It is nothing short of bizarre to have the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow but television coverage broadcast into our homes reports it from an English perspective.
What the Games have confirmed is that there is no such thing as BBC Scotland: it is actually the BBC IN Scotland, and the BBC is very much an English broadcaster.
The opening ceremony of the Games from Scotland’s largest city was introduced by former England footballer Gary Lineker and Hazel Irvine. At least Ms Irvine is a Scot, but her presence was clearly a token attempt by BBC bosses to have a ‘Scotch’ person on the show. Hazel Irvine lives in London and has not been employed by a Scottish-based broadcaster for more than 20 years. Is there really no-one in the whole of Scotland who is capable of reading an autocue?
On the first day of competition, Hazel Irvine’s contribution included introducing a feature called ‘weegie words’, with suggestions such as ‘gallus’, ’scunner’ and ‘glaikit’ because of course the ‘Scotch’ talk funny , don’t they? The supposedly fun element of the programme provided English explanations of the words’ meanings, which actually gave the game away: the BBC is broadcasting from Scotland but to an English audience. Scots know what the words mean, so the item was pitched at people not from Scotland, people who would think the words were strange and funny.
Recently, Scots had to watch the football World Cup presented almost entirely through an English prism. The ubiquitous Gary Lineker was the main anchor for the BBC while ITV had someone who appeared to be an overgrown schoolboy and who looked as if he was going to burst into tears when England flopped in their three games. Scotland’s sole contributor to ITV’s proceedings was national team manager Gordon Strachan, while the BBC had the now-retired Alan Hansen. One Scot on each channel: there were as many pundits from France, Italy, Uruguay and the Netherlands than from Scotland.
At the World Cup all commentators and match-summarisers were English (yes, I know ITV’s Andy Townsend played for the Republic of Ireland, but he was born in Maidstone, Kent and couldn’t hide his support for England during games). Likewise, sports covered in the early days of the Commonwealth Games – cycling, swimming, triathlon - have had English commentators and reporters, meaning Scotland has received an English perspective on events and results.
There is actually a very serious point to the above observations: I don’t have anything against English broadcasters and presenters, but Scotland produces some excellent talent in the creative industries, both in front of the camera and behind it. Those young Scottish-based producers, camera-operators, sound engineers, reporters, presenters and associated professions are denied opportunities because the BBC views Scotland as merely a branch office.
Even when the story is in Scotland – such as the Commonwealth Games – BBC staff are brought up from London, including ‘Scottish’ presenters.
The same has happened in politics, with the BBC bringing Scots James Naughtie and Sarah Smith from London to present coverage on the Independence Referendum, completely ignoring talented people already in place at BBC headquarters in Glasgow.
The message is unmistakable: Scots aren’t up to broadcasting on major events – even when the events are actually taking place in Scotland – and only Scots who have experience of working in London should be allowed to share a studio with ‘real’ broadcasters, like Gary Lineker.
Other nations competing at the Commonwealth Games will take the broadcast-feed provided by the BBC but they will report on the event from the perspective of their own nation and its athletes. They will have their own editors putting together programmes, their own presenters fronting them and their own reporters providing news from Glasgow. Scotland has to make-do with whatever an English broadcaster sees fit to tell us and show us.
In other areas of broadcasting, such as drama, stories located in Scotland and featuring Scottish actors, speaking in Scots dialects, are few and far between. It has even been noted that many young Scots have begun to speak with ‘th’ pronounced as ‘ff’, such as the name Smith pronounced as Smiff, a result of Eastenders and other London-based dramas being broadcast into our homes virtually every night of the week.
America, also, has significantly impacted on Scotland, altering our language: how many teenagers recently attended their school prom rather than an end of year party? How many Scots take medication rather than medicine? How many of us go to the local store rather than the shop? How many have ordered fries with their burger?
In an increasingly globalised world there will inevitably be cross-over in terms of language and culture, but with so few Scots on our televisions, so few people on the telly who speak like us, so few programmes made by Scots, presented by Scots, offering a Scottish perspective, the danger is that our own language and culture will be eroded beyond repair.
The fact a major sporting event in Scotland is being broadcast to Scottish homes by presenters speaking with English accents and giving us an English perspective on what has taken place, should be a real wake-up call.
Scots are perfectly capable of producing quality broadcasting – in front of the camera and behind it – and we could desperately do with the additional jobs in the creative industries that would be generated if we made our own programmes here in Scotland: news, sport, drama – all from a Scottish perspective, reflecting Scottish culture and speaking just like us. It’s the sort of thing normal independent countries take for granted.