It's the media, stupid!

How the media influences support for independence

Denis Donoghue

6/22/20232 min read

orange and white labeled box
orange and white labeled box

If, like me, you follow the excellent Twitter posts of MSM Monitor, you'll be familiar with the antics of flagship unionist media vehicles like The Sunday Show, Good Morning Scotland and Reporting Scotland. From the aggressive treatment of pro-independence guests, to their agenda being set by opposition parties and the omission of any positive stories that show Scotland in a good light; their purpose is clear. And it's very clear from some of my polling insights how choice of media links to independence support.

Let's start with TV News. BBC Scotland is so patently biased toward the unionist side that I won't waste mine and your time by spelling it out. They are ably assisted by their London colleagues who occasionally parachute in for a little misinformed politicking. STV News, although less ardently unionist than their BBC counterparts, generally follow a similar anti-SNP stance. Some of their London-based ITV News colleagues are stunningly ignorant. Channel 4 News generally has a better track record overall, with a history of strong, independent-minded and progressive journalists like Jon Snow, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Paul Mason. There were few mainstream journalists who understood the Yes campaign the way that Paul Mason did in 2014. More recently they've been let down by Ciaran Jenkins, who has been on some kind of mission to undermine the Scottish Government ever since he took the Scotland job.

Looking at how people's news consumption influences their Independence support, you'll see from my polling data, that those who've managed to stick with BBC News without their heads exploding are most likely to back the union (47% support) and least likely to support Yes. They're closely followed by ITV News viewers. These two networks still play a big role in media news consumption, they account for 43% of the and 33% respectively of the polling sample. The next biggest chunk (27%) are those who don't watch TV News at all. And this group are sensible enough to have a large pro-independence majority, with 58% supporting Scottish Independence. Many of these will be Yessers who cancelled their TV licences in the years that followed the first Indyref.

A majority of those Scots who watch Channel 4 News support self-determination for Scotland (51%) perhaps overlooking the odd blip in favour of its overall in-depth and progressive coverage. Around one in six Scots watch Channel 4 News (17%). Of the remaining TV News Channels, those who watch the US based CNN are 54% pro-Yes. I can't access it myself but watched their coverage of the US elections online and it was phenomenal, both in terms of the interactive technology and the quality of the anchors. Unfortunately it accounts for only 2% of the sample.

Perhaps surprisingly, pro-independence supporters have a slight edge among those watching the formerly Murdoch-owned Sky News; by a margin of 47% to 44%. Despite its previous links to the right-wing media magnate, its politics content is surprisingly good. I often find myself watching Sophy Ridge's Sunday programme (although admittedly it's mostly to escape the cringe-worthy Laura Kuenssberg).

So the mainstay channels BBC & ITV have the lion's share of viewers but, not surprisingly, the majority of these viewers support the union. Many independence supporters have either chosen to give up on TV News or take their chances with Channel 4 or CNN.