STV JOURNALIST Stephen Daisley has promoted Wings Over Scotland’s political fundraising campaign three times in the last four weeks. Each time, he has used ‘impartial’ broadcaster, Scottish Television’s, official resources to do so. Could Daisley’s actions be a breach of broadcasting regulator OFCOM’s broadcasting code? AhDinnaeKen investigates:
By Longshanker aka @ergasiophobe
DOES STV journalist Stephen Daisley’s admiration of Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland compromise the Scottish broadcaster’s “impartiality” remit?
AhDinnaeKen thinks so. But we*’re hardly impartial in the matter. So consider the following:
OFCOM, the UK’s broadcast regulator, has a set of fairly comprehensive rules and guidelines on broadcaster neutrality. According to OFCOM’s definition of broadcaster services “a website that provides content clearly and directly related to a Broadcasting-related Service may itself be a Broadcasting-related Service.”
In other words, it’s fair to conclude that the official STV News Twitter feed and website can both be considered to be covered by OFCOM’s rules and regulations. Technically it could be a grey area, but the definition makes that seem unlikely.
Section Five of the OFCOM broadcasting code covers the expected impartiality of UK based broadcasters.
According to section 5.5: “Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service.”
Daisley provides a service to STV and the wider public at large. He mostly controls the official STV News Twitter feed, which has approximately 172,000 followers, and regularly uses it to draw readers to the official STV News website
As referred to above, Daisley has gushed over and publicised the Wings Over Scotland blog three times in the last four weeks. Each editorial piece published/broadcast on the official STV website has been promoted by one Tweet or more on the official STV News Twitter feed.
So far so what, you may ask. If something’s newsworthy, for instance, it should be reported regardless of the source of the news and be done so “without fear or favour”.
And that’s the rub AhDinnaeKen has with Daisley. We*’re fairly sure his shameless plugging of Wings is indulged in with some sort of “favour” in mind. We* don’t know what it is and we*’ll spare readers any speculation on our* part for the sake of falling into the error of accidental defamation. But something’s not quite right with Daisley’s inexplicably embarrassing actions.
The repeated promotion of Campbell’s blog is, without doubt, deeply suspect. It has the potential to bring his employer, Scottish Television, into disrepute with OFCOM. With an MSC in Political Communication, you’d expect Daisley to be above that potential scenario.
The Ofcom Broadcasting Code’s core principles regarding commercial cross promotion are outlined below:
- “To ensure that broadcasters maintain editorial independence and control over programming (editorial independence).
- To ensure that there is distinction between editorial content and advertising (distinction).
- To protect audiences from surreptitious advertising (transparency).
- To ensure that audiences are protected from the risk of financial harm (consumer protection).
- To ensure that unsuitable sponsorship is prevented (unsuitable sponsorship).”
In each of Daisley’s Wings editorials over the period covering 27 Feb to 26 Mar 2015, he has included an advert with a link to the Wings Over Scotland fundraiser. In effect, he has actively promoted and used the official STV website to advertise Wings’ Indiegogo fundraiser.
There’s room for a legitimate complaint there – not least from the likes of Bella Caledonia, Newsnet Scotland and National Collective – all alternative pro-independence media sites who have run their own fundraisers. There also appears to be no ‘distinction’ made between Daisley’s editorial content and ‘advertising’ of the Wings blog which hardly fulfils the need to “protect audiences from surreptitious advertising.”
The Electoral Commission is currently investigating Wings Over Scotland’s incomplete spending returns from the referendum campaign. If found guilty of breaching the rules, editor Stuart Campbell potentially faces a prison sentence.
Yet, Daisley appears to see no conflict of interest in encouraging STV News site visitors to donate to the politically partisan site. It’s questionable at best, and a breach of broadcasting impartiality rules at worst.
For the sake of “transparency” and editorial “impartiality”, Daisley, or his employer STV, must explain the reasons for this sustained and blatant promotion of one individual’s pro-media blog.
Clever and playful as he is, Daisley doesn’t appear too savvy regarding non-social media perceptions out there. Three big plugs in four weeks looks like he’s doing a friend a “favour” beyond the call of journalistic duty or the public interest. He may be guilty of nothing but, to AhDinnaeKen’s eyes at least, it looks like a straightforward case of back slapping camradery, surreptitious advertising and shameless cross promotion with ulterior motive attached.
We* respectfully request that Daisley get’s a grip and provides ‘transparency’ for the various STV News reading publics out there – otherwise, he’s keeping everyone in the dark. The repeated and sustained promotion of Wings Over Scotland through STV’s official broadcasting media services is the behaviour of a besotted schmuck and is unbecoming of an allegedly impartial broadcaster.
Daisley’s not only embarrassing himself, he’s embarrassing Scottish Television.
And that embarrassment could prove to be embarrassingly costly.
What a putz!
Readers, as ever, can make up their own minds.