BBC Scotland channel: the nationalist case for optimism… almost


Commentary by Derek Bateman

I’ve just been interviewed by BBC Scotland for their new digital channel.

‘So, Derek. What do you think of our plans for a dedicated nightly channel with a full bulletin of international news?’

‘Well, Jackie, I’m overwhelmed. Frankly, I didn’t think they’d have the guts to do it. But I was wrong. This will definitely settle the Nationalists’ hash.’

‘Have you seen the running order?’

Derek Bateman

‘I certainly have and I’m delighted to see that three of the five hours will be filmed in your lovely home interviewing celebrity guests like Lulu and John Barrowman under the title At Home with Jackie. I also think it’s a real media coup to get David Mundell to present the news hour so we can get his unique take on current affairs. I hear his first exclusive is how he shared an office suite with Alistair Carmichael for all those months but never heard a word about a plan to leak a memo claiming Sturgeon wanted the Tories to win the last election. Apparently Mundell used to dive into cupboards when he saw him coming and locked himself in the loo shouting la la la when Carmichael tried to tell him. Amazing story…’

‘Critics have said it will be parochial and will be used to project a British Unionist view of the country. That can’t be true, can it?’

‘Certainly not. If you can extrapolate the price of oil into an international story affecting Scotland, you can do the same with the price of mince in Auchtermuchty which I understand is £2 a kilo at the Co-op but only £1.75 at Lidl – and they’re German so the Brexit equation looms large there, Jackie.’

‘Eh…I see. But will it do enough to silence SNP critics?’

‘Absolutely, especially the interactive idea. I think fastening GA Ponsonby into an electric chair and asking viewers to press the Red Button to send 300 volts through him will be a ratings hit. And, of course, it will also engage the European Court of Human Rights and possibly the Geneva Convention so there’s an international angle right there.’

‘Are there any drawbacks?’

‘Well, I think naming the channel the Queen Elizabeth Memorial BBC North British BBC One will alienate some and not everyone will wait to hear God Save the Queen played out at midnight but then people said that late night show with Sarah Smith wouldn’t last and look at it now…’

‘I must say, it’s great to have you back in the studio, Derek.’

‘Thanks, Jackie. You don’t think the Union Jack waistcoat is too much then…?’

Donalda Mackinnon: New Director of BBC Scotland

Now, if the BBC really did ask me I’d say what we have here is a platform to launch a whole new look at current affairs, not just Scottish-related news. The danger of the Scottish Six was that it would necessarily follow a certain low-key, hum drum path well worn over the years because it’s tea-time (families!) and the tone has to fit broadly with the UK news which proceeds it. In other words, international or not, it would, if it did its job, merely reflect the normal BBC news agenda – and repeat stories you’d already seen if you watched both.


But starting at 7pm and with news not on air until 9pm when children are abed – well, certainly mine are – there is a chance for some proper grown-up broadcasting. It could even be edgy, you know, challenging and eye-opening. There could even be adult themes which right now are regarded as taboo in BBC land unless handled by an ironic London presenter. If you have a blank page which this pretty much is apart from the news itself, you have space for the stories that lie outwith the diary-led, PR company, corporate spin machine – and you can get indy people to make them. (That’s independent producers, not freedom fighters). The BBC blurb wants to work with the creative sector. Well here is the chance to commission a whole panorama (pun, there) of ideas from budding film makers who can use today’s accessible technology to tell stories that fall outside the predictable purview of the BBC tram tracks.

They needn’t be 30 minutes but maybe seven minute injects or quarter hours. When you’ve got time to use, you don’t need to be tied down to standard durations.

I do hope they don’t rely on too many existing staff who will bring that deadly sense of familiarity. This is a chance to break with the past and uncover new talent, to take a different approach. The charter will demand balance (ahem) but that doesn’t mean that people with opinions shouldn’t be commissioned to make programmes from their standpoint – so long as someone with an alternative view also has access.

This excites me like the year of the indyref did. I wanted BBC Scotland to step up and project our broadcasters as the best there is. We should have produced the gold standard in reporting in 2014 and made the BBC the must-go place for what was an international story. It didn’t happen that way but here is another opportunity that really can’t be allowed to have the BBC’s corporate chloroform clamped over its mouth.

Let’s start firing in ideas for programmes. Demand access. Insist on new formats and proper budgets. If it’s our BBC channel, let’s claim it. And I’d like it to dovetail closely with Alba because it is through an overlap between the two that a sustained renaissance in Gaelic can grow right across the Scottish media and find its way into every home and laptop.

I know, I know. I’m going to be disappointed. Bound to be. But there can be no excuses for Donalda Mackinnon now. She has the basic kit with which to win back an audience and, with such a low budget compared to Scotland’s licence fee take, plenty of scope for claiming more resources – if she can make a success of it. Come on, Donalda. ‘S urrainn dhut a dhèanamh!


  1. Re content can I suggest the following:-

    Every night at 11pm a bog standard review of and discussion of the following day’s papers followed at 11.30 by an analysis , discussion and demolition of the lies, distortions, misreporting, non-reporting and general political propaganda contained in the previous day’s papers. all chaired by a Rev S. Campbell currently residing in Bath.

  2. Derek,
    We are waiting until 2018 for this!
    The world will have moved on, unless that is you know something about the next vote for independence that we don’t.
    This is timid, far, far too timid.
    Late, far too late.
    And we are required to pay a licence fee for this and decades of skewed and, more recently, stunningly biased broadcasting never watched.

  3. Hey look someone has left a giant wooden horse for us. Lets bring it in, what could possibily go wrong?

    • Yeah, and it will be stuffed with more bloody Birds. One ‘Bird’ is enough thanks, we do not need a flock, squalling, screeching and shittin on our right for self-determination

  4. I think it’s magnanimous of the BBC to have had a look at themselves and decided some of us are wrong in our assessment of their previous performance, so wrong are we in fact that the BBC will give us some of our own money back and then tell us what they’ll spend it on
    This can only be a good thing for “Journalistic” scrutiny of the government “Journalists” say as more “Journalists” will gain employment with the new channel, because “Journalists” don’t seem to get enough airtime to scrutinise the Scottish government, say “Journalists”

    One wonders if it at some point might enter the heads of these “Journalists” that scrutiny of themselves and the opposition political parties might be a little more in order considering that scrutiny of the Scottish government seems to occupy most of the hours God sends both on TV and in the Press

    Have these “Journalists” and the BBC not noticed at least half the population of Scotland has completely sussed the media tactics and agenda when “reporting” of the Scottish government takes place
    If the BBC continue with just and extended version of what they already do they must know the Nation will switch off
    But was that to always be the BBC plan, they tried but Scotland obviously prefers things the way they were in the first place with the good old anglicised Scottish version of Jockland

    “Journalists” might also reflect on the absolute fact that half the population of Scotland might just like to see the cultural life and successes of Scotland and that it’s not all about them and I for one really don’t need any of my money spent on more parasitical ingrates irritating me with the same rubbish they make up at present
    So, perhaps “Journalists” think on, we already don’t like you a great deal, in fact we like you and trust you even less than Tory and UKIP politicians

    Now even you have to admit you can’t get much lower than that

  5. The ugly duckling is REALLY a swan.
    Cinderella is REALLY a princess.
    Sleeping Beauty is awakened by her TRUE love.

    BBC Scotland is a colonial broadcaster, controlled from outside Scotland, which WONT morph into an independent source of news, contextualised, analytic and verified by “fact checking”.
    Fairy tales are for children. WAKE UP SCOTLAND!

  6. So to avoid the six, our colonial masters have given us a new channel,……………. managed and staffed by the same people we do not trust now.

    10 years to deliver this,………….. Donalda you have fallen at the first fence, you’ll be lame from this point on!

  7. Colour me cynical but… Is this not being set up to fail?

    Remove all Scottish elements / opt-ins from BBC1 and BBC2 (because, hey, you have your own channel now) which do not promote BBC-Scotland (because, hey, these are National channels) so very few people bother to hunt out the content (well, hey, it wasn’t listed inside the P&J) and, after an internal review, the channel is moved off-air, available only on the iPlayer, then dies.

    Instead, why not start out as an Internet only channel using social media to generate interest and source local input (there is a feature film looking for an Oscar which was shot on an iPhone)? Not going to happen. Too much independence there and that is baad.

  8. Gaelic intelligentsia
    Dame Donalda
    Sir Kenny McQu
    services rendered
    nuff said
    BBC ‘Scotland’ chennel = Better thegither II
    BBC Gaelic/Alba – mair dosh
    BBC Scots Language Chennel – nae dosh

  9. That’s really ridiculous Alf. How petty to foster resentment of money made available to Gaelic. Yes you promote Scots and that’s your right, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • BT – If you watched their evidence given to the Holyrood committee, you would have heard the commitment then to give more cash for Gaelic, yet nothing at all for Scots language (which has nothing to start with). The Gaelic Language Act 2005 paved the way for Gaelic teaching, a Board, and TV channel, and £50m/year etc. The absence of any such Act or resources for the Scots Language, still spoken by the majority of Scots yet who are illiterate as far as reading and writing in Scots is concerned, can only be described as outright discrimination and cultural oppression. That is a far bigger ‘wrong’ and doon-hauden (oppression) than whatever it is you are referring to.

    • You seem to be saying something like: ‘those who argue for a Scots Language Act in order to end cultural discrimination and give equality with the Gaelic Language Act 2005 and the teaching of only English in most schools should not get it because by arguing for said equality and end to cultural discrimination they denigrate Gaelic’ How exactly does that work, in your analysis?

  10. i think we should level PQ,or mabye turn it into another CO-OP store for Dugtits to manage.

    God i remember the NATIONWIDE days,roving reports around the UK with real honest to goodness reporters with microphones…

    i lived in the Inner Hebrides at the time and we had TWO television channels…BEEB 1 and TWO in black and white!…

    i’m afraid after 2013/14 the BBC have lost me for good.i never watch or listen to any of their output.

    After this week’s anguished frothing’s from that quarter i’ll no be back Derek.


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