BBC Radio Scotland reshuffle ‘response to indyref’


By Reporter

BBC Radio Scotland has revealed a significant programming reshuffle, supposedly in response to the independence referendum, during which its news and current affairs department faced severe criticism.

Radio Scotland head Jeff Zycinski has unveiled a three-hour daily morning show, to be presented by broadcasting stalwart Kaye Adams four days a week with the fifth day to be chaired by ex rugby player John Beattie.

To be launched in March, The new Adams show will supposedly have a strong “news and current affairs” angle, including phone-ins, debates and interviews. It is not known which BBC department will produce the programme.

The change to the schedules will finally spell an end to the tired Your Call and Fred MacAulay programmes, both of whom have experienced falling audiences.

Ironically, MacAulay will move to present a weekly radio “satirical” news based programme featuring comedians and journalists, perhaps confirming to some onlookers the view that the BBC referendum coverage failed to define where news ended and satire began.

Zycinski told The Herald newspaper that research among listeners suggested that audiences welcomed the opportunities to actively participate in programmes, and to challenge and question politicians and other public figures. He believes this was particularly resonant during the referendum campaign.

Radio Scotland audiences declined during the campaign, and it was believed widely within the industry that this was the result of tired formats and a lack of vitality in programming. Internally and externally, the shipping-in of London “heavyweights” such as James Naughtie was seen as inappropriate and sending out wrong signals.

Good Morning Scotland is now to be a seven-day operation, solving the niggly problem of the Sunday morning current affairs slot filled previously by Headlines and latterly by the problematic Crossfire, its very short-lived replacement, which failed to take off. The weekday Newsdrive programme is to be extended by 30 minutes.

It is not clear whether the changes will involve additional investment or new production jobs in Scotland.

Neither is it clear whether the Radio Scotland shake-up will be matched in TV. The news and current affairs department in Scotland has been riven by internal rows, trade union action and bad feeling about management decisions, job cuts, and the controversial arrival of London-based journalists during the final stages of the campaign.

“Referendum Editor” John Mullin – recruited in September 2013 to oversee additional poll related programming including documentaries and debates, ┬áleaves his job this month at the end of a short-term contract. Mullin had been tipped by some as a likely replacement for controversial news head John Boothman, but it is not known whether he will continue to work for the BBC.

Boothman himself is expected to return from a lengthy sick leave in January. Presumably planning the UK General election coverage will be well underway already, with the BBC again likely to be at the eye of a storm related to its coverage of the SNP, Greens and other parties, in comparison to the three London parties and UKIP.