What does the imminent loss of Newsweek tell us about BBC Scotland?

94
1934

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
It is unquestionably the number one current affairs show on BBC Scotland. 
 
Newsweek Scotland, hosted by Derek Bateman (pictured), has few – if any – critics with its mix of informed non-partisan guests and balanced presentation serving to educate the listener on the big stories of the week.

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
It is unquestionably the number one current affairs show on BBC Scotland. 
 
Newsweek Scotland, hosted by Derek Bateman (pictured), has few – if any – critics with its mix of informed non-partisan guests and balanced presentation serving to educate the listener on the big stories of the week.

The show’s bizarre early morning Saturday slot has not stopped it from becoming one of the most popular and respected political and current affairs programmes around – ‘Call Kaye’ it is not.

So it is not surprising that BBC Scotland’s decision to axe the show has been met with incredulity, even anger, from listeners across the political and journalistic spectrum. 

Newsnet Scotland’s Facebook poll currently shows people believe, by almost 20 to 1, that by axing the show the BBC will damage the referendum debate.

That the show is to be replaced by yet another helping of the morning news show ‘Good Morning Scotland’ is bad enough but the preserving of the god awful Shereen Nanjiani show on a Sunday is really rubbing salt into the wound.

We can expect more of the same from the Good Morning Scotland team which will no doubt include the standard reading out of headlines from a Unionist dominated press.  Maybe one day they’ll get around to reading out a Newsnet Scotland headline.

Being a Saturday there is sure to be even more coverage of football with bulletins every 15 minutes. 

Just why is it that we need football shows on Radio Scotland every single evening and most Sundays?  Could not some of the expense that pays for legions of ex-footballers and journalists to pontificate on the latest Old Firm transfer/penalty/row have gone to save Newsweek?

Newsweek’s imminent demise will leave a gaping hole in BBC Scotland’s political coverage; the show shed light on the dark world of politics.

It also allowed some of the more fanciful, and widely promulgated, myths about independence to be exposed as just that. 

Two that spring immediately to mind are the so called Scottish banks bailout and EU membership.

Thanks to the academics that regularly appeared on Mr Bateman’s show we learned that the costs of bailing out the so called Scottish banks would not have fallen entirely on an independent Scotland.  The bill would have been picked up by the jurisdictions within which the institutions traded.

We also learned that an independent Scotland’s continued membership of the EU would have been, at worst, a rubber stamping process.

Was this uncomfortable highlighting of the weakness of some of the Unionists biggest arguments the reason why Newsweek was volunteered for the firing line?

Who can tell.  But given that the show was first relegated to an 08:00 am slot on Saturday morning before being earmarked along with Scotland at Ten for the chop suggests that there was little appetite for its excellent brand of mature journalism.

Last week when the announcement was made I had the misfortune to listen to a show that is apparently safe. 

‘Call Kaye’ is the show that gives the phrase ‘dumbing down’ a bad name – it’s trash radio with knobs on.  Hosted by a superficial and flippant Kaye Adams it adds absolutely nothing to the referendum debate and very little to current affairs, as ignorance is allowed free rein.

Early morning news and current affairs broadcasts on Radio Scotland is now dominated by three shows – Good Morning Scotland, Call Kaye and Shereen Nanjiani.

Shereen’s answer to criticisms of an overrepresentation of Unionists on her show was to welcome Bristow Muldoon as a new guest onto the first show of 2012.  Mr Muldoon is a former Labour MSP.

The name of the show that Shereen replaced is long forgotten to me, but I still remember the excellent review of the week that it provided.  If memory serves one presenter was the very capable Ken MacDonald.

Sadly the demise of the BBC in Scotland looks to be irreversible.  It isn’t just radio that is looking rather bare when it comes to quality discussion and debate, but also TV.  It’s coverage of First Ministers Questions is an insult to the viewer and the Scottish Parliament with answers cut off and spoken over by the usual suspects.

Reporting Scotland looks and is jaded.  Newsnight Scotland is still stuck in the late, late slot that only dedicated political anoraks stay up for – I now watch STV and pop off to bed.

There is an ever growing need for a serious, well run TV discussion programme along the lines of Question Time.  Perhaps given BBC cutbacks, STV and BBC Scotland could team up and co-produce a show with a rota of presenters hosting and chairing it.

BBC Scotland has only one jewel left – Isabel Fraser’s Politics Show.  Ms Fraser continues to be a beacon of light and hope.  This weekend’s Politics Scotland was superb viewing with Ms Fraser managing to be professional, polite and probing all at once.

The forthcoming referendum should have heralded an exciting time in Scottish broadcasting.  However, aside from STV’s Scotland Tonight which is growing in stature as both presenters settle in, there has been little by way of positive change.

What does the imminent loss of Newsweek tell us about BBC Scotland? 

It tells me that some at BBC Scotland have taken fright at the political changes taking place and axing Newsweek Scotland looks to be a symptom of that fear.

Since publishing this piece we have been made aware of a Facebook campaign calling for the decision to axe Newsweek to be reversed – https://www.facebook.com/savenewsweekscotland