Westminster snub for Scottish Government over future of the BBC

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By a Newsnet.scot Reporter

The UK Government has breached an agreement to consult its Scottish counterpart on the future of the BBC, despite agreeing a memorandum of understanding on the subject just a month ago.

Scottish Ministers are furious that the Departure of Culture, Media and Support is publishing a Green Paper on the future of the BBC later this week, without any consultation.

In particular there has been no consultation on the appointment of a reform panel, whose details leaked last weekend. None of the panel members are Scottish.

Fiona Hyslop MSP: Furious at lack of consultation
Fiona Hyslop MSP: Furious at lack of consultation

Last week’s Treasury deal with the BBC, forcing the corporation to take on the cost of free licence fees for the over 75s, was done without the Scottish Government’s knowledge. The deal is reported to be costing the BBC around £600m a year, although that will be offset by new income as the iPlayer is drawn into the umbrella of the TV licence.

The Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament are supposed to be consulted on the BBC as part of the Smith Commission settlement which supposedly underpins the current Scotland Bill as it passes through the Commons, and later the House of Lords.

The BBC’s annual report today revealed that public confidence in News and Current Affairs programming, at 48 per cent, is lower in Scotland than in any other part of the UK, where confidence in England and Northern Ireland is 61 per cent and Wales 55 per cent.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

“The UK Government and BBC are continuing to sell Scotland short on broadcasting.

“When the BBC has failed to meet the expectations of its audience, the answer is to seek positive reform which protects the corporation’s independence, not seek to slash and diminish it.

“We’re committed to protecting publicly funded public service broadcasting and we’re very concerned that the UK Government seems determined to undermine this.

“The Scottish and UK Governments agreed a Memorandum of Understanding last month guaranteeing the Scottish Government will be consulted in the whole process of charter renewal, so it is extremely disappointing that the UK Government has failed to seek the Scottish Government’s view on the appointments to the BBC reform panel, and also did not consult the Scottish Government on the licence fee settlement in the budget last week.

“As a result Scotland’s views appear to be, at best, underrepresented on the panel advising on BBC Charter renewal and funding. This comes as the BBC’s own annual report today shows that that not only is Scotland the only part of the UK where more than half of the people do not believe the broadcaster is properly reflecting life in their nation, but that Scotland’s share of network production has also fallen.”

Whittingdale: snubbed Scottish Government
Whittingdale: snubbed Scottish Government

Hyslop has written to UK Secretary of State John Whittingdale MP to protest at the lack of consultation.

She added: “While the Scottish Government has been consulted on the terms of reference for charter renewal but, like with the licence fee settlement and the advisory panel, the UK Government has not consulted us on the content of the green paper on the future of the BBC expected this week.

“The UK Government’s actions demonstrate that Scotland is not yet being fully consulted on matters relating to charter renewal, and represent a clear breach of the Smith Commission Agreement on the BBC.”

The reform panel named by Whittingdale include:

Dawn Airey, former CEO of Channel 5 and now a senior executive with Yahoo; Dame Colette Bowe, lifelong civil servant and former head of OFCOM, Shazam chairman Andrew Fisher, Arts Council England head Darren Henley, Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield, former Shine Group chief executive Alex Mahon, digital entrepreneur Lopa Patel and journalism professor Stewart Purvis, a former editor-in-chief of ITN.

The Government’s Green Paper – which sets out options for the renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2016 – is expected on Thursday.

BBC polls lowest with audiences in Scotland

The BBC annual report contains mainly implicit acknowledgment that the corporation faced difficulties during its coverage of the Scottish referendum.

It said: “The BBC has a key role to play in ensuring it represents the nations in news, drama and entertainment, and our research shows that over half feel that the BBC represents their nation or region in its content, and supports minority languages.

“Nonetheless there is still some way to go, particularly in Scotland. People are accessing content using a variety of platforms where only around 50% of the audience feel that their nation is effectively represented.”

In the same document, the consultative body Audience Council Scotland praised some documentaries on the referendum, but added: “Members questioned whether, overall, the coverage had captured the popular nature of the campaign and the increased role of social media.

“The council also felt that BBC network programmes, overall, did not engage with the issues until too late a stage, and that some had been less well informed, and that this diluted the value of the coverage at both Scottish and UK levels.

“There was some audience perception that network correspondents were increasingly used in place of BBC Scotland correspondents in the final weeks of the campaign.

“Some council members believed BBC coverage had focused too much on the official campaigns, at the expense of the wider civic and community engagement; and that certain network programmes had appeared to adopt what was described as an ‘Anglified’ perspective.”

Without saying so, this will be taken as a reference to the BBC’s parachuting-in of London correspondents, including the now out-going political editor Nick Robinson, who became embroiled in a row as a result of his coverage of a news conference by then First Minister Alex Salmond.

Robinson is shortly to replace James Naughtie as a presented of Radio 4’s Today programme.

 

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Newsnet asked the Scottish Government about this on Monday and their statement on the subject came through tonight. They knew nothing about either the funding deal or the panel appointments until the details appeared in the press.

  2. Does anyone have any information on how many people have withdrawn their license fee in Scotland?

    We should encourage all previous Yes voters to withhold this fee until we are adequately and fairly represented in Scotland. The license is supposed to encourage good and fair standards for other television networks to compete against but it is obvious this is no longer happening (if it every happened in the first place). At the moment the fee is being used to fund unionist state propaganda against Scotland and its television output is easily equaled or outperformed by the other stations. The BBC is not good value for money in this modern world. We cannot let the BBC do in a future referendum what it did in the last. If we dog-lovers were told we had to pay a dog license fee and found out that the fee is being used to look after cats would that be acceptable? What next, a license fee required for anyone with a mobile phone capable of playing the I-Player?

    • “Does anyone have any information on how many people have withdrawn their license fee in Scotland?”

      No, and you’re not likely to find the information you seek because the BBC don’t break their figures down into regions (their words, not mine, i would never refer to my country as a “region”). There are figures available but not the ones you are looking for.

      They did do a one-off break down immediately after the referendum, covering the period from 19th Sept to the 30th and if memory serves me correctly, according to the BBC, there was somewhere in the region of 2K to 3K Scottish cancellations for that period.

      The numbers are far greater from a “UK” perspective and, again, if memory serves me correctly cancellations have risen every year for the past 10+ years and the total figure now runs well into seven figures.

      BTW, watch out for them trying to come up with a scheme to replace current licence criteria, a scheme where every single household in the country is forced to pay whether you watch tv or not. A sort of tax on your address!

        • John,
          If you click on this link which i have provided, then click on “Browse requests”,
          then type “bbc tv licence cancellations” into the Keywords box and hit search,
          you will get access to all the FOI requests available on this matter.
          Work your way through that little lot and you’ll find all the info available.
          https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

  3. “The UK Government has breached an agreement to consult its Scottish counterpart on the future of the BBC…”

    Honestly, is anyone really surprised?

    • No we are not but we must never stop exposing the corrupt UKOK media because, as you can see from the article, there are still millions of people gullible enough to believe in the BBC and to pay their propaganda fee. We must never tire of exposing the corrupt Westminster government and their corrupt UKOK media, especially the BBC.
      Spread the word and educate the ignorant – Knowledge is power.

      • Knowledge is Power. Agreed. This is arguably the most important matter in devolution. Everything else flows from media accountable to the people and not to elites.

  4. I am interested in the technicalities around how they plan to enable iPlayer content for license fee payers only. Just last night I watched a BBC programme that was no longer on iPlayer simply by finding it on Youtube.

  5. 48% satisfaction? pish

    If the amount of money that was collected for the license fee was used as a pool for the creative industries in this country then it would revolutionise the cultural life of the place. The public service monolith is a terrible model. It encourages a general sense of entitlement in its thousands of managerial staff, arrogance, political bias. What do we get in terms of output for the billions we put into it? Would it not be better to ask people in Scotland to pay towards our own creative industries on a voluntary basis and use that as a pool of cash for everyone to use?

    I used to pay my license fee on the basis that it paid people’s wages (despite the fake 2003 communications act, despite the fact that only a fraction of the money collected is spent here). I haven’t paid my license fee since the referendum, they send you letters that is all.

    • No, they’ll turn up at your door as well. To stop them you can write to them and withdraw their implied right of access to your property then it becomes illegal for them to even step into your pathway (or anyone acting on their behalf including the police) never mind knock your door. Even if they do knock the door and you open it you are not obliged to tell them anything – who you are, who the householder is, just send them packing and take their pictures first.

      just type: “template to withdraw implied right of access” into google and you can download a simple template which removes their right of access to your property. or go to this sight to see one:

      “http://www.bbctvlicence.com/Withholding%20implied%20right%20of%20access.htm”

  6. If they (BBC), expect me to pay for black propaganda now after 10 years of abstention they are sadly mistaken. Last count I have 40 + begging / thretening letters from them !!!! BUT, I’m sitll waiting for a reply to my 10 year old letter telling them “I don’t require a license”
    Take it and shake it son, “See you in court sport !!!! ”
    BTW, the dear lady wife still buys the bloody Daily Express becauae she is adicted to the effen x word !!!
    (I know, where there is no sense there is no feeling. But I’m not brave enough to fight that case)

    • ps
      My last stand against the liscense fee twats will be in the Intergalactic Court of Earth Being Rights, and if I live to be 28 aeons, after my next birthday, I’ll expect a full apology fron the BBC , tout de suite.

      • pps
        They have been to my door trice and have been well warned now that if they come again without a polis officer and a warrant I’ll set the dogs on them !!
        (The wee dug has a hellish temper when fired up if it happens to be watching one of the pets programme on the BBC.)
        CB
        ( i.e. Cheeribee )

  7. When they came to the Education and Culture Committee in March 2014 to respond to my research, they had only attended because BBC London told them it would be bad PR if they didn’t. They’re not required to attend Holyrood to account for themselves in any way.

    This is the very minimum devolution of accountability of the BBC we need.

    We’ve seen in Jackie bird’s appalling report on Mhairi Black’s speech that the suppression of leftist pro-Yes thinking which criticises the Labour Party in Scotland is not allowed even with 56 MPs.

  8. Listening to the BBC Radio Scotland this morning. (18/7).
    Ms Black MP maiden speech was to be discussed.
    Opening remarks from BBC film critic Siobin Synott who stated as if unrehearsed that she heard Ms Black’s speech on Radio Scotland.! One of the few obviously.
    She then pores cold water on the speech but then spends uninterrupted a number of minutes talking about an unknown MP from down South. Total diversion. Later on as T in the park was being lambasted she mentions in true middle class snobbery terms in her younger days she would never stay in a tent. Whether she stayed in an upmarket B&B is not revealed other than she went with one Sarah Heaney! Is that not the real problem of the news media in Scotland – everybody knows everybody, same public school, dad was a minister or a lawyer or even working in the media?

    • Hamish,

      The real and only problem with Scotland’s media is that every bit of it is owned and controlled by outside influences. All other problems stem from that fact.

      For Scotland to progress as a country we must endeavour to destroy these media outlets by continuously exposing the lies and corruption they ooze. And the BBC is the ring-leader.

      For us to have any hope of independence we must relentlessly expose them at every opportunity and cease investing in them, whether that be via non-payment of the tv license, not buying Unionist rags, not subscribing to their online sites or posting links to their sites. Whatever it takes, 24/7, relentlessly.

      And most importantly, spread the word and encourage others, direct people to sites such as this and WOS etc.
      As i stated previously – Knowledge is power.

  9. For the BBC to function and be credible in Scotland a root and branch review is required. It must include policy, funding, content management and those hosting news and current affairs programmes. I am of the opinlon that some hosts are far too ensconced in the BBC establishment and are only too willing to promote established thinking.

  10. The reason that the BBC don’t provide details of how many households in Scotland don’t have a licence is because they don’t want it exposed how many folks are not buying a licence.

    There is insurrection going on and this foul corporation know that if the ltrue evels of non payment were known that non payment in Scotland would lead to poll tax proportions.

    Personally I see non payment as a moral duty and if really like to know how many like minded there are.

    That’s why the BBC keep it secret.

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