Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop today affirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment that the values and principles of public service broadcasting would be upheld in an independent Scotland.
In a key-note speech at the Salford Media Festival, Ms Hyslop told broadcasting professionals and academics that in an independent Scotland the Scottish Government would establish a new public service broadcaster based on the staff and assets of BBC Scotland, while ensuring that viewers and listeners continue to enjoy the channels and programmes they currently receive.
She also said that independence would offer the opportunity for the Scottish Government to meaningfully address the need for more opportunities for broadcast producers and creators in Scotland.
Ms Hyslop said:
“In the Scotland I wish to see, the values and principles of public service broadcasting will be upheld. We will have a publicly-funded public service broadcaster, and provide the environment for a thriving local and international broadcasting industry based in Scotland.
“I want to see our screen industries flourish. With access to all fiscal levers following independence, future Scottish Governments could set policy to best suit our own broadcasting industry.
“When compared to the expenditure by nations of a comparable size on their primary public service broadcaster it is clear that Scotland’s current level of licence fee would be more than sufficient to provide a high-quality service, and as such I would not envisage the Scottish broadcaster carrying advertising.
“Our aim will be to increase the level of commissioning and production utilising Scotland’s talents. I think this would not just benefit Scotland, but broadcasting across all these isles.”
Ms Hyslop added: “We want to make clear that with independence we will honour all existing broadcasting licences to their completion.
“That means that the recently renewed Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences will be honoured through to 2025.
“In an independent Scotland viewers and listeners will be able to continue to enjoy the same favourites they do currently – Dr Who, Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing, The X-Factor, Hollyoaks and Dispatches will all still be shown and radio from Steve Wright in the Afternoon to The Archers will still be at our fingertips.”
Responding to the speech, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson claimed independence would mean that Scots would miss out on popular programmes and sporting events.
In a statement to BBC Scotland the former BBC employee said: “I worked for the BBC for a number of years and I know that right now we get the best of both worlds. We get distinctive Scottish broadcasting and world-class BBC programmes.
“We pay around £300m towards the licence fee but, by clubbing together with the rest of the UK, we get well more than £3bn worth of programming.”
Ms Davidson added: “Running a new Scottish broadcaster means something has to give.
“Either, it will mean losing programmes or paying more for amazing coverage of things like the Olympics, to great channels like CBeebies and services like the iPlayer.”
However claims that a newly independent Scotland would be blocked from receiving BBC programmes are challenged by evidence.
In the Irish Republic, viewers can readily access BBC programmes despite having paid no licence fee. Those on satellite and cable service providers in the Republic have free access to the BBC’s main channels with some having the choice of the main BBC network or regional stations such as BBC Wales.