Radio Scotland chiefs held in contempt by staff says leading historian

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1963

  By a Newsnet reporter
 
One of Scotland’s most respected academics has claimed management at Radio Scotland are held in contempt by their staff, with morale at the station at an all-time low.
 
Speaking at a debate into the state of broadcasting in Scotland, Historian Tom Devine described how senior staff at Radio Scotland are so demoralised that many were regularly looking for opportunities to leave.

  By a Newsnet reporter
 
One of Scotland’s most respected academics has claimed management at Radio Scotland are held in contempt by their staff, with morale at the station at an all-time low.
 
Speaking at a debate into the state of broadcasting in Scotland, Historian Tom Devine described how senior staff at Radio Scotland are so demoralised that many were regularly looking for opportunities to leave.

Professor Devine said: “One senior producer who I particularly respect because of his record said he is phoned weekly by colleagues who are still there wanting to know how to get out.”

Describing morale at the station as low, the academic added: “There is complete, virtual contempt for senior management on the part of those who are actually the foot soldiers … that they dare not raise in public fora because they are still employed by the organisation.”

Professor Devine said there was no evidence the problem stemmed from the skilled “front of house” personnel who actually “did the business”, the problem, he insisted is in another area which was verging on the ‘Augean Stable’, a reference to the mythical Greek stable which was not cleaned for 30 years.

The historian highlighted the falling standards at the station, which regularly won top awards in the nineties, contrasting the former successes with its current malaise which had one former senior producer describing much of its current output as “inept pap” which is “embarrassing and demeaning”.

Professor Devine insisted that whilst a lack of fiscal resources was not helping address the poor quality of output at the station, that some of the areas of concern could be addressed within the current budgetary constraints.

The academic called for:

  • A new head of radio who can lead and develop the station and stand up for it.
  • A management structure that includes a radio representative at current-affairs level.
  • Editors prepared to battle for resources and not simply accept budgets imposed by London.
  • The scrapping of the Audience Council.
  • Programmes made in Scotland but not about Scotland which may have a global market.

Many of Professor Devine’s sentiments were echoed by NUJ member Pete Murray who described BBC management in Scotland as being “particularly blinkered” in how they view the corporation in Scotland.

Mr Murray said: “The public seems to disagree with them, the Trade Unions certainly disagree with them and it looks like Lord Patten now disagrees with them as well.” The reference to Lord Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, was in response to BBC Scotland’s management who initially refused to appear before the Holyrood Culture Committee to address concerns over BBC broadcasting in Scotland.

The debate, held by the Scottish Constitutional Commission, also heard from other invited speakers including journalist and broadcaster Iain MacWhirter who said that the BBC as it stood in Scotland was currently “letting the country down”.

The Herald journalist described the role of the broadcast media in Scotland as “tremendously important” as the nation was embarking on a “voyage of discovery”.

Describing broadcasting in Scotland as “better than it was”, Mr MacWhirter nevertheless insisted that it was still “far worse” than it should be. 

He contrasted BBC Scotland resources with the spend on comparable programming in London which he said could be several times times that allocated to similar Scottish programming.

Accepting that network commissions had increased since 2007, Mr MacWhirter said the basic problem with the BBC in Scotland remained and added:

“It hasn’t altered the fundamental problem with the BBC in Scotland which is essentially it’s not tooled up to be a national broadcaster.

“The idea is that it is meant to be local broadcasting and it is funded in that point of view.”

The debate, held last month in Holyrood, also heard from Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie, blogger Kate Higgins, SNP MSP and journalist Joan McAlpine and former media advisor Ewan Crawford.

See the full discussion by clicking HERE.