CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the programme everyone in politics is talking about and asks: How can the BBC rake over Alex Salmond case but ignore what happened with Jimmy Savile?
The Trial Of Alex Salmond
BBC2 used to air a current affairs show called Brass Tacks, presented by the likes of David Dimbleby and Brian Trueman.
These days the channel could more honestly have a flagship programme called Brass Neck.
Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark fronted an hour-long report, The Trial Of Alex Salmond (BBC2), into the court case.
Last March the former First Minister of Scotland faced 13 charges of serial sexual assaults, including one allegation of attempted rape.
The report ended with an actress reading the words of one: ‘I know I was telling the truth. I know what happened to me.’
Another grieved: ‘I’m worried about what this says more widely to other women, or just to us as a society. I mean, where does this leave us?’
Clearly, it leaves us in a situation where a BBC documentary can pour doubt on the findings of a jury that ‘fails’ to deliver a guilty verdict in a sex case. And it leaves us with a national broadcaster whose double standards are breathtaking.
Wark has been with Newsnight since 1993, after all, but as she lamented the damage wreaked by the Salmond trial to the #MeToo movement, she said nothing of the programme’s failings over an equally high-profile sex case.
After the death of BBC presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile in 2011, a Newsnight investigation into rumours of his appalling sex crimes was shelved.
It was deemed to clash with an adoring obituary and a planned Christmas special of his children’s show, Jim’ll Fix It.
Savile never stood trial and, even after he was dead, some at the Beeb tried to turn a blind eye to his vile activities.
Alex Salmond won his court case, and he also scored a victory in an earlier civil suit against the Scottish government, over its handling of the allegations against him.
Salmond conceded some of his behaviour towards women was boorish and shameful. But he maintained it fell far short of being criminal — and the jury agreed.
Unless the BBC is trying to argue Britain’s entire judicial system is unfit for purpose, Kirsty Wark should not be suggesting the trial has done serious damage to women’s rights across the country.
Instead, she should never lose sight of the fact that Jimmy Savile, a BBC employee, committed foul offences against women and children, sometimes within the BBC’s buildings. And the Newsnight report into that was dropped.
Former Lennox Herald journalist Martin Hannan joined the debate on the Warkumentary yesterday.
Indeed, it may even have been Martin who coined the nickname for the programme which has caused such a stir.
One of the few Scottish journalists to declare publicly that he is an SNP supporter, Martin, who now works for The National, is better known as a rugby and horse racing reporter.
And a good one at that. An award-winner in the Scottish Press Awards even.
He kicked off on social media with this post: “Just to let you know that as the result of the Warkumentary on Alex Salmond I have told the BBC not to bother contacting me for comment or participation in any programme.
“It would be hypocritical to be associated in any way with the purveyors of such absolutely biased shite masquerading as ‘journalism’. I can also assure you this issue of the Warkumentary is not going to go away. Even now a cold dish [revenge] is being prepared.”
His fellow rugby scribe, Matthew Vallance, responded: “Well done Martin. I would do the same, but, they never ask me anyway.”
Bill Heaney said: “I have now watched it twice to make certain I wasn’t missing anything. I wasn’t. This was a very strange programme. It detracts from the BBC’s recent excellent Disclosure programmes on the scandal of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Glasgow and the Covid-related deaths debacle in our care homes.
“Kirsty Wark is an excellent TV personality, but she’s not a court reporter and, from what we saw here, never will be. I worry when I see ‘journalists’ working in packs as Kirsty appeared to be with Dani Garavelli, Sarah Smith and Maurice Smith, the elite who can still afford to eat out together in Edinburgh’s fine dining venues (no social distancing there for the elite either).
“I am waiting eagerly for someone to come up with the truth of what actually happened to cause Sturgeon and Salmond to fall out so spectacularly. You, Martin, are the very man to let us know. Now that you have time on your hands following your refusal to appear on any BBC programmes, you can put the true version of events together. [As your old editor] I know you can.”
Hamish Thom said: “Well done Martin With you all the way! It was a very sad night for television in this country!”