I WAS ALEX SALMOND’S SPY INSIDE THE BBC

I have been a journalist for 45 years of my life and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write.

I followed every maxim of the honourable trade of journalism and adhered to the BBC’s editorial guidelines in a career spanning the Moon landings, Piper Alpha, Dunblane and Devolution.

But, in a moment of inexplicable personal failure, I jettisoned every principle I had learned and agreed to work secretly for a political master, betraying my colleagues, my loved ones and journalism itself. I was persuaded to turn my political beliefs into an immoral conspiracy by the man who heads the Scottish Government. I agreed to work for the First Minister in a clandestine campaign from within the BBC. The shameful truth is: I was recruited by Alex Salmond.

The consequences are profound…not just for me and the ignominy I now bear, but for the credibility of the BBC at a critical time in our nation’s history and for those others still working on programmes whom I lured into the Nationalist net. There is an explosive story waiting to be told of corruption, illegality, conspiracy and manipulation involving both BBC and government in which I was first a key player then a helpless pawn. The cast includes household names both on screen and in power.

But before I confess all, let me first take you back to May 2011 and the aftermath of the biggest upset in modern political history – the SNP landslide that produced Holyrood’s first majority administration. As a lifelong supporter of independence, if not always an SNP voter, I was thrilled and inspired by the heady mix of optimism and excitement that coursed through Scotland’s veins. Immediately after the declaration and the Salmond presidential victor’s address, I left for the West Coast on a family break.

As soon as I found a spot with mobile reception – overlooking Loch Shiel in Moidart – I called Kevin Pringle, Alex Salmond’s trusted special adviser. After congratulating him on the success, I suggested that one of the SNP’s millionaire supporters bankroll the creation of an information website in which every issue relating to independence could be explained in an accessible and entertaining way. If the site got started before the Unionists cranked up their inevitable campaign of disinformation, it could become a trusted source of objective information ahead of the referendum.

His response surprised me. “Actually, Derek,” he said. “He asked me to phone you. Can you come to St Andrews House on Monday morning. He wants to talk to you.” That meeting was to change my life.

I had known the man behind the dark wood desk since 1987 when I interviewed him for Reporting Scotland just before he won his former seat of Banff and Buchan. We had formed a rapport based on verbal jousting and a shared belief – that the time was coming for Scotland to redeem her ancient right to sovereignty. He had been slim and coltish then. The figure confronting me in St Andrews House was portly and jowly and instead of a mischievous flash, his eye had a steely glint. He got up and swung his arm in a wide arc, hand open, to grasp mine in a powerful affirmation of our old bond. “Today is a new world,” he said. “It requires new thinking.”

For the next hour I learned how the British state was mobilising to defeat the will of the people; how heads of state were being asked to keep quiet, international organisations chivvied into endorsing a united Britain and editors massaged and threatened into following the official line.

The same thing happened over Lockerbie when the intelligence service briefed editors that Libya was responsible for the bombing not, as previously indicated, Iran. That just happened to coincide with the West taking on Saddam’s Iraq, sworn enemy of Iran. Those guardians of objective news duly complied.

Salmond painted a picture of a small, plucky outfit battling the massed forces of political power and entrenched unionism in an unfair contest. The Scots would be the losers. We had to think like the Israelis, he said, and use our smarts. We had to utilise every advantage we had, no matter how small, and behave like the Resistance, running in the alleyways, keeping in the shadows and staying ever alert. “And you can help,” he said.

The media was the single most important tool in the struggle and I was at the heart of the most trusted and most widely consumed sector…the BBC. I both developed ideas for programmes and presented them. Was it too much to ask that I skew some items, sound positive about independence, ridicule Unionist claims and just let journalist principles of impartiality slide for a while? To help the cause. For Scotland?

I don’t know if it was the flattery, closeness to power or personal vanity that I could do something for my country, but I said I would see what I could do. We shook hands.

What I didn’t know then was that this was just the beginning. I would not be left to make those judgements myself but would be subject to constant demands for more, to be given orders and to become a tool of Salmond’s spiralling paranoia. If I refused, I would be exposed. Blackmail. And so I was caught in a web of deceit in which I hated myself and lost my self respect.

I think it was self loathing that drove me to greater efforts to deliver for the man who held such power over me. I confess now that, in order to damage the credibility of the BBC, I successfully lobbied the management to keep the Fred Macauley Show on air. The Audience Research Department had identified it was the main reason listeners turned away from Radio Scotland and it was threatened with the axe. I worked the corridors at Pacific Quay, buttonholing executives, claiming that younger listeners thought it was satire and tweeted it while even the Professor of Philosophy at Glasgow University told me he enjoyed discussions on what happened last night on The Apprentice.

I confess too that it was my idea to get rid of trained newsreaders, ostensibly to save money, but in reality, to make sure that producers who can barely read and presenters with no concept of diction, would present news bulletins, turning them into a lottery of misplaced emphasis and garbled syntax.

You will not be surprised to hear that I pushed for 13-year-old schoolgirls to read the traffic report. Hence the indistinct vowels and mispronounced place names. (It’s Stow as in Now, not as in Low and there’s no L pronounced in Alford). I told them it was a community concept linking the BBC with our schools and they fell for it.

When research – jointly funded with the RSPCA – found that Newsnight Scotland was the nation’s cue to take the dog for a walk, I argued that only people over 70 were watching and they were reassured by a programme format they remembered from the fifties. A poll of viewers found the audience referred to the presenter as “Young Gordon”. I persuaded the Head of Programmes that it was refreshing to watch a show which didn’t overload the viewer with information or insight.

All of this delighted Salmond who said the less professional the BBC appeared, the less impact it’s pro-Unionist propaganda would have. “Can you make sure they keep Catriona Renton on air?” he asked. “And how about humiliating them by getting one of the Radio 4 presenters up from England to show them how it’s done. That would give the clearest message that BBC Scotland is stuffed with second-raters.”

That I was successful is confirmed by the finding that less than half of Scots trusts BBC Scotland’s coverage. Meanwhile I ensured that my own programmes challenged assumptions about British fair play by, for example, showing how goal line technology proves that England didn’t win the World Cup. My Sunday papers review show contrasted Telegraph features about wealthy southern children called Lucinda going riding with the down-at-heel lives of the The Broons . I focussed on the Sunday Post political coverage which was sympathetic to nationalism and whose author, Campbell Gunn, was in the network and became Salmond’s adviser.

I was very nearly unmasked by the ever perceptive George Foulkes, whose powers of deduction are honed on the Intelligence Committee. He tried to flush me out by tweeting that I was biased. Tried but failed.

But the next stage was daunting. I was to recruit a network of sympathisers to infiltrate all output. Such was the low morale among my colleagues caused by a dysfunctional management that in the space of a few weeks I had a list of 12 willing clandestine supporters all subtly changing scripts. That list I have today handed to the BBC. They all face dismissal but I have pleaded for clemency by saying they were duped by me.

Key among them is one of the best known faces in Scotland, a fixture on national television, who may now follow me into ignominy. Her nightly appearances on Reporting Scotland have undergone nuanced adjustments. From research conducted at the Poynter Institute of Journalism in St Petersburg, Florida, http://www.poynter.org I learned how to promote a subconscious message while broadcasting. If you observe closely you will hear a momentary pause before she says the words “Scottish Government” to give it emphasis and on completion, she will smile faintly to leave an optimistic sense in the mind of the viewer. When she mentions “Labour leader Johann Lamont”, her brow gently furrows and her timbre drops to indicate something sinister. It is by these tiny measures that public perceptions are formed.

In the final days before the referendum we had a Wardrobe Plan in which her outfits would turn from sky blue to an ever darkening navy until, on voting day, it was to be Saltire Blue with white piping, mimicking the national flag. A specially prepared locket would be prominent on her throat of a celtic design in which the SNP symbol could be discerned. Such was our attention to detail. But all to no avail.

I could stand the hectoring and humiliation of the power-mad Salmond no longer and in June insisted on an early retirement from the BBC. For three months I have considered what to do. This confession is the result. I still believe in independence but urge the Nationalists to ditch Salmond now before it is too late. If he wins and takes power with all the levers of power, he will ruin Scotland with his megalomania just as he ruined me. Next week: How I recruited Dotaman.

Advertisements

32 thoughts on “I WAS ALEX SALMOND’S SPY INSIDE THE BBC

  1. Many had long suspected your double life from the moment you whistled “Sky High Joe” in the staff rest room. This was complete when you revealed Mr Boothman also sympathised with the blowing up of pillar boxes.
    Welcome back to what Johann calls “Meanwhile in the real world”.

  2. cynicalHighlander

    Nice to hear from you again Derek the last voice of sanity from the Ministry of Truth, you are missed from the airwaves.

  3. This all too much to take in at one sitting. Our BBC has been subverted, and by this, this, this traitor to the Union. I have had my doubts sometimes at the direction our State Broadcaster was taking, but all is now revealed. I hope you are thoroughly ashamed of yourself.
    It’s like that bunch of Cambridge graduates and MI6, Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt all doing the nation down.

  4. You do realise that “dark forces” will be monitoring this site and there will be plans afoot to discredit the FM and yourself? Most excellent “coming out” article as a whistleblower, though!
    Please don’t make this the last …

  5. Welcome to the blogosphere, Derek. Very funny. Sometimes humour can hit the hardest.

  6. I had noted this with the blue suited one – When she mentions ‘Scottish government’, her brow gently furrows and her timbre drops to indicate something sinister. However, you will hear a momentary pause before she says the words ‘Johann Lamont’ to give it emphasis and on completion, she will smile faintly to leave an optimistic sense in the mind of the viewer.

    Mr Bateman giving the unionist game away in satirical form – using the completely opposite characters to tell us how the BBC staff were got at – how it really happened, and what is yet to happen?

  7. Well, Derek, unless you add some humor to the article, its probably best to leave it as your last.

  8. Aye, very good. Irony is it?

    The thing is though, I would much prefer a proper insider’s critic of ‘our’ BBC “Scotland’s” current political output. We could call it, oh I don’t know, what about, maybe something like …….political journalism?

    Any takers out there? Derek? Bernard? Anyone?

  9. Izzy, what have you left to lose?

    • Her husband? Peaceful family life? Her job, such as it now is?

      Anyway, thanks Derek for speaking out, although so “veiledly”. 🙂

  10. What a coincidence (not) September the 11th and you just went on your own little Jihad and crashed your plane into Bute House,

    Do you Mr Bateman think the public are just THAT stupid as to believe one person in Pacific Quay can manipulate BBC policy to suit your(SNP) ends

    lest see now you suggest you were personally responsable for keeping the Fred Macauley show on air? what an arrogant little creature you are, to pretend you ALONE could sway the high heid yins at Pacific Quay to follow YOUR agenda,
    A body which is well known for its Labour party connections but you singularly managed to pull the wool over their eyes you must be the best spy ever Derek (007) maybe,
    you then claim you’ve managed to (cultivate) a news reader into subliminal messaging to massage the public into favouring the Yes campaign message?
    who could it be? Sally Magnusson? Jackie Bird maybe? pull the other one, the avalanche of negatively slanted news from BBC Scotland even if you did have a wee mole is outrageous and anti democratic and you know it,

    this people, is how the Labour party in Scotland go about their business, with accusations of false flag actions by the Yes campaign because their own attitude to the Scottish public is SO dismissive they are using projection to kid you on the Yes side are no better than them, when on every occasion the Yes campaign has risen above the petty little squabbling the no so side try (and fail) to draw them into, just look at Sarwar last week that behavior in front of (OR NOT) cameras, was embarrassing to the whole of Scotland

  11. Love it..

  12. Can’t wait to read about Dotaman.

  13. Brilliant – read slowly and between the lines. Again, Brilliant! A great loss to the disgraceful and cataclysmic BBC but i’m sure Mr Bateman sleeps better at night now!

  14. What a joy! Very funny and clever. Please give us more. An oasis in a barren land! Thank you.

  15. caught me out and no mistake, sorry mr Bateman

  16. Brillant. BBC’s loss the blogspheres gain

  17. I might buy a licence now

  18. It would be a treat if we could really get to grips with exactly how the state manipulates broadcast coverage…. please reveal more ! (More power to you sir!)

  19. PURE DEAD BRILLIANT………..what surprises me the most is how anyone could not see this for what it is/was Irony at its best and so accurate it must hurt a few people at the Biased British Clown factory MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRE please

  20. Thoroughly enjoyed it and like a good puzzle I’ll work out all the clues.
    Don’t stop now
    PS: Can you really do something about Fred? He’s driving me mad.

    • You cannot be serious regarding Fred. What would we do without the exciting anagram quiz? Surely it keeps you on your toes mentally?? Further, we would lose Susan Calman’s cutting-edge humour when Fred goes on holiday! I fear you have not thought through this matter, dave.

      • Saturday is a Fred and Kaye free zone. YESSSSS! (is that a political YES?)

        Wine tasting and cooking on the radio with Fred….can’t wait till Monday LOL
        However my Bateman weekends with the radio in the mornings are sadly missed.

      • Mine, too.

  21. Loved the stuff about Brewer and .Newsnicht. I haven’t got a dog but I will consider getting one now and Catriona; what would we do without her? Not so sure about consigning Fred and La Calman. Would that not be considered “dumbing down2?
    Keep it going. This must be more effective than phoning them up and being diverted by the caretaker to end up complaining to bored agency staff in Northern Ireland

  22. Brilliant stuff! I think you caught a few folk out there!

  23. Blackford Wheeler

    Derek, it’s great to have you back! I miss our late lamented public service broadcaster’s Saturday morning impartiality slot. I’m sure you won’t be short of ideas as to how to spend your time. I hope to see, and maybe even hear, much more from you over the coming year.

  24. Having been firmly assured that yes, this is the real Derek Bateman accept no substitutes, hats off to you. I can see this blog is going to get extremely popular.

  25. Comic genius.

  26. I have it on good authority that Dotaman is based on Daniel Defoe, this being the case I’d advise
    extreme caution Mr Bateman as Dotaman could be a double agent just like his predecessor !!!!

    Seriously, an excellent piece of rapier wit and anticipating more of the same.

  27. Very funny. But I’m left wondering is this the real Derek Bateman????? Or is it a spoof??
    Can you prove to us who you really are Mr Blogger

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s