BBC humiliated: Scotland director ‘regrets confusion’ over Sturgeon’s daily briefings

A BBC chief has admitted there was shortcomings in the coverage of daily coronavirus press conferences conducted by Nicola Sturgeon, in a humiliating moment for the corporation

Steve Carson of BBC Scotland and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.


BBC Scotland director Steve Carson has said he “regrets” any confusion caused to its viewers over its coverage of the SNP leader’s daily briefings.

In September, the BBC announced it would reduce its live broadcast of the daily COVID-19 announcements from the Scottish Government.

The decision sparked much confusion amongst viewers, who were left unsure as to where the programme would be shown each day.

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon also condemned the decision and insisted it was “more important than ever” to be able to speak directly to the Scottish people live on TV.

Appearing before the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee on Thursday, Mr Carson admitted the decision was not explained well enough to viewers.

He said: “I do regret, and I agree, that for a period of days people were incredibly confused as to what they thought the BBC were doing.”

Mr Carson added the BBC had a legal obligation to due impartiality and the original decision intended to make clear that coverage of the briefings was not as a result of any “directive”.

Mr Carson, who was appointed as BBC Scotland director in July, was also quizzed on the public perception of the BBC around the UK in the wake of a damning poll.

An Ofcom report found 64 percent of people in Scotland feel the BBC is “effective at informing, educating and entertaining people”.

While in England the figure was slightly higher at 71 percent.

Mr Carson defended the findings and pointed to the increased investment in BBC Scotland, with the creation of hundreds of hours of new content.

He told the committee, BBC Scotland staff “work hard every day to provide a diet of fair and accurate information”.

He added: “Whether it’s unconscious or not, on days when people want trusted, accurate information – for example on Covid – they come to the BBC in droves.

“They might have told a pollster ‘I’m a bit worried about the BBC’, but when it really comes down to it and you want safety information for yourself and your family, you’re coming to Reporting Scotland, you’re coming to BBC News Scotland online.”

Speaking last month about the BBC slashing its coverage of her daily briefings, Ms Sturgeon insisted they provided a vital public service in the battle against coronavirus.

The SNP chief explained there were many people, especially in vulnerable groups, who do not have access to the internet to watch the press conferences online.

Ms Sturgeon said: “What has struck me over the period that these briefings have been televised is that they have been particularly important to certain sections of the population that maybe don’t routinely go onto the internet.

“We are in unique circumstances right now and the ability for me and my colleagues to communicate directly with the public has never been more important.”

Ms Sturgeon added it was “for the BBC” and not Holyrood to decide on its coverage.

But added: “All I would ask is that they take that into account in the decisions that they make.”

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