By now, some hundreds of thousands across the globe have watched the video of Alex Salmond’s response to the BBC’s Nick Robinson at the international press conference of 11th September and many have followed the stushie resulting from the editing choices made when the footage was shown on the BBC News later that same day.
The outrage that has broken out in Twitterdom continues to flow. The complaint is that Nick Robinson misrepresented what actually happened, by claiming that Salmond did not answer the question Robinson asked, and that the broadcast report was edited solely for the purpose of supporting that contention.
Robinson tweeted late on that evening to say that he in turn had been misrepresented: he had asked two questions and he was indeed correct to say that Salmond hadn’t tackled the second of these.
Now, I want to be scrupulously fair here, so let me acknowledge that Robinson may have a point: it’s true that Salmond did not address that second question directly. Equally the case, however, is that Salmond spoke for some minutes in overall response to Robinson and that he covered a number of matters during that time.
Watching the unedited video, you can see that Salmond treated Robinson harshly. Clearly, that upset him. Understandable as that may be, it simply can never be acceptable for the national broadcaster to be influenced by pique, even if unconsciously so (as may have happened in this case – I can’t of course tell for sure).
And that’s the real problem here. Robinson can bluster as much as he likes, but the version sent to broadcast does not give the viewer a truthful impression of what transpired, in my opinion and also that of a great many others. The viewer is tempted to conclude that Salmond ignored Robinson completely, whereas the section with Salmond speaking was in fact taken from his answer to Robinson (to his first question, at least). It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise, in my opinion.
In the interests of balance, I note that the BBC has rejected the complaint made, as can be seen here.
The BBC News report might have gone like this instead:
NR: At his press conference today, I asked Alex Salmond about the adverse impact on Scottish corporation tax revenues of companies relocating their head offices to England. Here’s what he said . . . run VT of AS (edited for time, of course).
NR: I then asked Alex Salmond a second question, querying why voters should believe him, a politician, rather than those who are responsible for generating millions of pounds of profits. He chose not to answer that one.
Now, that would still have been slanted, but at least it would have been truthful (more or less).
All very sad. Here’s what Paul Mason, formerly of the BBC, posted on Facebook that same evening:
“Not since Iraq have I seen BBC News working at propaganda strength like this.”.