We don’t know about you, viewers, but when we tune into a two-hour TV programme called “Scottish National Party Spring Conference 2013″, we sort of expect the large bulk of that show to be, well, the Scottish National Party Spring Conference 2013.
With the UK’s state broadcaster, though, that isn’t necessarily the case.
For our many and terrible sins, we just sat through the BBC’s first “conference special” from yesterday afternoon with a stopwatch and a notepad, and noted down the amount of airtime given to the various people onscreen. The results were a little surprising.
In ascending order, they ran as follows:
- Blair Jenkins, director of Yes Scotland: 1m 30s
- Vox pops with voters, including opposed to independence: 3m
- Dennis Canavan, chairman of Yes Scotland: 3m 30s
- John Swinney, SNP finance secretary: 5m
- Two gentlemen of the Scottish press: 5m 30s
- Conference delegates, including SNP MP Angus Robertson: 8m
- Speeches from the conference floor: 13m 50s
- Pre-recorded packages/other: 14m
- Professor John Curtice, the only psephologist in Scotland: 14m 20s
- Nicola Sturgeon (Deputy First Minister): 18m 30s
- Alex Salmond (First Minister): 33m
It’s a curious breakdown. Actual proceedings at the conference took up just 48 minutes of the 120-minute show, the vast bulk of that being the leader’s speech. So truncated was other coverage that viewers couldn’t even make sense of the first 30 seconds of said speech, as it referred to an introduction by Nicola Sturgeon that we hadn’t been allowed to see while Prof. Curtice waffled on about something or other.
Curtice enjoyed more airtime than SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, finance secretary John Swinney and Yes Scotland duo Blair Jenkins and Dennis Canavan put together, despite the latter two in particular having given widely-acclaimed speeches.
(We saw just 90 seconds of Jenkins’ and none at all of Canavan’s, whose appearances were limited to some scattered bits of chat outside the hall.)
All of which would be fine if the good Professor was under-exposed in the Scottish media (rather than barely a night going by without him appearing on Reporting Scotland, Newsnight Scotland, Scotland Tonight or indeed all three) or if he offered particularly insightful commentary. Instead, though, he said things like this (5m 30s):
“Such polling evidence as we have suggests Scotland probably is rather more against Trident than in favour, but still there may be around almost half of the people who are in favour of independence are not necessarily against Trident.”
Are we sure about that, John?
That figure rises to 87% among those planning to vote Yes and the same figure applies to those who are as yet un-decided on the referendum issue, according to a TNS BMRB poll carried out for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”
Is 13% really “around almost half”? If it is, we suppose that might explain why a supposed programme on the SNP conference spent just 39% of its time showing the actual conference, and why an enormously-overused pundit got more airtime than four senior members of the SNP and independence campaign combined.
(Even if you take the full poll results at their least anti-Trident extreme, including people with no strong feelings about the weapons and those yet to decide as “not necessarily against”, the highest number you can get to among independence supporters is 30%, which is still a very long way short of “almost half”.)
We’re not sure when Prof. Curtice finds time to do his day job, so much of his life must he spend shuttling back and forth in taxis to the BBC’s Pacific Quay studios in Glasgow. Perhaps he’s due a little bit of time off.