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Amanda Farnsworth | 15:47 UK time, Monday, 31 July 2006

Tommy Sheridan - who is he? Well, if you live outside Scotland you might not really know. But if you live in Scotland or are Scottish, you may well have been glued to your sets/PCs/newspapers/phone to home!

BBC Six O'Clock News logoMr Sheridan is, for the unitiated, a Scottish politician who is currently involved in a defamation trial which includes allegations of sex and swingers' parties. It makes for a heady mix; but at what point does a story of interest to one part of the UK move into the wider national arena?

It's a hard question and I'm afraid there's not a one-size-fits-all answer.

In this case, we knew we would do the biggest story in Scotland at the end of the trial.

But then today we thought it might be good to introduce those non-Scotland viewers to it before then, and as Mr Sheridan is actually questioning his own wife in the witness box today (he has fired his top QC) it was a great opportunity.

Here's a flavour of the proceedings:

The politician, who has described himself as teetotal, later questioned her about claims he had drunk alcohol. Mrs Sheridan replied: "You would not know one end of a wine bottle from the next.

"If I had read tea but wine... ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous."

Mr Sheridan asked his wife if she believed the women who had given evidence had been telling lies. She replied: "Total, utter rot."

But more generally, we look for a national resonance to a story. That can be the characters involved; or the story can illustrate an issue that's equally relevant outside Scotland, England, Lancashire or wherever. And sometimes its simply a cracking good story with no national resonance but one that will interest all viewers.

There have been times when we've of course not reported a local story nationally quickly enough. And I'm sure there will be more. And there will always be Scots who say news about the English and Welsh NHS is irrelevant to them and vice versa. Tricky business this.

Amanda Farnsworth is editor, Daytime News


  • 1.
  • At 06:10 PM on 31 Jul 2006,
  • Frank Grimes wrote:

"Tricky business this."

Doesn't cut it, I'm afraid, Amanda. Why do your news reports generally lead with the English line, and then feature the line in devolved parts of the country only as an aside, if at all. How hard would it be to reflect the full picture? Especially when, more often that you'd imagine, the local news comes on and directly contradictes the previous reporting!

Do you not realise you're contributing to a major democratic deficit?

I don't blame you though, the BBC is institutionally not ready to deal with devolution. Perhaps it might catch up right around the time the Union breaks up for good.

  • 2.
  • At 06:55 PM on 31 Jul 2006,
  • A. Scott Crawford wrote:

Perhaps following in the footsteps of James Boswell wasn't the greatest idea for a Scottish politician in this age of media hypocrisy? Oh, well. Hopefully Yale will publish his diaries as well.

More sex please, we're British. Yes, the Scots too.

How many Scottish Socialist MSPs really enjoy playing Scrabble so much!?!

  • 5.
  • At 10:18 PM on 31 Jul 2006,
  • Matt Brown wrote:

This is the biggest character assasination exercise in Scottish political history. I've not always agreed with his politics, especially on drugs, but he stood up for the working classes when others wouldn't.

I noticed that story among the headlines today and then noticed that there had been previous articles about the trial. It did make me wonder us south of the border had not heard about it before. Libel trials concerning British politicians are surely of interest to everyone in Britain.
Does Scotland not have the same TV news as the rest of Britain?

Certainly an interesting case, and one which has generated much media frenzy here in Scotland. Possibly my favourite headline was, on him sacking his representation, "Tommy Drops His Briefs".

The papers have swung from being fully against Sheridan to a more cautious (and sensible) "wait and see" approach.

And like you, I've thought the English would enjoy the spectacle of one man taking on the legal and financial might of the News of the World.

Libel or not? We'll never know. What is on trial here is neither Mr Sheridan nor a newspaper - it is the legal process itself.

Who was it said politics is show business for ugly people? Find one like TS who isn't ugly, and the interest levels soar.

Nice article. Thank you.

The 6 and 10 are national news outlets and there's no reason why the Sheridan case shouldn't be reported on them.

As a Londoner I'm very aware how much London-centric news the rest of the UK are subjected.

Sadly your blog entry missed the best part of Mrs Sheridan's evidence.

When asked by Tommy if she'd have testified had she believed the claims Mrs S replied:

"There's no way I would be here. And neither would you be. You'd be in the Clyde and I would be in court for murder."

Thanks for all your comments on this - very useful seems so far by the response that we were tardy on this one and should have reported it earlier. Thanks

  • 10.
  • At 01:00 PM on 01 Aug 2006,
  • Douglas McLellan wrote:

Tardy on this one? The entire BBC News team is tardy on Scottish Issues. The amount of enegery spent on things like the drought and then broadcast to people north of the watford gap is stunning. The area many issues that are reported on the BBC nationally that only cover London and the south east. And now we have the BBC seeking to reducing costs in covering Scottish news. Given your own admission of failure (rare for a BBC person and you will be criticised by your manager for it!) why seek to reduce Scottish news?

  • 11.
  • At 10:01 PM on 01 Aug 2006,
  • David M wrote:

I don't recall the BBC's Newsnight programme being "tardy" when they conducted their so-called "Scottish experiment" to see whether a car bedecked with St. George's flags would be trashed if left in a Glasgow street during the World Cup. Apparently there was no doubt at all - here was a story that simply cried out for immediate screening all over the UK. Funny that, eh?!!

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