THE mainstream media “struggled to adapt to the disruption in power and authority that the ‘Yes’ campaign represented” in 2014, according to a new report.

The report – titled Scotland’s Sustainable Media Future – was published by the University of Glasgow and was informed by a series of roundtables with stakeholders from across the Scottish media landscape.

In a section titled "The role of journalism in Scotland’s future democracy" the report stated that “some thought that coverage of the independence referendum in 2014 was ideologically rooted in a form of liberal Unionism".

It continued: “Most of the mainstream media struggled to adapt to the disruption in power and authority that the ‘Yes’ campaign represented, with the independence-oriented blogosphere reflecting a positive experience of the campaign experienced on the ground by sections of the public.

“Those media rapidly grew in size to attract tens of thousands of readers despite their mixed quality and sometimes questionable journalistic integrity.”

Later, in a section discussing diversity in the media, it states that “mainstream media generally took a sceptical approach to independence in coverage of the 2014 referendum, despite significant pro-independence leanings in the population and an interest in critically examining the issues arising.”

Issues 'continue to play out' today

Co-author of the report Catherine Happer, director of the Glasgow University Media Group, said the structural issues concerning political diversity “continue to play out” today.

Speaking to The National she said: “People were concerned with these questions of historical editorial positions and ideological leanings, and the fact that this led to a less balanced debate than perhaps it should have been.

READ MORE: Is the Scottish media ready for an independence referendum?

“There’s also what we’re calling this dual public sphere, which is that kind of uncomfortable mix of existing British institutions with Scottish arms.

“Because those are structural issues and they’ve not necessarily been resolved then of course they continue to play out.”

The report also highlighted how “the dominance of a London agenda in the UK-wide media is ever more apparent and contraction of the Scottish media’s scope appears to have led to a further skew towards perspectives from south of the border".

Happer added that institutions such as the BBC were mentioned as having structural issues that affected political diversity.

“The BBC is a British corporation, it is founded on the principles of the Union, so that’s a structural issue,” she said.

“But also many of the other outlets reporting on this question [independence] are politically placed.

“Their editorial stance might align them to a particular party but for many of them they were aligned in a way that made them less open to a more balanced debate.

“It was said that it was felt that coming out for independence might be seen as compromising journalistic integrity, which I thought was very interesting because why would you say that about this particular position when newspapers align themselves politically all the time?

“That was seen as being separate from those editorial stances and I thought that was very, very interesting.”

Democratic representation

Dominic Hinde, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Glasgow and co-author of the report, said that the lack of democratic representation in the Scottish media was “worrying”.

He said: “From a democratic perspective when you’ve got 50% of the population regularly registering that, even if they don’t want full independence, they would like a much more meaningful, autonomous government, that’s not necessarily reflected.

"[During the referendum] people didn’t find the things that they were looking for in the mainstream media and they’ve gone off and sought out other things. But those other things aren’t necessarily ethical, reliable, or professional at all.

“The National and the Sunday National are the professional tip of the independence iceberg. But once you get outside of that there’s very little else that’s even remotely close to being what I would call a ‘proper’ publication.

“And when you don’t offer people a quality, pluralistic media they will go and find stuff that has a more ulterior motive.

“If we come at this as media researchers with a democratic concern and democratic perspective, that’s quite worrying.”