Campbell Martin _____________________________________________
I should declare my position before we go any further. I would rather watch paint dry than a cricket match.
Given the minority status of cricket in Scotland, I suspect many Scots share my view that the game is simply Morris Dancers playing Rounders. It is just so boring.
I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the point of cricket is to throw a ball relatively close to someone holding a bat, but with the intention that the batter (should that be batsman, I’m not sure) doesn’t hit the ball and it bounces or trundles safely into the hands of a guy standing behind the batter/batsman. That, apparently, is success. If nothing happens, if no-one scores, if barely anyone has to move, then that is success in cricket.
Now, our English friends have a very different view on the game: to them it seems to be a matter of life or death. How else can we explain cricket being the lead item on the UK ‘national’ news?
It’s bad enough when the lead item about cricket relates to an actual game, but over the past week we’ve had to suffer the first ten minutes of thirty-minute news programmes taken up by allegations about a betting scandal involving three members of the Pakistan cricket team, which is apparently playing England at the moment.
The allegation, as far as I can see, involves bets having been placed that correctly predicted ‘no ball’ decisions. This, apparently, is an infringement involving the guy throwing the ball (is that a bowler - isn’t that a hat?) and relates to him stepping over a line while throwing. In other words, people are betting on nothing happening, but in this case nothing happening illegally - and that has been taking up the bulk of so-called ‘national’ news programmes broadcast into Scottish homes every night.
While the BBC and ITV have devoted so much airtime to the allegations levelled against three Pakistani cricketers, and have sought-out the opinions of Pakistani Government officials regarding the matter, the same country is desperately attempting to recover from recent devastating floods that have claimed around 2,000 lives. International aid agencies have described the floods as Pakistan’s worst-ever natural disaster, with more than eight million Pakistanis, around two-thirds of whom are children, now dependent on aid. Put that in context: it’s more than one-and-a-half times the population of Scotland, now living in tented villages, starving, fearful for their lives, totally dependent on any scraps the aid agencies can provide - and British broadcasters are leading news bulletins with allegations that three men have stepped over a line during a game, and that some people might have placed bets on that happening.
The BBC and ITV news departments in London should be ashamed of themselves. If allegations of betting and rigged cricket matches merit coverage at all, then they should have featured in the sports news. Cricket really isn’t that important. Placed alongside the devastating humanitarian disaster now unfolding in Pakistan, it is little short of obscene for British broadcasters to have sought-out Pakistani Government officials, only to then ask them for a comment about a game.
Of course, this cricket story is also just one more example of English issues dominating news programmes broadcast into Scotland.
Scots, by and large, do not follow cricket. Yet our so-called ‘national’ news leads with a story about the game, virtually every night for a week. The Scottish news is labelled ‘regional’, which tells us everything we need to know about the attitude of the BBC and ITV towards Scotland. They think our nation is simply a region.
In the past week, ‘national’ news bulletins from London have also referred to stories happening in the “North-East” and the “North-West”. Of course, the stories were actually taking place, not in Aberdeen or Ullapool, but in the Newcastle area and in Cumbria. For London-based broadcasters, the ‘nation’ in ‘nation-al’ means England.
It was not by accident that broadcasting was a power retained by the UK Westminster Parliament when devolution was introduced through the Scotland Act (1998). By keeping the power of broadcasting, and ensuring Scots continued to receive their ‘national’ news from London, British unionist politicians ensured the continuance of 300 years of indoctrination.
The UK ‘national’ news - stories about England and from an English perspective - ensure that Scots know England is more important than Scotland. To reinforce this idea, the real national news - about the nation of Scotland and from a Scottish perspective - comes after the English news and is branded as just ‘regional’.
Substitute European Union for British Union, and imagine the outcry in England if it was announced that news programmes would now be broadcast from Brussels, but that English news would still be covered in regional bulletins following the main news. Rightly, the people of England would not tolerate such a move, yet predominantly English politicians and broadcasters think such a situation is acceptable for Scotland.
Think I’m going too far with this? Perhaps, then, you weren’t already aware that British Government documents, released under Freedom of Information legislation, show that when a ‘Scottish Six’ news programme was touted in the late 1990s, then prime minister Tony Blair and the then Director-General of the BBC, John Birt, actively worked together to ensure it never happened. What possible motive could a British prime minister and a British broadcaster have in preventing Scotland from having a news programme that reported Scottish national news and international stories from a Scottish perspective?
Well, if the Scots had their own ‘national’ news and were able to interpret world events in terms of how they related to Scotland, ‘the Jocks’ might actually start to believe they were a real nation: and if that happened, who knows where it could end. They might even get the daft idea that they could govern themselves, and before long England could have to face the reality of living without the Westminster Exchequer’s two biggest contributors, revenue from North Sea oil and the Scotch Whisky industry.
As Aleksandr the Meerkat might say, “It’s simples. ‘Regional’ Scottish news, ‘National’ (English) news from London, and lead stories about cricket keep the Scots in their subordinate place within the British Union.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.