BBC Scotland news to be studied as viewers raise concerns

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Research is to be carried out into the BBC’s news provision in Scotland after the independent BBC Audience Council for Scotland highlighted viewers concerns in its report to the BBC Trust.

The planned research, agreed to by the BBC Executive, was revealed in the Council’s annual report published this week.  The Executive have announced that they will also look at a proposal to fill in the gaps in BBC Radio Scotland reception on the A9.


Research is to be carried out into the BBC’s news provision in Scotland after the independent BBC Audience Council for Scotland highlighted viewers concerns in its report to the BBC Trust.

The planned research, agreed to by the BBC Executive, was revealed in the Council’s annual report published this week.  The Executive have announced that they will also look at a proposal to fill in the gaps in BBC Radio Scotland reception on the A9.

Reporting to the BBC Trust, the report drew attention to a number of shortcomings in the BBC’s service to the Scottish licence payer.  Chief amongst these criticisms was a lack of distinctive Scottish programming on both TV and radio.

Whilst the report acknowledged that some popular programmes such as Eggheads, The Weakest Link and In-it to win-it had been moved to BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay for filming, it noted however that these were not recognisably Scottish.

Three years ago, a broadcasting commission was set up by First Minister Alex Salmond, in response to concerns that Scotland’s share of UK output on the BBC was far too low. The Scottish Broadcasting Commission subsequently recommended the setting up of a Scottish Digital channel dedicated to ‘high quality’ Scottish TV and online content.

The Audience Council report acknowledged an appetite for programming with a distinctive Scottish content saying: “Members hope that increased representation of Scotland will be achieved in the years ahead.  The report added:  “…there is clearly an appetite for recognisably Scottish drama beyond River City.”

The Council also advised that the Trust “ask the Executive to develop a robust long-term strategy for television drama for audiences in Scotland to increase production, stimulate creativity, and broaden the range of drama portraying Scotland to audiences there.”

The report’s views on news and current affairs output by BBC Scotland are sure to provoke debate.  The report explained that Council members had “monitored the logs of audience comments made to the BBC, and considered research on BBC performance in Scotland.”

The report also highlighted concerns many viewers had expressed over the BBC’s impartiality on political matters citing the recent appearance of Nick Griffin on Question Time as an example.  The report also questioned the merit of treating stories relating to other BBC programmes as ‘news’.

In a surprise move the report praised BBC Scotland’s coverage of the release of Al Megrahi, saying:
“The story that the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was to be released from prison in Scotland and flown back to Libya – one of the major news stories of the year – was broken by BBC Scotland. There was comprehensive analysis of this complex story, with network outlets deploying the expertise of BBC Scotland journalists. The BBC Scotland team won the Royal Television Society Scoop of the Year Award for their coverage of the story.”

Some will argue that such a subjective opinion is completely at odds with much, if not most, of the independent analysis of the BBC’s coverage at the time.

On the matter of the leaders debate exclusion the report offers little by way of critique, saying simply:
“The planning of television election debates by the BBC in conjunction with other broadcasters was followed closely by members of the Council. Members believe that in due course there should be an assessment of how well the arrangements for the debates have helped the BBC to deliver its public purposes for audiences in Scotland.”

There will also be eyebrows raised over the reports view that “BBC Scotland widened the range of and increased the opportunities for political and social discourse in Scotland”.  The programme cited as an example of this ‘widening of political discourse’, the Radio Scotland Friday afternoon programme ‘Brian’s Big Debate’ together with the extending of a radio phone in on Radio nan Gàidheal.

One can only wonder what the Audience Council will make of the revelation that this very news site cannot be mentioned on Brian Taylor’s online blog.

The full report can be viewed by clicking here.

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