Apologies for the tinny sound, but this clip from English-language channel Russia Today is worth a watch, particularly the middle section:
News stations, of course, have their own agendas, but it’s always interesting to see an outsider’s viewpoint on how Britain’s national broadcaster handles certain issues. We’re huge fans of the BBC on a UK-wide level, and have no problem with the idea or level of the licence fee, but we find it a little surprising that anyone would even expect it to be impartial on the subject of Scottish independence.
Far from being a neutral observer, the BBC has a direct and entirely tangible vested interest when it comes to the matter of whether Scotland stays in the UK or not. Scottish licence fees provide the Corporation with around £300m a year in revenue (about 9% of the total), but it only spends around 6% of its money in Scotland.
Even that proportion is a result of some substantial recent increases – just a few years ago the figure was as low as 3.7%, or considerably less than half what Scotland contributed to the BBC coffers, so the accumulated net “profit” the Corporation has made from Scottish viewers and listeners over the years is measured in billions.
Of that £300m, approximately a third is actually spent on BBC Scotland to make programmes of specifically Scottish interest and another third on Scotland-based production of UK-wide shows, with the final third used to subsidise the BBC’s UK-wide operations. With the Corporation’s funding under attack from the coalition government (leading to a planned reduction in BBC Scotland’s budget to £86m by 2016/17), the potential loss of approximately £100m of net revenue every year from Scottish licence-fee payers should the country vote for independence is one it can ill afford.
So regardless of the bias or otherwise of individual journalists, the bigger picture is in pin-sharp high definition: Scottish independence is directly, measurably and substantially contrary to the interests of the BBC. It’s a fact worth keeping in mind.