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BBC Scotland bosses rapped for 'bias against Brexit' in news broadcast

BBC Scotland bosses have been rapped after a broadcast of Reporting Scotland was found guilty of “bias against Brexit”.

The news programme was found to have presented an overly negative view of the impacts of the UK’s exit from the European Union during a broadcast in late 2021.

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit probed the Reporting Scotland broadcast after a viewer complained that “by focusing only on firms ‘apparently damaged’ by the new arrangements, it had conveyed an unbalanced view of the impact of Brexit”.

The focus of the complaint was on a report from BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor, Douglas Fraser, on December 20, 2021.

The segment was introduced: “It's almost a year since the UK Government and European Union concluded a very long negotiation on the deal with which Britain then left the European single market.

“Brexit's advocates say there will be long term economic benefits, but it's been a tough year for some of the Scottish businesses most affected as our business and economy editor, Douglas Fraser, has been finding out.”

The ECU said it was “legitimate” for Fraser’s report to focus on the Scottish businesses which had been most affected by Brexit, but added: “However, a programme adopting such an approach should maintain impartiality by exploring other aspects of the topic within a reasonable timeframe, which had not happened in the case of Reporting Scotland.”

The BBC’s internal watchdog noted that Fraser had looked at sectors across the Scottish economy while preparing for the report, concluding that improving performance in some areas was for reasons other than Brexit.

The ECU upheld the complaint, concluding: “It is generally agreed however, that Brexit has had a differential effect, bearing hardest on the kind of small businesses featured in the report, so there was at least a need to reflect areas where its impact had been less negative, whether on this occasion or in an appropriately linked programme.”

The ECU said it had spoken to bosses at BBC Scotland about the report and “discussed” its conclusions with the programme makers.

It comes as the BBC also saw a complaint upheld about “pro-SNP bias” after it broadcast an extract from the book “Preventable: How a Pandemic Changed the World and How to Prevent the Next One” by Professor Devi Sridhar.

The contribution from Sridhar, a global health expert who advised the Scottish Government during the Covid pandemic, was deemed to have fallen “short of the BBC’s standards of impartiality” as it came just two weeks before the council elections.

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