast 272 news items considered favourable for the No campaign against 171 favourable to Yes. The study also found that statements which made use of academic, scientific or independent evidence favoured the No campaign on 22 occasions compared to four for the Yes side.
Furthermore, the research claimed BBC Scotland had finished broadcasts with unchallenged anti-independence claims 28 times, while unchallenged pro-Yes statements came at the end of a broadcast only eight times.
The research showed a similar alleged bias in broadcast reports from STV, although critics’ anger has been directed largely towards the taxpayer funded BBC.
According to Scottish politics website Newsnet Scotland, people travelled from as far afield as Shetland to attend the protest. The BBC cited Police Scotland as saying there was a “maximum of 350 protesters” at the event, although video footage and images appear to show a larger crowd. Organisers quoted a figure closer to 2,000.
A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland said: “Our coverage of the referendum story is fair and impartial in line with the editorial guidelines.”