Labour Peer George Foulkes has made a formal complaint to BBC Scotland over the First Minister’s daily coronavirus briefings, claiming they break Ofcom rules and BBC impartiality guidelines. The SNP-led Scottish Government has been holding the daily question and answer sessions since March as the coronavirus outbreak moved swiftly through Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon is joined by cabinet members and clinical directors/scientists around four days a week at 12:30 pm on the BBC.
During the briefing, the First Minister gives updates on relevant legislative changes as well as the latest COVID-19 statistics.
She then answers questions from journalists across a variety of UK media.
But taking to social media, Lord Foulkes, who is known as Baron Foulkes of Cumnock in the House of Lords, said: “I’ve put a formal complaint to BBC Scotland that they are breaking Ofcom and BBC Charter rules on impartiality by broadcasting daily broadcasts by the SNP leader without the right of reply to Opposition parties.
“Others could follow this example.”
SNP Cllr Mhairi Hunter, Convener for Health and Social Care Integration at Glasgow City Council, however, questioned Lord Foulkes actions and joked: “Right of reply? What are they going to do, take turns to stand up and say remember to wash your hands?”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie has been in direct contact with BBC Scotland director Donalda McKinnon to address the issue.
The MSP wrote in a letter to Ms MacKinnon that briefings have become “increasingly political” stressing they are “no longer used” to relay information.
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The complaint came after Downing Street scrapped its daily talks in June following the announcement of phase three measures being relaxed.
In response to the complaint, a BBC Scotland spokesperson said; “We are broadcasting Scottish Government briefings on the pandemic and the easing of lockdown because these are matters of significant public interest.”
An Ofcom spokesperson added the BBC was “required to assess and investigate complaints about its programmes initially.”
But they stressed that “if the complainants are unhappy with how their complaint has been addressed by the BBC, they should bring it to us and we’ll examine it.”
The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.