I used to be regarded as an establishment figure because I was part of a public organisation that owed its existence and its loyalty to the State. So long as I too was loyal, I was accepted or at least tolerated for my indiscretions and complaints.
The organisation I worked for was created partly to examine the society we live in and to scrutinise the activities of the authorities on behalf of the people who pay for it.
Central to this role is that of criticism. Questioning elected representatives, doubting policy and challenging motives lies at the heart of that organisation’s role.
Strange then that when the organisation itself becomes the subject of criticism its reaction appears to be to repel both the criticism and the critic.
My outspoken words on BBC management were bound to sting. There are few more potent opponents than one who has just deserted and can speak out with knowledge still hot with immediacy and relevance. Naming names just isn’t done…Generalised attacks on the BBC are scoffed at and brushed aside although publicly treated with manufactured concern. I did name names and did provide not just blow-by-blow accounts from inside but a comprehensive critique of what should happen instead of what actually does.
I didn’t expect thanks from those dodging my bullets. But I expected it to follow a long and honourable tradition of acknowledging criticism and ostensibly accepting it and moving on. I expected to be patronised.
What I didn’t expect was to be blackballed – to be silently marked with a spot, marginalised and ignored. It isn’t that I harbour designs on contributing to BBC programmes – I don’t need the exposure and have enough to do – but the total exclusion in the year since I left must mark some kind of record. When Scotland is abuzz with debate, when programme makers are searching for voices, is it believable that not one producer or reporter thought of asking Bateman? You may genuinely hold the view that my work is execrable…but compared to all those other voices and views pushed at you every day?
I’ve been on the media in Japan and Russia, I am followed online in the US, Australia and 120 different countries, I’m on Twitter with 4000 followers (on 800 tweets), you can’t exactly miss me on Newsnet or Bella, I have to turn down meetings across the country, I’m on community radio and podcasts, have my own internet radio station which included a special with Alex Salmond who, unlike the BBC, does know what I do and yet…not one phone in, not one Blether With…not one programme. Odd, no?
Perhaps I should ask for a BBC manager to come on batemanbroadcasting…
Tonight BBC Scotland airs a documentary looking back at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. I covered that event for the Glasgow Herald along with my colleague Derek Douglas and wrote a book about it – Unfriendly Games, Boycotted and Broke. We were interviewed in the old Meadowbank Stadium by the late George Hume on Reporting Scotland. As a result, the BBC offered me a job. Since then when the Games come round every four somebody in the BBC will interview me about 1986 for telly or radio to remember the Bob Maxwell fiasco and the boycott. (I recall being on Radio Four for the Manchester Games)
But not this time. BBC Scotland’s latest programme has, quite justifiably, interviewed instead my co-author, the other Derek. Although they did call me to get his contact details.
In other words somebody at Pacific Quay has, as they do every four years, said: Let’s get Bateman – he was there and he’s a broadcaster, you know! Then, knowing my current state of pariah, decided not to bother. Get somebody else’s number off him instead. It couldn’t made any clearer – you don’t piss into our tent and get away with it.
It’s similar to the treatment of John Robertson of UWS– dealt with without respect.
I think it’s worth recording as a further insight into the small-minded and dysfunctional ethos now operating at Pacific Quay that critics will be excluded. It is exactly the way Maxwell himself operated – dictatorial, high-handed, dismissive and disrespectful. But it came at a cost – Maxwell was universally loathed. The same fate may be the legacy awaiting management at BBC Scotland.
(The programmes’ on at 10.30pm)