MPs support programme change

BBC urged to back ‘Scottish Six’ news bulletins

BBC ScotlandThe BBC is being urged to replace its evening television UK news bulletin in Scotland with a new programme covering national and international events from a Scottish perspective.

Calls for a so-called “Scottish Six” have been around for more than 20 years, led by those demanding news bulletins of greater relevance to their lives.

The Commons culture, media and sport committee now says the BBC should look at having a programme edited and presented from Scotland instead of London.

Its he report, published today, is the response to the BBC White Paper, which will form the basis of the BBC’s next 11 year Charter.

BBC bosses are already considering changes to the flagship Reporting Scotland news programme having tested a number of options, including a revised version of the current programme, an entirely new programme, and a hybrid show, which would link to a London studio for UK and international events.

The committee dismisses the hybrid as “patronising” and recommends the second option

John Nicolson, the SNP member of the Committee said the BBC should now ‘plan and deliver‘ a Scottish Six news programme edited and anchored in Scotland as recommended by the Committee.

In addition to recommending a comprehensive Scottish Six TV news bulletin –  as currently being piloted by BBC Scotland – the Committee also welcomes the decision to abolish the BBC Trust and establish a unitary Board, to consolidate regulation of the BBC within Ofcom and to enhance the role of the National Audit Office in overseeing the BBC accounts.

BBC ScotlandMPs said the BBC should publish the pay of presenters who earn more than the Prime Minister. Corporation rules currently require the publication executive salaries, but pay for “top talent” is kept secret unless it exceeds £450,000. The report also calls for greater investment in Gaelic-language programming.

John Nicolson MP, SNP Culture and Media spokesperson and member of the Select Committee said: “BBC Scotland should now deliver a high quality Six o’clock television news programme for Scottish audiences with a broader remit of national, UK, and international stories – in the way that Radio Scotland or any newspaper already does.

“This cross party Committee found that for a ‘Scottish Six’ to work it needs to be edited and presented from Scotland. The BBC must resist any hybrid options with a parallel studio and co-presenter in London for non-Scottish stories. As the Committee concluded – this would be both needlessly extravagant, and patronising.

“Too often network news programmes transmitted from London cover purely English stories  – for instance on health, justice or education – which do not reflect or report the different situations across the UK post devolution. The BBC has already acknowledged that there is dissatisfaction with this situation.

“The Committee firmly believes that it is perfectly reasonable for editorial decisions on the running order for television news broadcasts in Scotland to be made in Scotland, drawing on all of the BBC’s resources at home and abroad, and broadcast from Scotland. This has happened very successfully on BBC Radio Scotland for years on programmes like Good Morning Scotland and Newsdrive.

“I believe that a broader remit for BBC Scotland television news would drive up standards, increase job opportunities for journalists here in Scotland, and build audiences.

“The Committee also expressed concerns over the way in which the BBC chair Rona Fairhead was reappointed without a recruitment process. The chair should have been recruited, not as a result of a cosy conversation in Downing Street, but through an open and orderly public competition, as is standard in the public sector and as the Government has proposed for other members of the board.’”

On salaries, the Committee has proposed that BBC should publish details of any presenter or reporter paid more than the Prime Minister (currently £143,000). BBC executive pay is already published, and the Committee concluded that high level presenter and reporter salaries should be known when paid for by the licence payer.

Mr Nicolson said: “As a public service broadcaster the BBC must be as open and transparent as possible. It must reflect the changing needs of its audience and a growing diversity of demand across the UK.”

Scottish Conservative culture spokesman Jackson Carlaw said its proposals were “worthy of consideration” but voiced fears that it could be used by the Scottish Government to “shove propaganda down the throats of a dinner-time viewing public”.

Ian Murray MP, the Westminster spokesman for Scottish Labour, said: “With new powers coming to Holyrood, any proposed changes to the six o’clock news must balance the need for more in-depth Scottish news coverage with the continuing demand for relevant news stories from the rest of the UK and internationally.”

> As I See It: Time has come to switch on Scottish Six

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