Fiona Hyslop gives cautious welcome to BBC Scotland investment plan 

New BBC Scotland channel “must be properly resourced”, says government minister 

A REVERSAL OF CUTS to BBC production content in Scotland and the announcement of a move to a new BBC Scotland channel in 2018, has been given a cautious welcome by the Scottish Government. 

New BBC investment plans - following repeated criticism from the media and politicians - has pledged funds for production and establishing a new channel from current BBC Scotland content on the BBC Two channel.  However, BBC figures suggest that investment in Scotland will still lag behind the levels in Wales and Northern Ireland. 

BBC Director General Tony Hall revealed the plans to staff at the BBC Scotland HQ, before his appearance at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow (Thursday 23 February). 

He confirmed that, instead of proposals to create a Scottish Six o’clock news, he confirmed funding of £30m for a new channel - £19m of which is new investment. He also pledged that programme spending would increase by £20m/year compared to 2015/16 figures. 

“The BBC is Britain's broadcaster but we also need to do more for each nation just as we are doing more for Britain globally.” Tony Hall

Overall, this means the BBC plans to more than reverse the £26.5m cut in funding from 2014/15 to 2015/16. 68 per cent of the £320m raised in Scotland would then be spent on domestic programming, compared to the current figures of 74 per cent in Northern Ireland and 95 per cent in Wales. 

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, commented: “I said at the beginning of the year that the BBC needed to be more creative and distinctive. The BBC is Britain's broadcaster but we also need to do more for each nation just as we are doing more for Britain globally.

"We know that viewers in Scotland love BBC television, but we also know that they want us to better reflect their lives and better reflect modern Scotland. It is vital that we get this right. The best way of achieving that is a dedicated channel for Scotland. It’s a channel that will be bold, creative and ambitious, with a brand-new Scotland-edited international news programme at its heart.”

“The new channel will increase the proportion of the licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent in Scotland in years to come – but sadly will still fall well short of the proportiate share being spent in Northern Ireland and Wales.” Fiona Hyslop

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who has called for a revamp of broadcasting in Scotland, raised concerns over whether the funding package would be enough to support a new channel.

“This is a real shift in the right direction from the BBC and responds to calls we’ve made for some time for a new TV channel for Scotland. While the increased investment in both journalism and wider production in Scotland is long overdue, this is a very positive development,” she said.

“The Scottish Broadcasting Commission estimated in 2009 that a similar channel would cost around £75 million a year – more than double the £30 million announced today. It’s vital that the new BBC Scotland channel has complete commission and editorial independence, and is provided with the funding needed to match ambition.

“The new channel will increase the proportion of the licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent in Scotland in years to come – but sadly will still fall well short of the proportiate share being spent in Northern Ireland and Wales. We continue to call for the BBC to put Scotland on an equal footing with other devolved nations.”

The National Union of Journalists in Scotland welcomed the announcement and support for 100 new jobs in the sector. 

Protests took place outside BBC Scotland in 2014 over the institution’s handling of the independence referendum. 

Picture courtesy of Stuart Chalmers

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