As you may have seen overnight, it turns out that the BMG/Herald poll also asked a question about BBC bias against independence. Because the poll was not commissioned by a pro-independence client, it's going to be hard for the corporation to dismiss the results out of hand. 36% of respondents agreed with the statement that "the BBC tends to report news that is biased against the cause of Scottish independence", and only 23% disagreed, with the remainder (41%) apparently saying they neither agreed nor disagreed. The datasets haven't been released yet (and as it's the weekend we'll probably have to wait at least a couple of days), but the Herald article reveals that belief in BBC bias is heavily concentrated among people who voted Yes, and to a lesser extent among the young - presumably because there's a fair amount of overlap between those two groups.
If you'd told me a poll on this subject was coming, I think I would have been able to predict that a third or more of people think the BBC is biased. The real shock, and what should genuinely alarm the corporation's bosses, is the fact that less than a quarter of respondents actively dismissed the notion of bias. Judging by the affected incredulity the BBC adopted when brushing off the accusations of one-sidedness in 2014, this is an institution that has remained fairly relaxed about the loyalty of its 'natural constituency' - ie. the people who are supposed to reflexively dismiss any notion that the BBC isn't scrupulously fair and impartial as the ravings of brainwashed lunatics. You can see from the reaction of opposition parties in the Herald piece ("celebrate the BBC!" demands Willie Rennie) that they also still believe that the impulse to defend the BBC to the death is alive and well among Scotland's silent majority - but this poll suggests they're wrong. Even without seeing the datasets, basic arithmetic will tell you that more than half of No voters presumably declined to actively reject the suggestion of bias.
And in all honesty, that's hardly surprising, given that No voters saw the same BBC coverage as the rest of us during the crucial penultimate week of the 2014 campaign. BBC news at network level seemed to have been sleepwalking through the campaign until the YouGov poll putting Yes ahead was published on the penultimate Saturday night. Lorry-loads of London journalists then suddenly descended upon Glasgow and Edinburgh, and having had no experience of covering the issue, they imagined they were somehow being impartial by putting out wall-to-wall coverage of "warnings of economic Armageddon if Scotland becomes independent" stories, just so long as they always gave the Yes campaign a defensive right of reply to the "warnings". After a week of this unmitigated hysteria, they finally seemed to take a step back and put their house in order to a limited extent, but by that time the damage was largely done - both to the Yes campaign, and ironically, to the BBC's own reputation in Scotland.
They say that the first step towards solving a problem is to recognise that it exists. Donalda MacKinnon has gone further down that road than anyone before her, but she still seemed to be saying that the problem was that people believed the BBC was biased, rather than that bias existed. It can only be hoped that there's considerably more self-awareness in private than there is in the BBC's public pronouncements.
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