Digital TV channel destined to become policy


by Rona Mackay

A digital TV channel dedicated to broadcasting Scottish content could become a reality soon, according to former head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland, Blair Jenkins.

Jenkins – who recommended the creation of a Scottish Digital Network (SDN) as chair of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission set up by First Minister, Alex Salmond, four years ago – intimated the proposal is destined to become policy with only the “how and when” still to be decided.

The claim follows demands by the recently re-elected First Minister that broadcasting be devolved to the Scottish Parliament to allow for provision of the new channel.

However, Jenkins underlined the importance of keeping all political parties on side – even though the SNP Government now commands a majority at Holyrood.

Speaking after his inaugural speech as visiting professor in journalism at Strathclyde University, he said: “The important thing about the network always was that it had full party support and I’m very keen to retain that. I think it’s crucial that you de-politicise broadcasting as much as possible and try to retain all-party support for some new concept like the Digital Network.

“As I understand it, the First Minister has said that he wants to make the creation of the Scottish Digital Network a priority in the current term of the Government. I’ll take him on his word and I’m sure it is something he will try to pursue.”

The SDN represented the main recommendation of the Commission three years ago, which estimated it would cost £75 million a year to operate, broadcasting an expected four hours of originated Scottish content per day.

Earlier this year – following the deliberations of an expert panel commissioned by the Scottish Government – Jenkins called for the TV licence fee to be used to fund the service.

And while questions over the finer details still linger, the former BBC chief remains confident a new network will happen.

He added: “It does require a degree of co-operation between London and Edinburgh because clearly at the moment funding and regulation is centrally held at Westminster. However, an awful lot of things are going to depend on that kind of co-operation nowadays and I’m sure it can be secured.”