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Media fairness and bias

Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2013
Article three of eight: Have the media been fair in their reporting?

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Complaints that the media are not reporting the debate fairly have also been made, largely from the pro-independence camp, who see the press in Scotland as largely in tune with the stance of most UK media corporations. There is not a single major daily newspaper that is proactively Scottish nationalist and pro-independence; there are simply those which are more open-minded. Better Together have argued that the media are simply reporting the 'facts' and it happens to be the case that most of these go against independence. Yes Scotland have countered that such 'facts' are nothing more than editorial selections. Meanwhile Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and First Minister Alex Salmond has been accused of trying to 'court' Rupert Murdoch in order to secure the neutrality, if not support, of The Scottish Sun during the campaign. Salmond has stated his meetings with Murdoch were in his capacity as First Minister, not as a party leader, and that David Cameron had met Murdoch more frequently over the same period. But amidst wider UK-level controversy over phone tapping by News International journalists, Salmond’s popularity was affected by reports of his apparent closeness to Murdoch. But in April 2013, The Scottish Sun came out against independence rendering any efforts by Alex Salmond as fruitless.

The independence debate is posing some important questions for a media which is largely British-centric, though for the SNP and others in Scotland that equates as being Anglo-centric.

Clearly, Yes Scotland feel that getting their message across is more difficult. But a parallel issue for Better Together is that some powerful politicians wanting to make a contribution to the debate are not best placed to do so. The Scottish electorate see Conservative and other London-based politicians as alien to the extent that any interventions made by them in favour of the Union are often seen as undermining that very case. In this respect certain supporters of the Better Together campaign can almost be viewed as Salmond’s not-so-secret weapons. The image of privileged English politicians, educated at private schools like Eton and Harrow, telling working class Scots why the Union is 'better for them' is an extremely negative one. It pushes voters into the independence camp – as has David Cameron and other leading Tory politicians when they offer opinions on Scotland. Therefore, the pro-union message may be more palatable to certain sections of the press and thereby easier to get out, but how that message is made and who gets to make it needs to be carefully managed. Note that the launch of the Better Together campaign heavily featured interviews with 'ordinary Scots', avoiding the use of celebrities.

But what if a 'heavy weight' Westminster politician from Labour gets involved in the debate? The following video discusses the intervention made by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012:


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