Fewer than half of Scots satisfied with BBC news and current affairs


  By G.A.Ponsonby
Fewer than half of Scots are satisfied with BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs programming according to a newly published report.
The BBC Trust’s Review and Assessment Report, published today, reveals that only forty eight per cent of licence fee payers in Scotland feel the BBC represents them in its news and current affairs content.

The figure of 48% was the lowest across all of the nations and regions of the UK.  In England 58% of viewers were happy, whilst in Wales and Northern Ireland the figures were 52% and 50% respectively.

Commenting on the figures, the BBC Executive who partly compiled the report said:

“Our continuing strategy is to seek to improve the extent to which BBC services resonate with people in all the UK’s nations and regions and from different age groups and communities.

“In particular, we must ensure that we increasingly reflect the devolved nature of the UK’s government, as well as the distinctive character of its constituent parts.

It added: “…performance in Scotland and Northern Ireland continued to be more mixed with BBC network radio reach and BBC general impression both lower than the UK average.”

The report was part of the corporation’s annual report for 2012/13 which also detailed the amount spent on programming in each of the different areas of the UK. 

It revealed that the percentage of the BBC’s UK budget spent in Scotland fell below the nation’s population share, going from 9% to 7.6%.  Spend in Wales climbed to 6.8% from 5.3%, whilst Northern Ireland fell to 1.3% from 2%.

Across England (excluding London), the total amount spent went up from 24.7% to 30.1%, the biggest jump was in the North of England which saw its allocated spend almost double from 9.4% to 16.7%.  In London the total amount spent fell from 59% to 54.2%.

Scotland’s share of the total number of full time BBC staff also fell below population share, and now stands at just 7%.

The figures for Scotland will be disappointing for the Trust which had set the BBC a target of making 50% of network television by spend outside London by 2016, with a joint target of 17% being spent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, despite the fall in Scotland’s total spend, the Trust claimed to be happy with the figures, saying: “We were pleased to see that this year the BBC is ahead of schedule, with 46% made out of London and just under 16% made in the devolved nations.”

There was some good news for Scotland with BBC ALBA increasing its audience significantly.  It increased weekly reach to more than 16% of the Scottish population, and reached 75% of the Gaelic community.

The poor review for news and current affairs output amongst Scottish viewers will be a cause for concern with the 2014 independence referendum just over one year away.

Today it emerged that BBC Radio Scotland staff face being side-lined with the announcement that London based broadcaster James Naughtie is to be sent up to help cover the referendum debate.

The Scottish born broadcaster has been a regular high profile presenter on BBC Radio 4 for almost twenty years, but will present the Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Radio Scotland two days a week beginning in the autumn.

It has also been announced that Naughtie, who is the author of a biography of Gordon Brown and, according to the Sun newspaper, is a close to Tony Blair and other former Labour Cabinet ministers, will host a series of debates and documentaries on the referendum.

BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie said: “The referendum story is of huge significance for BBC Scotland and I’m delighted James will be contributing to our coverage of it as part of the Good Morning Scotland presenting team.”

There is growing concern at what many perceive to be pro-Union leanings amongst many presenters at BBC Scotland and the lack of quality coverage of the referendum.

The parachuting in of Mr Naughtie into a high profile role follows redundancies of key BBC Scotland staff including the highly experienced Derek Bateman, and the sidelining of others, including respected presenter Isabel Fraser.

BBC Scotland bosses also announced a plan to recruit 15 new trainee journalists in order to help cover the independence referendum.  The roles are expected to be mainly research based and will attract a salary of £19,473 per annum.