BBC sports commentators have been issued with an Avoiding Racial Bias
guide listing words and phrases which they should avoid, according to a prominent feature in the Scottish Daily Mail
, which also reports that the guide has been reinforced by a webinar training session staged in partnership with the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) which recently published a study into racial bias in football commentaries.
, in what it claims is an 'exclusive' report, relates: 'a total of 450 people took part in the session, Sportsmail
understands, with the BBC inviting Sky Sports, ITV, BT Sport, Premier League production and talkSPORT to dial in. BT pundit Rio Ferdinand was among several speakers on the webinar, which was chaired by Sky's Jessica Creighton'.
, disclosing it had seen a confidential copy of the BBC guide, reprinted a sizeable chunk from it under the heading: 'Language for pundits to avoid this season'. The text homed in on four words and phrases which feature on the to-be-avoided hit list: 'cakewalk', 'nitty gritty', 'sold down the river' and 'uppity'. Explaining that 'everything [printed] below has been taken from the BBC's Avoiding Racial Bias
guide', the Mail
carries under each word or phrase an explanation of how they originate from events relating to slavery.
quotes from the guide on the provenance of 'nitty gritty' as: 'Thought to refer to the detritus found in the bottom of boats once a shipment of slaves had been removed from the hold. The "nit" refers to a parasitic insect – the "grits" are the grain which would have been used as a cheap foodstuff to keep a slave ship's cargo barely fed. Alternative phraseology for commentators are – "the basic facts", "the most important aspect or practical details", and "the key parts or substance".'
For 'cakewalk', the provenance is quoted as: 'The cakewalk originated as a dance performed by enslaved black people on plantations before the American Civil War. Owners held contests in which slaves competed for a cake'. Alternatives are – 'this is turning into a breeze', and 'a walk in the park'.
For 'sold down the river', the provenance is – 'In the 19th century, black slaves were literally sold down the river to plantation owners further south where brutal conditions awaited'. Alternatives – 'that back pass left the keeper with no chance', and 'put the keeper in an impossible position'.
Other words and phrases which commentators are asked to avoid include – 'blackballed', 'blacklisted', 'black mark' and 'whiter than white'. The alternatives for 'whiter than white' are given as 'beyond reproach', 'spotless', 'unblemished', 'immaculate' and 'impeccable'. On describing a football player as having 'pace and power', the BBC guide evidently asks: 'Is there a danger of spreading a perception that black players' success is purely based on their athleticism and doesn't require hard work and intelligence? Do you need to spend more time thinking about how to explain the variety of reasons for a black player's success?'
In June, research by RunRepeat, a Danish research company, in association with the PFA, found that 'deep-rooted racial stereotypes' are promoted in football commentaries. It claimed players with a lighter skin tone received significantly more praise for their 'intelligence, quality, work rate and versatility'. By contrast, players with a darker skin tone were more likely to have 'their performances reduced to their physical characteristics or athletic abilities'. It found that 62.6% of praise regarding a player's intelligence was aimed at those with lighter skin, while 63.3% of criticism of a player's intelligence was directed at those with darker skin.
My good friend, Brian Taylor, he of the on-screen neckties and braces (or galluses as he always insisted they be called) of bright, exotic hues, retires in October after nearly 30 years splendid service as BBC Scotland's political editor. Brian was my colleague on the Press and Journal
) daily newspaper staff for some eight years – six as a member of our highly talented lobby team at Westminster which included Jon Craig, now chief political correspondent of Sky News.
, in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, was extremely fortunate in having a guaranteed steady stream of both graduates and school leavers whom were readily acknowledged within the newspaper industry as among the crème de la crème of the UK's annual crop of young aspiring journalists. Brian was among the best of those bunch of gifted youngsters who beat a track to Aberdeen – a man with whom it was a delight to both work and socialise. James Naughtie, ultimately destined for a stellar career with the BBC, was another.
Brian joined BBC Scotland in 1985, and was fast-tracked to political editor within six years. No wonder Gary Smith, BBC Scotland's head of news, praising the avuncular Dundonian, declared: 'Brian has become something of an institution, with his insights, analysis and colourful turn of phrase. He is an honorary professor, an author, a lover of literature, theatre and golf, and, it's been rumoured, a bit of a fan of Dundee United – a 21st-century Renaissance man. He will be a huge loss to us, and I personally will miss his wisdom and wit'.
Brian responded: 'It has been a pleasure, a privilege and, not infrequently, a source of innocent merriment to have worked as a broadcast journalist covering politics – and particularly Scottish politics – for such a prolonged period. At all times, I have tried to stand on the side of the people – our varied and valued BBC audiences'.
Despite being a political pundit, Brian is not into esotericism, explaining his craft thus: 'To find stuff out – and tell folk about it. Also, to analyse that stuff and explain why it matters. Whether on telly, the wireless or online, it has always been my endeavour to offer robust but fair coverage'. He broadly hints that there could something interesting in the offing for him, confiding: 'I am not stepping aside entirely. I would hope to be able to play a role – albeit a different role – in helping chart Scotland's future'.
A St Andrews University graduate, Brian is a former honorary professor in the School of Social and Political Science at Edinburgh University, and currently an honorary professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at Glasgow University. He has written two books on politics and co-written several more. He is the author of The Scottish Parliament
– a definitive account of the road to devolution and its consequences, now republished in revised form. And he updated that narrative in Scotland's Parliament: Triumph and Disaster
, which analysed the early years of the new parliament.
I wish Brian well on his departure from the higher echelons of BBC Scotland – deliberately, you will note, avoiding the word 'retirement'. Taking a leaf from his own book, as to Brian's immediate future, 'I shall find stuff out – and tell you folk about it'. As of yet, there is no word of his successor.
An awkward stand off has developed between BBC Scotland and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, following the corporation's unexpected decision to halt live television output of her daily COVID-19 briefings – a decision described as 'a matter of regret' by Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.
The briefings have been shown live on both BBC One Scotland and the BBC Scotland channel since March. Now, although the briefings will continue to be streamed live online, they will only be televised live on a 'news value' criteria. The BBC points out there will still be news reports on the briefings as well as live coverage of updates by the First Minister to the Scottish Parliament and during First Minister's Questions.
A BBC spokesman explained: 'We won't necessarily cover every single briefing live on TV. Rather, we will cover them based on their news value. Where it is appropriate to cover the briefings in their entirety, on TV, we will do so'.
Somewhat reproachfully, the First Minister responded: 'What is broadcast on the BBC is a matter for the BBC but we are in unique circumstances and the ability for me and my colleagues to communicate directly with the public has never been more important that it is right now'. She emphasised that older people without internet access, and people with disabilities, found the briefings 'particularly important', adding: 'All I would ask is that they [the BBC] take all of that into account in the decisions that they make'.
There has been growing opposition to the broadcasts from the SNP's political opponents who claimed the coverage was excessive and that the First Minister often strayed into party politics. The daily briefings have been replaced on BBC One Scotland by repeats of antiques show Bargain Hunt