Scottish National Party ( SNP ) Deputy leader, Keith Brown, says the opposition parties being invited to comment on Sturgeon’s live media while the SNP is not, is in no way fair.
Although, opposition parties consider SNP’s claim to be somewhat “laughable”. SNP opponents have in earlier times complained that the daily briefings’ live coverage by the national broadcaster gives Nicola Sturgeon an unfair public profile.
The BBC’s coverage cuts away from media questions to let Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties have a say.
A letter from Deputy Brown to the BBC focuses on the change of name of the programme to BBC Scotland News Special from Coronavirus Update.
In the letter, Deputy Brown said this section “is now overtly political with a stark bias against the largest party.”
He said: “Constituents of mine, who are also your audience, have contacted me and have rightly pointed out that the first minister’s only focus is on public health and pandemic-related matters – indeed, the first minister, as any regular viewer will know, goes out of her way to avoid making political points even when invited to by journalists.
“The change of title of the programme reflects the focus of the latter part of the programme, which is now, without doubt, political in nature.
“To not feature the SNP in that political space is grossly misrepresentative and deeply unfair.
“So why is the BBC enabling non-SNP politicians to have a ‘free hit’?
“I urge you to reconsider the format of and our exclusion from this programme as a matter of urgency.”
“The First Minister, as any regular viewer will know, goes out of her way to avoid making political points even when invited to by journalists.”
Mr Brown argues that Tory Leader, Douglas Ross, has commented on non-Covid related issues which the first minister generally avoids at her briefing.
Conservatives Claim the Opposite: SNP Gets Way More Coverage than Other Parties
On the other hand, the Scottish Conservatives said that in an average week of BBC briefings, the SNP received approximately 90 to 100 minutes of coverage compared to roughly 10 minutes for the Conservatives, according to the party.
Chief whip, Miles Briggs, said: “Not content with leading a daily televised briefing, the SNP now want the right to reply to themselves.
“It’s madness and it would be laughable if the result of their pressure and lobbying of the BBC wasn’t so serious.
“They are determined to turn Scotland into a one-party state where only SNP voices are heard. On the current evidence, they’re succeeding.
“We are happy to give Keith Brown the facts. The SNP receive about 10 times the coverage of the main opposition party in these briefings each week, just four months before an election.
“Nicola Sturgeon has used the pandemic as a campaign platform and has disrespected and bypassed the Scottish Parliament on a number of occasions.
“It’s clear that the First Minister is happy to turn the briefings political whenever it suits the SNP’s agenda.
“The very act of holding the briefings becomes political when SNP leaders claim on BBC television that independence is an ‘essential priority’ for Scotland’s recovery from Covid, as the Deputy First Minister has done recently.”
Other SNP Officials Back Brown’s Claim on Media Coverage
SNP’s House of Commons leader, Ian Blackford, said his party “often had to challenge” the BBC over the level of coverage it was receiving during the build-up to polling day on 12 December.
“Sometimes they responded to us, but on other occasions nobody wanted to take responsibility,” he wrote in the Times on 3 January 2020.
Blackford has written to BBC director general, Tony Hall, clarifying that the media observing reports and documents have shown that the Liberal Democrats appeared on the News at Six and Ten bulletins for “more items and for considerably longer durations” than the SNP.
Blackford said the SNP and the Liberal Democrats “should receive significant levels of coverage, up to and including similar amounts to the two largest parties, depending on the relevance of issues, geographical context, etc.”
Blackford questioned the proposed “level pegging” between the two parties, saying that it was “curious” as the SNP has been the third largest party at Westminster since 2015 with far more MPs than the Lib Dems.
He wrote: “In spite of these institutional challenges within the BBC, the SNP remains supportive of public service broadcasting. Our 47 MPs will defend the licence fee and continue the fight for the restoration of the free TV licence for over-75s.
Actions Taken Against the BBC
In 2019, the SNP and Liberal Democrats teamed up to form a legal challenge against ITV during the election campaign after the broadcaster planned a head-to-head debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, excluding SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson.
The two parties lost at the High Court.
BBC Not Broadcasting First Minister Sturgeon’s Covid-19 Briefings Could Put Elderly Population at Risk
In 2020, BBC Scotland has suggested it will not broadcast all of the First Minister Sturgeon’s public health briefings.
BBC’s decision has caused a reaction because of fears that those unable to access technology may be excluded from the Scottish Government’s public health updates.
Ms Sturgeon emphasized that her announcements “are not political”; she added that “I have always taken great care not to stray into political territory.”
“The televising of these briefings at a time like this has been a public service and the BBC is a public service broadcaster.
“They have been important in allowing me to communicate information and advice directly and giving us the opportunity to explain the reasoning and rationale behind the decisions we are taking and the things I’m asking people to do.
“I’ve always thought the more people can understand why they are being asked to restrict their lives in certain ways, the more likely it is they are going to comply. I think that principle has generally served Scotland well in the last few months.”
“We are clearly at a point where the virus is accelerating again as we go into winter – so it becomes more important, not less important to continue that very direct communication.”
“These briefings will always be broadcast on Scottish Government channels, so they will always be available for people to see – but not everybody is as hooked into the internet and technology as some of us are.
“What has struck me during the period these briefings have been televised, is they have been particularly important among some sections of the population who don’t routinely go on the internet or watch things on their phone – and that tends to be older people.”
The BBC stressed it will take a “consistent approach to coverage of the various government briefings across the UK nations”.
Despite the claims, BBC continues to hold back on broadcasting the SNP in the election campaign, losing the trust of the majority of Scots who support the SNP.